Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vanity Fair Calls Michelle "First Lady of Fashion"

Michelle Obama, At home, Photograph: Katrina Wittkamp For Chicago Magazine

Michelle Obama has been anointed the first lady of fashion by Vanity Fair magazine in its annual list of the world’s best-dressed people.-- VF Best Dressed Slideshow

I know it is fluff. But it is still FUN. Michelle makes potential firstladyhood look great. She is modern, actualized, healthy and practical. Someone our young women can look up to. So I am happily celebrating Michelle's ascendancy to First Lady in Vanity Fair.
Keren Eldad, New York fashion manager of the Los Angeles Times, said: “McCain’s style is like the political style of her husband: conservative and outdated. It screams 'safety’ and escapes any nod to change, to risk, or to bravado. She may throw on a tailored leather jacket every once again, but through her pearls and all that hairspray, can we really detect any semblance of inspiration? Of fun?

“Obama, on the other hand, gets it. She IS a modern woman, she has fun with fashion, she embraces life with fury and grace - making apparel choices so varied, that time and again signal this woman never sees anything in life as constant. That’s change. And that is the essence of what fashion is all about”.

Vanity Fair’s style connoisseurs deemed Mrs Obama ready for the crown of the world’s best-dressed woman for her ensemble of a Maria Pinto purple sheath dress, with a black Azzedine Alaïa belt, worn when her husband claimed the Democratic presidential nomination. “She’s our commander in sheath,” the magazine said.

When Mrs Obama appeared on the popular US daytime talk show, The View, wearing a black and white Donna Ricci dress that cost $148 (£74), the dress sold out overnight and made the designer a household name.Telegraph
It is great to see a woman of such sense, style, and smarts being held up as a role model. What a change.
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VP Stakes; the Jack Reed Edition

Anonymous Photo of Reed doing an Online Chat with Rhode Island Voters

Another name that has come and gone and come back again on the VP short list is Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.

Highlights from Wikipedia

Reed resigned from the army in 1979 as a captain and enrolled in Harvard Law School. In 1982, he graduated and served as an associate at the Washington, D.C. office of law firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. Afterwards, he returned to Rhode Island and joined Edwards and Angell, a Providence law firm. Reed was elected as a state senator in 1984 and served three terms. In 1990, Reed was elected to the United States House of Representatives. For the next six years, Reed became well known in his state for his positions on education and health care, and when Senator Claiborne Pell announced his retirement in 1996, Reed campaigned to be his replacement and won the election. He was easily reelected to a second term in 2002.

Reed is currently a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Committee. Americans for Democratic Action has often listed him as a "hero" as they indicate he has one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.
Reed has military experience, well liked and well known in his state, liberal voting record, and active in education, labor, and health policy.

Downsides, not that well known. Maybe not the strongest balance on the ticket. "Northern Liberal?" that kind of thing.

According to the New Republic;
In office, Reed has focused on important but not always sexy domestic policy issues, like public housing. He's also developed a lot of expertise on education. But mostly he's known for his work on foreign policy and national security. A longtime member of the Armed Services Committee, he has, I am told, the almost-universal respect of both his colleagues from both parties as well as the military brass. When he accompanies Obama to Iraq, it will be his twelfth trip there.
I liked Rhode Island, I like Reed. Your thoughts?

P.S. Reed passed the tlg photo test but the one photo I could find was not open for re-posting; by request from the photographer. So I ran with the Reed chat photo.
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Accountability Versus Blame

From SomeECards

Accountability Versus Blame

When I was in my early thirties, my father told me a story which made sense of his entire life for me.

We were traveling together, Daddy, my then-partner and I, driving Daddy's pick-up through Southern Oklahoma looking for traces of our ancestors on his side. He and I were both still mobile, and I was armed with topo maps, land plats, family charts and census records. We knew that his grandparents, Tom Basinger and Sarah Morton, had participated in the 1893 Oklahoma land run into what had previously been "the Cherokee Outlet", receiving 160 acres and farming it for at least 15 years. We hoped to find evidence of this part of their lives.

Tom and Sarah's daughter, Villa Basinger, was my father's mother. She had been mentally ill all her adult life, although because her mania took the form of hyperreligiosity, it was not labeled as crazy. She had made my father's childhood miserable and I had learned to avoid her at all costs when I was still a toddler. She had been dead long enough that both Daddy and I were interested in finding out WTF might have happened to her. Two things we agreed on: She believed that no one, including her parents, had ever really loved her except Jesus, and she had been a raging hypochondriac. Villa was born in 1901 in what was then Chickasaw Territory, now Love County, Oklahoma.

We succeeded in our quest, and then some. In a small cemetery outside Jimtown, we found an extended family plot which held stones for the Basingers, Mortons, and allied family names. They had done well enough to buy markers which had survived, not a certain proposition among dirtfarmer Southerners.

What I had earlier pieced together, through fragments of story and more reliable record, is that Daddy's people came from McNairy County, Tennessee, a county utterly split down the middle by the Civil War. Not just in terms of loyalty, but also physically -- the battle of Shiloh occurred on the edge of this county. After the war, the enmity between factions continued, so in the 1890s, at least forty families related by blood and intermarriage had relocated together to Oklahoma.

Photograph of men waiting to sign up for the Cherokee Strip Run, Oklahoma, made from an original glass plate taken at the west side of the Chilocco Indian Reservation by Thomas Croft on Sept. 16, 1893, just before noon. Click to enlarge.

The Basingers had been small-time slave-owners. One or more of adult brothers of Tom Basinger's father's family are responsible, I believe, for the mixed-race Basingers who appear on the census after the war. Yet one of these brothers fought not for the Confederacy but for the Union, a fact that had not been passed on in family history until I unearthed it.

The Mortons were not prosperous enough to own slaves, and also had no strong history of CSA service. Sarah Morton's mother was mixed race, half white, half Choctaw, although this, too, was a family secret. Her grandfather Elijah Morris was a displaced Alabama Choctaw who had fought for the Union and died at Murfreesboro. Her grandmother did not survive him long, dying of "shame" according to one family story, although it's up for interpretation whether the shame was from poverty, a mixed-race marriage, or Union service. Likely all three.

Sarah Morton herself had skin so pale it was almost blue, with thin features, light brown hair, pale blue eyes, and a tall, lanky build. Her brother Ace looks full-blood Native, black hair and eyes, wide face, massive nose, dark bronze skin, and a short powerful build. It seems impossible, in family photos, that they are full siblings, but they are -- just different expressions of a shared DNA.

Thus, in the cemetery near Jimtown, we found headstones bearing these familiar names, mostly marking the demise of either elders in these forty families who had made the land run or women dying in childbirth. Then we came to a series of small markers, five of them in all, headed with "Child of Thomas and Sarah Basinger": Brothers and sisters of Daddy's mother Villa who had all died before the age of two. Four them had been born (and died) before Villa, one after. Two of them were not even named.

Daddy was shell-shocked. We sat down on the ground to talk it over. He said "She always claimed her parents had not cared about her enough to name her until she was two years old. I never believed her..."

I knew from my research that Tom Basinger's parents Nep and Janey had birthed 12 children, but only six had survived to toddlerhood. I reminded him of this. Even in an era of high child mortality, that's a grim average, hinting of congenital problems, malnutrition, neglect, or frank abuse. From contact with other genealogical researchers in those lines, I had determined this 50% death rate was not repeated in other related families. This made me lean toward a non-congenital explanation.

We realized, almost at the same instant, that Villa's conviction of imminent death and her claims of parental coldness must be manifestations of this tragic record on the markers in front of us. Perhaps her parents waited to see if she survived before naming her or claiming her with affection. It was a theory which made some sense of her, made her human instead of a scripture-quoting monster. We both clung to it.

And I think this shift set the stage for what occurred a couple of hours later. We had driven on westward, to the "Big Pasture" county where Tom and Sarah Basinger moved when Villa was six, setting down final roots. It was here Daddy had been born and raised, within hollerin' distance of the Red River, on an 80-acre cotton farm given to Villa and her young husband Renza by Tom Basinger. Daddy was the first and only grandchild for four years, but it was not a coddled existence. His folks were hardshell Baptists trapped in a loveless marriage.

We went to the land where he had been reared and sat in the pickup because it now belonged to a stranger, though still in cotton cultivation. Daddy said softly "I've never told this story, but..."

When he was about six years old, his younger brother was still a baby and the Depression was underway, though the Dust Bowl had yet to hit that part of Oklahoma. One Saturday, his parents had to drive a load of products for sale into the nearest market town, an hour away. There was room for them and the baby in the front cab, but not Daddy, so he was left at home on his own. According to Daddy, this was common practice, though I'm not sure if it was common to the place and time or simply one of my family's choices.

He knew to stay out of trouble and had chores to do at any rate. He was outside, he said, when a man from a neighboring farm came pounding up at a run, asking for Renza. Daddy told him they were in town. The man pointed to the southwest, the opposite direction from where Renza and Villa had driven: On the horizon was a faint blue line. The man said it was a storm, a bad one, maybe full of hail. He said if Renza didn't get back right away, there'd be no time to save the cotton crop. Then he ran back toward home.

When cotton plants are at a certain tender stage, they can be snapped easily at the stalk by high wind. To prevent this disaster, farmers create a dam of earth on either side of the furrow holding the plants to act as a windbreak. Daddy had the exact terms for this, and the equipment used to do it, but I've forgotten it. The machine used to do this job was already attached to the tractor in the barn -- Renza had intended to perform this task on his return from town.

Daddy knew how to drive a tractor, had been doing it since he was a baby in his father's lap. The problem was, his legs were not long enough to reach the pedals on his own. He went to the woodpile and found a piece of stovewood big enough to bridge the gap between his foot and the pedal. He wired it to his shoe with baling wire and fired up the tractor.

He said he couldn't make sharp turns at the end of a row, so he had to skip every other row with a wide U, which meant at the end of a section he had to go back over what he just covered to pick up the missing rows. He drove with increasing panic, as the sky gradually darkened and the wind picked up. Even so, he said he finished all but a half-field before the rain hit. He raced back to the barn and parked the tractor.

He had just gotten the block of wood unwired from his foot when his parents roared up in their Model T pickup. He walked out into the rain proudly, telling his father what he had done, as Villa sprinted for the porch with the baby. Daddy said Renza gaped down at him. Through the storm came Villa's voice: "Spare the rod and spoil the child. He ain't supposed to drive the tractor on his own."

Renza looked at her resignedly. He led Daddy back into the barn, took a leather strap and beat him until he could hardly stand. For disobedience. Then they went into the house for dinner. Nothing more was ever said about it.

After he told us this, Daddy, now in his 60s, bent over the steering wheel and sobbed. I held his hand, puckered with scars of the countless melanomas they kept removing from him after a lifetime of working outdoors. I remembered that when I was around nine, my mother had told my little brother and I to not argue when Daddy blamed us for something we hadn't done. She said "He has to assign fault, so he can be sure it won't fall on him. It doesn't matter if it's fair or not, just tell him you're sorry and he won't get mean." It was good advice, and we followed it, though not her -- she fought with him nonstop until her early death.

The myth of class mobility in this country, and the denial of how rigid our class stratification is, means that those who are on the lower end of the ladder and remain there are perceived, by others and by themselves, as having deserved their deprivation. It is their fault. Add on the denied but eviscerating effects of racism and sexism, and you have a huge portion of the population -- a majority, I believe -- who will have enormous difficulty accepting rational responsibility for what actually is a result of their decisions and choices.

Thus, we have Dubya's ossified base, a group of people who don't want to believe they made this world-threatening sort of mistake, voting into the Presidency a loser who was meant to prove to them that second chances paid off, that bad sons could turn into great leaders. They would rather die, would rather anyone else die, than accept blame for their vote. And one way to bluff their way through this denial is to vote for Dubya's Mini-Me, McCain.

I believe, as political strategists, we need to hold this understanding of their impaired judgment "in the light", as Quakers say, which is a more active stance than it might sound. We cannot force them to self-revelation or renewal. We cannot appeal to logic, because they operate by "gut", which means in most instances a value which would not (in their minds) subject them to punishment from their dead parents or estranged communities. We must find other language and motivation to persuade them forward.

My father had a brief period of self-examination and honesty following our trip to Oklahoma. However, the last five years of his life he reverted to suspicion and insularity, to the point where his behavior played a role in the early death of my little brother. He did not vote for Dubya, but only because as a former oil company grunt, he loathed Halliburton and never had anything good to say about Cheney. In the last few months of his life, in 2005, he said a couple of times "Is it possible that everything they said was nothing but lies?" But our discussion would end there; he didn't want to pursue it.

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More Lies; They Just Can't Help It

Illustration by Kaebel JK Hashitani, Op-ed Illustrations, a Look at the Process of Op-education

When your president and your next candidate for the job suck so badly and the truth is against you, fabrication, lies, smears and "Low Road Express" strategies are seemingly all you have left.

Back during the Mid East part of the trip I posted an email from a friend serving in Afghanastan about Barack's stop there and how much he impressed the sailors and soliders stationed there. (My friend is in the Navy) I know my friend gave a truthful account, he would never have done anything different. But that is not true with some.

Now that the Wingnut Worldview is crumbling around them-- it seems all they have left is more and more desperate and unbeliveable lies. But folks aren't buying. And please note in the story below that the blogosphere is a big reason that the lies don't stick anymore.

Officer: Part of anti-Obama e-mail was wrong By Matthew Cox and Rick Maze - Staff writers; Army Times

An Army officer’s negative e-mail account of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit with the troops in Afghanistan that set the blogosphere ablaze prompted Army officials to correct aspects of the e-mail and resulted in a statement from the message’s author that “some of the information that was put out in my e-mail was wrong.”

The e-mail, signed by Capt. Jeffrey S. Porter at Bagram Airbase, characterized Obama’s July 19 visit with soldiers there as contrary to the positive portrayals of the mainstream press.

“As the soldiers where lined up to shake his hand he blew them off and didn’t say a word as he went into the conference room to meet the general,” the e-mail said.

Porter wrote that Obama then went straight to the base’s “Clamshell” or recreation facility to pose for “publicity pictures playing basketball” and “shunned the opportunity to talk to soldiers to thank them for their service. I swear we got more thanks from the NBA Basketball Players or the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders than from one of the Senators, who wants to be the President of the United States.

I just don’t understand how anyone would want him to be our Commander-in-Chief. It was almost that he was scared to be around those that provide the freedom for him and our great country.”

Army Times sent an e-mail to Porter, a Utah Army National Guard member assigned to the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, asking if he could verify that he wrote the controversial e-mail and requesting an interview.

Porter’s reply declined the interview request, but said:

“I am writing this to ask that you delete my e-mail and not forward it, after checking my sources some of the information that was put out in my e-mail was wrong. This e-mail was meant only for my family. Please respect my wishes and delete the e-mail and if there are any blogs you have my e-mail portrayed on I would ask if you would take it down too.”

The Army refuted the accuracy of the account of the Obama visit.

“These comments are inappropriate and factually incorrect,” Bagram spokesman Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green told the New York Daily News. Obama didn’t play basketball at Bagram or visit the Clamshell, she said. “We were a bit delayed ... as he took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs,” Nielson-Green said.

Opinion aside, Obama campaign officials cited factual errors in the e-mail. Porter said Obama had gone to play basketball; Obama aides said that during the trip he only played basketball in Kuwait, not during stops in Iraq or Afghanistan. An Obama campaign Web site, called “Fight the Smears,” labels it a “lie” that Obama refused to meet with the troops. It includes links to news stories and videos showing Obama interacting with crowds of service members as evidence.
Apparently this guy is in tons of hot water now. And he should be. It was stupid, disingenuous campaign crap. He knew it would be forwarded that is why he wrote it. And he was hoping he could help smear Barack.
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Top Dog / Underdog

At Left: “Scrappy”—At Right: “Shitty”. Any Questions, Senator McCain?

Beware the party in a contest who goes on and on about their “underdogginess”. That person is almost invariably the player who had all the “ins” and connections and either frittered them all away, or got exposed as an unjustified “favorite” and is now in desperate need of re-defining himself to appeal to the crowd.

The dangerously flawed Senator John Sidney McCain is one such duplicitous crybaby and poor-mouther. The whole Group News Blog family caught wind of McCain's ultrasonic Lassie whining while we were still in Austin at Netroots Nation when Sen. Obama embarked on what could only be called a wildly successful tour of important places abroad. McCain bluffed Obama weeks before, challenging him to make the trip as he was in his eyes, callow and unlearned in the intricacies of foreign policy.

The hope was that Obama would go there and perhaps throw up on a head of state, or hopefully grossly violate the personal space of another one with an unasked-for massage, creating a wonderful YouTube-ready gaffe to splice into McCain campaign ads.

That “gaffe”...needless to say, did not happen.

In fact, something far worse went down. The trip was a damn-near P.R. multiple orgasm for Obama and his crew of handlers / managers (David Axelrod and Susan Rice to name a couple). It started with the “touch me, feel me” meet and greet with troops in Afghanistan where he waded into a crowd of soldiers who seemed unable to let him go. It was all olive drab, camos, goggle-eyes, hugs, handshakes and stunned smiles.

Then it was on to Kuwait, where an ESPN “SportsCenter”-grade “Top Highlight” took place before an audience of troops. The kind of thing that makes regular folks go “Wow!”...and makes an opposing campaign want to eat a broken-glass hero with a “Big Gulp” salt-water brine chaser, because their guy couldn't pull it off on his best day—even forty years and a broken body ago.

It was “The Wee Gator” who hipped us to the above piece of video, and I didn't realize just how much of a P.R. pimp-slap it was until I saw it. Like him or not, there was an easy grace on display—of an emotional / disposition nature, as well as a of an undeniably physical nature. Not so much a swagger as it was actually...a glide.

The whole trip was like that, what with the lunch meeting with the caped, doomed dandy of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, and the wingnut rankling hang-out / personal drive to the airport by Jordan's King Abdullah, with Obama riding “shotgun” in the black-windowed Mercedes 600 like they were long-time cool-out partners rollin' strong in a bangin' ride. He got great photo ops in the Middle East, spoke eloquently there, and wound up having an almost literary-grade written prayer of his stolen by a Yeshiva student and broadcast to to the world, showing again, a level of sophistication of thought and communication that makes Sen. McCain's inane and puerile “Bomb, bomb, Iran” “snap” seem that much more...well, inane and puerile.

The travel was capped off with Obama's European leg of the tour, as things got even worse (for McCain) in Berlin where Obama was greeted by a cheering throng of close to a quarter million people as he spoke metaphorically and powerfully on the perils of division (in that once wall-split city) between America and its allies. And then it was off to France where he hung tough with an ebullient Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President—who said of Obama:

“I wish Barack Obama luck — if it's him, France will be very happy,” Sarkozy responded to a question asking whether his ebullient praise of Obama was an endorsement. Referring to his initial 2006 meeting with Obama in Washington while Sarkozy was preparing his run for the French presidency, the Frenchman recalled, “There were just the two of us in the room, and one became President. Now it's up to the other to do likewise.”


On Friday morning, the conservative daily Le Figaro printed quotes from Sarkozy in which he boasts of having been the first European politician to meet and befriend Obama — and to predict the Illinois Senator's promising future. “Obama, he's my buddy,” Le Figaro quoted Sarkozy as he referred to their 2006 meeting.

The “Go abroad and fuck up” bluff was called and all McCain had was a shitty 2-7 hand (no “suits”) he dared play like he had aces fucking high. It got so bad that the poor schmuck was reduced to a nyah-nyah photo-op nightmare while Obama was in Berlin, Germany.

'You go to Germany and draw a quarter million “Shrprockets” watchers? Okay, I'll see that, and raise you a stirring visit to Schmidt's Fudge/Sausage Haus in Columbus, Ohio's German Village section, Goddammit!' IN...YOUR...FACE!'

TPM's Ben Craw summed it up thusly (and brutally)

Let's just confirm the basics here: John McCain is discussing the most serious issue of his campaign, the war in Iraq, and is harshly criticizing the positions of his opponent, Barack Obama (as he's been wont to do this week) ... in front of a big red sign that reads Fudge Haus while wind chimes ring hypnotically in the background. And the entire scene is sun-dappled. No, this was not a lurid dream generated from watching too much CNN in one 24-hour period, nor David Lynch's foray into political campaign coverage. This was an actual press conference given by John McCain on the same day that Barack Obama gave a speech in Berlin to a crowd of tens if not hundreds of thousands of people.

The only thing missing from this corrosive, through-the-boxspring bed shit was Hogan's Heroes Sgt. Schultz appearing in an anti-Obama “Swift Boat” style ad with a mouthful of “schtrudel” blubbering about how Barack Obama “Knows nufthink, nufthink!”

It nearly got that bad.

Wait...let me amend that. It has actually gotten worse.

We all understand the whole “Way of the Warrior” / Bullshit Samurai / My dog-eared old copy of Sun Tzu from college still-so-fucking-rocks” school of political skullduggery where the object of the game is to turn an opponent's strength into a weakness.

We've got that.

We know that's in Karl Rove's so-called “genius” playbook's first five chapters. We also know that Rove's “genius” mantle has taken several lead pipe blows upside its head post-2004. But, the strategy is still at least on-paper—a sound-ish one. Senator McCain's “people” have adopted it wholeheartedly, hoping to turn Senator Obama's affability and arena-sized popularity into a bad thing, while playing up McCain's stuffiness, “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” speaking style , and seeming inability to even charm a squiggle of Polident from a tube as folksy, “You gotta like this guy!” positives. If Obama were more unctuous, and scanned as a jerk, this tack could actually work—especially if played with him in the annoying, spoiled, umbrella-protected P-Diddy role. But as seen in the “Basketball in Kuwait” clip, he's NOT that.

The other thing that works mightily against McCain's pushing this spin is that he is, bluntly, such a doddering, ill-tempered gaffe machine that he is almost patently unable to shine as a positive, under-doggy alternative to Obama's confident and smooth BMOC persona. It's one thing to play the Robert Carradine, lovable “Nerd” against the cool guy. It's another thing entirely to be the grumpy, sillyfuck idiot. Not the “Cool Doofus” (alá Animal House's “Bluto Blutarsky”) everybody loves, but the grumpy, sillyfuck idiot who spills scalding coffee on you and then blames you for making it worse by daring to wear a crisp, white shirt.

In his mad rush to embrace all things Reagan, he grabbed a double-helping of Mashed Grandpa, but forgot about the Roast Loin of Affability and the side order of “Cool”.

And desperate to forge a winning persona against Obama, McCain has opted to go with that of the feisty, “scrappy”, underdog who as Christopher Walken would say, “You've just...gotta love”.

His problem? There is a not-so-thin line between “Scrappy” and “Shitty”, and the Senator from Arizona while lusting for the former, is living in the latter.

The whininess, carping, and bitching to the “Refs” (The media) has blown up in his face—in spite of their willingness to follow him home and nibble at the meaty wiener he serves up from time to time. His getting busted in the Landstuhl Air Base lie about Obama's not being able to visit the troops there didn't help either. He has come across as petulant and petty. A “grade-grubbing” eyesore whose not-subtle play as “The Pity-Fuck Candidate™” (copyright TBogg) has worn as thin as a vain, silvery combover.

And then, that desperation having grown like Topsy on HGH, we see a drunken flail like this one:

Again, I can understand trotting out that dog-eared copy of Sun Tzu, but this example of “strength to weakness” is Benny Hill ridiculous. Let's accept the GOP's playing the old “Black Man / Blonde White Chick” ad game they ran on the pitiful Harold Ford for what it is—a not-as-stealthy-as-some-are-playing-it dog whistle to “Purity Ball”-going Angry White Men™, okay? The “nyah-nyah, popularity sucks” whine that dominates the ad's first two thirds is so soaked in Haterade that the videotape is stained green. It offers nothing whatsoever as a positive for ol' PissyMac. What's more, if you want to cast Obama as little more than a faux-popular American Idol-esque candidate who can't really “sing” in comparison to the greats, the cast-er of those aspersions going for the same prize doesn't help himself by coming off as the political equivalent of Idol's William Hung—a creepy, sideshow bereft of talent that entertains with his awfulness, and that you wouldn't really listen to except to mock and deride for said awfulness...while everybody and their Mama knows he has no chance to win.

It's not a “scrappy” ad. It's a “shitty” ad. Borne of flop-sweat and henny-penny yard-running. A windmilling, pinch-eyed screamer of an ad with it's head turned fearfully away from its boxing opponent.

And when you close your eyes and windmill punches, you're always liable to hit someone other than the target you're flailing at. For example: Is conjuring up images of spoiled, promiscuous, blonde, cosmetically-enhanced heiresses really what the McCain campaign calls a “winning” issue for them?



But again, “When you close your eyes and windmill punches, you're always liable to hit someone other than the target you're flailing at.”

Paris' Parents to McCain: How Dare You
Posted Jul 30th 2008 3:59PM by TMZ Staff

This has gotta hurt. We did some digging and found Rick and Kathy Hilton gave the John McCain campaign $4,600 this year, and Johnny boy has now taken a shot at their lil' girl.

According to the Federal Election Commission website, the Hiltons contributed the dough last March. Initially, Rick put up all the $$$ but in April it was split between him and his wife.


The ad has stirred another controversy, as McCain has seemingly bit the hand that feeds him, namely the Hilton clan, Kathy and Rick who gave a large chunk of dough for his presidential campaign.

The ad says, “The biggest celebrity in the world but is he ready to lead?”
Kathy Hilton and Rick Hilton are spitting mad with the McCain camp. It seems they now feel their daughter Paris is being slagged unfairly.

Just. Fucking. Brilliant. He not only manages to come off as a whiny-ass-titty-baby, but he adds insult to injury via pissing off toney-assed rich folks by slagging the daughter of one of 'em after cashing a fat campaign check from 'em. It smacks of disorganization, desperation and a level of doltishness you don't usually see in modern-day campaigns where people are paid lots of money to know who's a contributor and to know who not to take a PR dump on. He's managed to make the un-shame-able Hilton look like something of a victim of a cheap hit-job here. And quite frankly, the whole issue of his being woefully “out of touch” with the modern style and speed of political campaigns rears its ugly melanoma-ed head again here.

For one thing, these gaffes are the sort committed by someone operating like it's 1992—before there was an internet or heavy competition in the 24-hour cable news biz, or a blogsophere to call an idiot on his bullshit and screw-ups immediately. He seems to operate in a world where he thinks it's only Chancellor, Reasoner and Cronkite at the wood-paneled anchor desk—with D.C.'s Jack Anderson bustin' the keys on his Olivetti twice a week and just maybe if those “few” outlets miss his screw-ups and don't hold him to account on his lies, he'll somehow be okay. But...the lies and misstatements are now immediately called out—much to the senator's temple vein-pounding chagrin.

And this may seem a small issue, but dragging Britney and Paris out as comparable paragons of popularity is um...kind of 2006-2007 quite frankly. The creepy debs and hoochies du jour are folks like Kim Kardashian, Tila Tequila, and (“Yeccccch!”) trash like “The Hills” Heidi Montag. As we say around the way Senator McCain, “You late, son!”

But what would you expect for a would-be leader of the free-world who needs someone to teach him that booting up a computer doesn't mean kicking the shit out of it? Hmmmm?

There's nothing good in this for him. No positives to extract. To paraphrase Animal House's Dean Wormer “Pissy, out-of-touch and desperate is no way to go through life.” And what we are watching here is the not-so-slow shift of a man moving from being merely “Dangerously Flawed” (as if that's a small thing) to “Monumentally Stupid”. The former being bad for America, and the latter...being a sad and ugly denouement for him.
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Thursday Morning Open Thread

Waiting for the Conference Call That Won't Start

What are you Waiting for? (Denver convention stuff.)

What pies are you making or wish you were making?

What food are you eating or wish you were eating?

What do you wish you were doing instead of this?

Open thread rules apply. (No pie fights. Attack ideas, not people.)

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

GNB Art Break; Summer Bubbles

Jason Tozer: Bubbles

Photographer Jason Tozer was asked to take some pictures of bubbles by Creative Review magazine, using the new Sony Alpha camera.

I have always LOVED bubbles. I like the kid-toy plastic bottles where you make bubbles with the tiny wand. I played with SUPER BUBBLES for a while. I even like the teeny tiny ones that sometimes pop out of the dish soap bottle when you squeeze it lightly. This photo series is amazing. What a fun way to spend some time... photographing bubbles. Here are some of the behind the scenes how to shots as well.
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CNN Poll Obama 51% McCain 44%

CNN has just released the first poll taken entirely after the Obama world tour. While it shows no big bump, which would be uncommon before the convention, it does trend positive for Obama.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released this afternoon gives Democrat Obama a 51 percent to 44 percent lead over Republican John McCain among registered voters -- about the same margin as Obama's 50 percent to 45 percent edge a month ago.

Of those surveyed, 38 percent said they were certain they will vote for Obama in November, while 33 percent said they were sure about supporting McCain.

Among other findings, the poll found that voters were more confident in how McCain would handle foreign policy issues such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and thought that Obama would better handle domestic issues including the economy and healthcare. (Curious that they didn't report the #'s here- I imagine the % were not very high on the foreign policy advantage for McCain)

Also, 39 percent said the media coverage of Obama had been too positive, compared to 12 percent who believed that of the coverage of McCain. And only 22 percent said they thought Obama was attacking McCain unfairly, but 40 percent said they believed McCain was attacking Obama unfairly. (this could lead to a backlash in Obama's favor) The poll was done July 27-29 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
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Peach Pie (Jen, and I communicated only by telepathy)

Peach Pie Means Summer

To a lot of us. These peaches, all eight of those beautiful babies came from Julian, California. It's a little geographic island in the mountains east of San Diego that is a paradise of orchards. You can see from that first picture where we are going. To get there we have some work to do. So, wash your hands, dry them well, wipe down all the counters and let's get at it.

The first thing on the agenda is the crust.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour (you can find "pastry" flours out there on the market, what they are is this 2 to 1 ratio of regular flour to ultra fine cake flour)
2 tablespoons super rich butter powder, optional* (You can usually find this at a Cake decorating store and, while optional it makes a huge taste difference)
1 cup shortening (or if you're like me and don't give a fuck use Lard)
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ice water

Mix the flours and the butter powder together in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the lard (or shortening) and work until it is in pea sized nuggets. I'm using the stand mixer for this.

From now on it's all by hand. I've tried using the dough hook attachment and, while easier, there's a better texture and hightened flakiness that's achieved by doing the rest of the steps by hand.

In another bowl, like here, in a measuring flask, mix the egg, vinegar, salt and ice water with a fork until well blended. Then add this to the other stuff.

Mix until the dough comes together. Separate into halves (or as many separate crusts as you intend to make) and wrap well with plastic. Refrigerate overnight. The refrigeration is important to enhance the flaky texture of the crust. Overworking is the worst thing you can do to a pastry dough. Be nice.


8 peaches peeled and sliced (for the peeling do the same thing as you did when canning it should yield about 4 cups of slices)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup baker's sugar (if using canned peaches omit, but drain the peaches a little)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Take chilled peaches and immerse them in boiling, salted water.

When the water returns to a full boil, plunge them into an ice bath. This will allow you to strip off the skin with your fingers.

These are a freestone peach, so the slicing and removal of the pit were a breeze. For cling peaches, make four cuts all the way around the pit, then with the knife blade right up against the pit, flick your wrist to free the whole slice. You'll probably screw up the first slice, but, hey, this is pie, not rocket science. Put the slices in a large mixing bowl. You should have about four cups all told.

Toss the peach slices with the flour, sugar (for this pie I'm using brown sugar, these are peaches with big flavor and I thought brown sugar would be a nice touch of molasses flavor), and cinnamon.

Allow the peaches to macerate in the sugar/flour goop while you roll out the bottom crust. Leave about a one and a half inch overhang. Put the filling in the bottom crust, dot with butter, and as a little extra bit of goodness, I like to sprinkle the top with a bit of nutmeg.

Shield the edge of the crust with foil, cut in some venting, and then brush with a mixture of 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 egg white. This will give a nice nutty carmel crunch to the crust and give you a deep, sexy brown color.

Bake at 375° for 45 minutes, remove the foil ring, and bake for 15 more minutes. Now it will look like this.

Allow to cool for at least an hour before slicing it up. To serve hot, simply pop it in the microwave at 50% power for about a minute. Top with whipped cream, or ice cream, and enjoy the tastes of summer. This also makes a wonderful breakfast. Again, pop in the microwave to bring it back to hot, douse it down with cold milk and you'll forgive yourself for getting out of bed.

You can use the email function at the masthead to get my email. I am always ready to give tech support on my recipes.

Have a great tasting summer!
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CSA Week 7

CSA Week 7 Haul. July, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 7 Haul. July, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

Publisher's note: If you're not clicking Jen's photos and viewing them full size, wow, are you missing out on the good stuff... Big, bad-ass, and beautiful.

My Fridge Runneth Over

To quote the poet laureate Warren Ellis, fuckity-fuck and away we go. Sorry, dear readers, but I am NOT in a great mood tonight, I'm tired, and I have too much cleaning up and lunch prep work to do before bed. However, I can't go to sleep until I finish my updating my work laptop for a 9AM presentation tomorrow, which I am giving largely for the benefit of someone whom I KNOW will skip out on the meeting, as the person who could discipline him for said behavior has already announced that HE'S not attending for sure. So I'm looking at a 6 AM wakeup call for nothing. That's after going to bed at almost 1 AM last night—Sundays are always a "fucked sleep cycle" night for me to begin with. Like an IDIOT, I also thought that I could play Age of Conan for "just half an hour before bed." Yeah. I admit, I'm addicted. What most people would call "MMORPG level grind" I call "stress relief by getting to kill loads of things in very graphic ways, including full-on decapitation and organ removal." I also happen to play a Dark Templer, which adds to the tanking/killing fun and special effects. But I digress.

I'm also mad at myself for feeling wimpy for whining about the effort required to pack lunch as opposed to eating the expensive, high-fat crap that I usually buy at the office. I always love my salad come noontime but I am so damn tired at night. Also, today I had crap I shouldn't—had some Death Wish Cake at an office party, two small chocolate cookies, and a peach smoothie for dinner tonight. Oh well. Can't be too too hard on myself.

At the same time, though, people at the office are starting to comment that I've really trimmed down. I know that's not a goal in and of itself but damn it's nice to start to try to get a little bit of my "fit" shape back. On top of that, my nails have gotten a LOT harder, which is just weird. I take vitamins already; I guess this is one of those "unknowns" that the macrobiotic crowd talks about. Can't put every last little mystery organic compound in a pill I suppose…

Having said that, I have a BIG listing for you guys this week. Last week I took possession of:

  • Summer Savory
  • Italian Broadleaf Parsely (HUGE leaves—each over an inch broad and almost 1.5" long)
  • 1 lb. Yellow Wax Beans
  • 1 bag Snow Peas
  • 1 good head of Radicchio
  • Some sort of dark curly green Lettuce
  • Multicolored Carrots
  • 9 Black Plums
  • 9 Big Peaches
  • 3 lb. (!!) of Yellow Sugarplums
  • 2 thin Pork Shoulder Blade Cuts (frozen, for panfrying)
  • 1 Lavender Crotini (mini)
  • 1 lb. smoked Frer Fumant Cheese
  • .75 lb. organic Liverwurst
  • 1 BIGASS loaf of Black Pepper Parmesan Bread
CSA Week 7 Sugarplums. July, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 7 Sugarplums. July, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

Enjoy the total food porn. Pay special attention to the cuteness of the innocent sugarplums, all coyly huddled together, and the purple carrot action.

CSA Week 7 Carrots. July, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 7 Carrots. July, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

Let me wax rapturous over the lavender crotini for a minute. Crotinis are little soft cheeses, which are not too aged. This one was small—about the size of the bottom half of a small cupcake—and rolled in lavender. It has a light, floral taste—like an herb garden whipped into the freshest unsalted cream cheese. Imagine a fine chocolate truffle, without the chocolate—just pure milkfat, whipped up with field-fresh herby goodness. It melted in my mouth and on the parm bread.

On delivery night I had that (crotini on bread), two smallish carrots (which didn't make it on to the cutting board—ate em while prepping other stuff), some of the Frer Fumant, a few TEENY sugarplums (the ones in the pic are very weensy—use parsley leaves for reference) and a good grip of broadleaf parsley, which was mild enough to eat as-is, washed. I also cracked open a good bottle of white wine and had some of that.

CSA Week 7 Dins. July, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.
CSA Week 7 Dins. July, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

Another item that I made during the week (and still have much of) is quick no-cook stone fruit chutney, stolen from Bon Appétit Magazine. The recipe:

--3 cups (after chopping) of mixed stone fruit, stoned and sliced (I used the last of my cherries, peaches, the red plums, and sugarplums).

--3 Tablespoons of mild white vinegar of some sort (original recipe called for white balsamic vinegar which I just can't be bothered with; I used my lavender vinegar)

--6 Tablespoons white sugar

--1/2 teaspoon of mild curry powder (I used a mild Mughali one with a huge saffron content).

Mix. Let sit out at room temperature for at least an hour, covered, for everything to meld/macerate/get over itself. I have already used this on chicken, and on yogurt. It would make a brilliant BBQ sauce also. Just do it.

I also made a small experimental batch of lemon thyme vodka. AMAZING, especially when mixed with a mild iced tea (enjoying a cold glass of English Breakfast Tea from Harrod's and this in it right now in fact).

One memorable dins that I made this week was my Savory Summer Simmer from last week, re-heated, over radicchio, with some high-quality Italian canned tuna on top and a whole-wheat flatbread on the side. Amazing.

Otherwise, this was the week of Starting to take Salads to Work in my Little Salad Box Thingie.

I also took delivery of my Amazing yet Somewhat Bulky (but very utilitarian) Lunch Box.

It's a pain in the ass having to prep something every night, but the results are worth it—not only is it better for me and a hell of a lot tastier once I actually sit down to eating, but it uses up the CSA stuff faster—otherwise half this stuff would rot.

Anyway, I need to go wash out the blender, clean up from dinner prep, make my salad for tomorrow, and continue working on my presentation for work. When I'm done I may play Age of Conan—but for only half an hour. I swear. :D

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Massachusetts Repeals 1913 Law Intended to Ban Interracial and Now Same-Sex Marriages

Leah Krieger and Orly Jacobovits join celebrations outside the Massachusetts State House in 2006 after legislators voted against a measure that would have put lesbian/gay marriage on the ballot. Photo by Jodi Hilton for The New York Times.

Massachusetts Repeals 1913 Law Intended to Ban Interracial and Now Same-Sex Marriages

Today the Massachusetts State Legislature has repealed the "1913" law which was used by the Mitt Romney administration to prevent out-of-state same-sex couples from being able to marry in Massachusetts. The "1913" law, more accurately known as Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 207, Section 11, stated "No marriage shall be contracted in this commonwealth by a party residing and intending to continue to reside in another jurisdiction if such marriage would be void if contracted in such other jurisdiction, and every marriage contracted in this commonwealth in violation hereof shall be null and void."

According to Wikipedia, "Massachusetts State Senator Harry Ney Stearns sponsored the 1913 Law on March 7, 1913. The bill was signed three weeks later by Governor Eugene N. Foss. No record of the state Senate debate has been found, and the motivation for the law is unknown. Some legal experts have argued that the original purpose of the legislation was to block interracial couples from states that banned interracial marriages from going to Massachusetts to get married. These experts note that the law was enacted at the height of a public scandal over black heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson's interracial marriages and suggest that the law was partially a reaction to the Jack Johnson affair.

"The Massachusetts law of 1913 was enacted after the proposed introduction in the United States House of Representatives in 1912 of an Anti-Miscegenation Amendment to the Constitution. This proposed nation-wide ban on interracial marriage sparked a movement among state legislatures to ban interracial marriage. By 1913, half of the 18 states that had lacked anti-miscegenation laws in 1910 introduced legislation banning interracial marriage in their state. However, Wyoming was the only state without such a ban that actually enacted an anti-miscegenation law during that time period. Massachusetts had legalized interracial marriage in 1843."

On 13 November 2003, the Goodridge vs. Dept. of Public Health judgment by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Massachusetts could not "deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry." This was followed on 17 May 2004 by the legalization of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, the first U.S. state to do so. Immediately after the ruling, right-wing forces funded by Governor Mitt Romney and the Republican Party sought to overturn the decision by amending the state constitution. The most recent effort in this line was defeated by the state legislature on June 14, 2007.

In the interim, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly and other Romney-aligned state officials resurrected the "1913" law as a means of temporarily stopping same-sex marriages by arguing "enforcing the law was Massachusetts's way of respecting other states that have banned such marriages".

At that point, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) went back to court to challenge the "1913" law in the case known as Cote-Whitacre et al. v. Dept. Public Health. They won their case in 2006, as outlined in this press release from GLAD's website (which also has the final judgments and other details of the court case):

"On March 30, 2006, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court determined in the absence of a home state’s 'express prohibition' against marriage by same-sex couples – through a constitutional amendment, statute, or controlling appellate decision, Massachusetts must allow same-sex couples from that state to marry. This decision had a substantial impact on three states:

"Rhode Island
On September 29, 2006, Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly ruled there is no explicit prohibition in Rhode Island law preventing same-sex couples from marrying, and, as such, Rhode Island same-sex couples could come to Massachusetts to wed. (In February, 2007, RI Attorney General Patrick Lynch issued a statement that Rhode Island will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples married in Massachusetts, and GLAD is working with partners in Rhode Island to ensure that these marriages are respected.)

"New York State
Judge Connolly also ruled that because the New Court of Appeals ruled on July 6, 2006, against marriage equality in the state’s own marriage case, couples from New York cannot marry in Massachusetts. GLAD subsequently returned to court on behalf of the New York couple in the case, Tanya Wexler and Amy Zimmerman, who married in Massachusetts in May, 2004. In a judgment on May 10, 2007, Judge Connolly ruled that Massachusetts marriages licenses issued to New York same-sex couples before July 6, 2006 are completely valid and never should have been put into question by the 1913 law.

"New Mexico
Finally, noting that New Mexico law is also silent on the question of marriage between same-sex couples, GLAD worked with the Commonwealth to correct the erroneous denial of marriage licenses to New Mexico same-sex couples. On July 18, 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Registry of Vital Statistics issued an official corrective notice providing clerks with the authority to grant such licenses."

Today, with the repeal of the "1913" law by the legislature, this denial of marriage tactic has been definitively laid to rest.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is New England’s leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression. One of my dearest friends works for this group, and I could not be prouder of her (and them) at this moment.

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Bennigan's Liquidates in Huge Restaurant Chapter 7 Filing

Chicago Tribune photo by Tom Van Dyke / July 29, 2008

Bennigan's, Steak and Ale To Liquidate as Glutted Restaurant Industry Shakes Out

After filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the parent company of national chains Bennigan's and Steak and Ale on Tuesday shut hundreds of restaurants, putting thousands of employees out of work.

The filing marked one of the largest Chapter 7 bankruptcies of a restaurant chain in recent history, according to restaurant consultancy Technomic, and is the most extreme sign yet of how midprice, sit-down restaurants are undergoing one of their worst periods in decades. Challenger, Gray & Christmas says the resulting layoffs constitute the sixth-largest mass job cut of the year.--JEFFREY MCCRACKEN and JANET ADAMY
This is bad in so many ways. While I am no fan of big chains the 9,000++ folks that just lost their jobs are going to be hit hard. Students, struggling families, these are the folks busting their asses for minimum wage. And according to the story staff were given no notice at all of the shut down.
Bennigan's, owned by privately held Metromedia Restaurant Group, collapsed in a particularly dramatic fashion Tuesday. Managers of restaurants across the country were awakened by midnight phone calls telling them to shutter their stores immediately, according to interviews with several restaurant managers.--By Michael Hughlett
That part pisses me off even more. No chance to go try to find other work. No warning at the end of the month with rent due and bills to pay. I know in my restaurant this year has been tough. But my staff and I are working together to get the company and ourselves through difficult times. I wonder if Bennigan's had more respect for their employees and communities-- they might have been able to avoid this liquidation?

Anyway, this is just the beginning. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the F&B business is the canary in the coal mine during a bad economy. People struggling to pay bills, or in danger of losing their homes are going to stop eating out as a first line of defense. And so the dominoes begin to fall.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

VP Stakes; The Gov. Tim Kaine Edition

Virginia's Tim Kaine, with Barack Obama (Reuters photo)

Starting to wind down now, they must be getting close to deciding. (especially since there are all those signs to be printed before the convention)

Gov. Tim Kaine is reportedly moving towards the top of the short list. (And he passes the tlg vice presidential photo test)
WASHINGTON - Barack Obama appeared close to selecting his presidential running-mate Tuesday, as intense speculation thrust the rumoured front-runner onto a political hot seat. Timothy Kaine, who was elected governor of the swing state of Virginia three years ago, issued a series of uncomfortable denials after reports emerged that Obama was close to picking him to round out the Democratic ticket.

"My mom loves it," Kaine told a Washington radio station that had already scheduled an interview with him Tuesday before a front-page Washington Post story and a leading political blog branded him Obama's likely selection.

"I haven't sought it. I'm not running for it. I'm not asking for it," Kaine later told reporters.-- Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service
Kaine is a pretty middle of the road, uninspiring choice to me. He supports a mishmash of positions I like and hate.

*Kaine practiced law in Richmond for 17 years. He focused on representing people who were denied housing opportunities based on their race or disability.
*Anti Death Penalty (yeah!)
*Anti-choice as a matter of personal conviction, though not actively working on broad legislative measures
*(exception to above) Anti late term abortion.
*Pro mandatory vaccinations (???!!! This makes me very uncomfortable)
*Pro tighter gun legislation-- this position a reaction to the Virginia Tech Shooter
*Kaine opposed an amendment to the Virginia Constitution defining marriage as that between one man and one woman, but publicly stated that he personally opposes same-sex marriage.

All in all, this one leaves me pretty uncomfortable. You?
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Go Over To Shakesville

Image taken from the cited post

Account of the Unitarian Shooting

Bekitty has written a first hand account of the Shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church that our own Mrs. Robinson wrote so beautifully about.

The courage, the determination to not succumb to hate or rage, demonstrates the truth of what Sara wrote perfectly.

Go read it. Drop a good thought and good wish into the comments section. Let them know that they are not alone.
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Japan is a Very Strange Place

Ok, I usually try to avoid writing about how weird Japan can be. Let's face it, it's been done. Books, movies, tv-- we've all scene the "Japan as weird" meme played out in the media.

In fact, I think that 99% of all the stories written about Japan for westerners fall into two prescribed categories.

1. Japan is a weird place. Look at those crazy Japanese.

2. Japan is the land of the samurai, madame butterfly and zen aesthetics. I call this the "Temples and Tea Ceremony" meme.

The reality is that there are some beautiful things about this country. And there are some pretty odd things-- and then there is a whole lot of other stuff between those two extremes.

Having said that, this is just to weird to not share.

Photo AP/ anonymous

This summer to beat the heat, the Japanese are drinking a brand new canned beverage, made of eels. Yes, you did read that correctly, eels-- the long snake like fish. Tasty grilled but not something I would want to drink.

Forget cola, lemonade or beer – Japanese people sweltering in the summer heat now have a new canned drink to quench their thirst – made out of eels.

The fishy drink Unagi Nobori – which translates as "Surging Eel" – contains eel extract and vitamins found in the fish. The fizzy yellow liquid is believed to be the first mass-produced drink of its kind made in the country.

The launch of the drink this month coincides with the start of Japan's annual eel-eating season, which peaks this year on 5 August. Many locals believe the fish boost energy during the summer's hot and humid conditions.-- By Toby Green from The Independent
Yum, eel extract. Hey honey, let's crack open a Surging Eel-- Cheers!

UPDATE: Even more Strange-beverage-ness here.
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John Edwards at Work Against Poverty

John Edwards, from the Edwards Campaign 2008


I had a chance to watch John Edwards interviewed by David Brancaccio on PBS's NOW a couple of nights ago, and was once again reminded why he was my first choice for Democratic Presidential candidate, with his acknowledgment of the "two Americas" and the class divide that almost no one addresses directly. This is illustrated in one exchange early in the interview:

BRANCACCIO: Although focusing on the plight of struggling Americans and the outright poor did not win him a single primary this election season, Edwards remains convinced that he can help light a fire under Congress and whoever wins the white house to get on this issue pronto.

EDWARDS: Listen to political leaders in America today. They don't even like to use the word. They are afraid to use the word poverty. You have no idea how many times I've heard, me, from political consultants, you have to talk about the middle class. You can say inequality, you can't use the word poverty. Well the hell I can't. Yeah, I can. If in fact we have people living in poverty in America, yes I can say it. It's the truth.

Americans are burdened by a number of class delusions: We believe there is genuine class mobility based on work and merit; we believe our society is largely classless; and, perhaps the greatest delusion, currently 53% of American identify themselves as middle class. This includes 40% of those whose annual income is below $20,000 and a third of those who income is over $150,000. It has been estimated that approximately 80% of the working class believes they are middle class, which explains, in part, why politicians feel they must talk about "the middle class" instead of working people or those those living in poverty -- two groups which are not mutually exclusive.

(Our delusions are apparently operating in the United Kingdom as well, where a study by, a financial website, revealed that around 15 million people -- a quarter of the British population -- are working class but believe they are middle class, according to the Telegraph.)

The NOW program pointed out that currently the U.S. government defines "poor" as a family of four living on less than $20,500 a year. According to this yardstick, there are over 36 million Americans living in poverty. However, this "calculation hasn't been changed in almost 40 years—and, among other things, doesn't account for sharp differences in housing or transportation costs depending on where a person lives in the country. One analysis calculates that the poverty line is actually twice the official level...that a family of four earning less than $41,000 a year should be considered poor. By this definition, over 90 million people, almost a third of all Americans are living in poverty."

If this is accurate, then every member of Congress is financially elite compared to at least a third of Americans.

Edwards followed this up by stating "The pendulum has swung heavily against the workers and people who are tryin' to earn a decent living, and in the direction of people who have capital, people who are highly educated, people who have wealth. That would include me—by the way." How refreshing, to hear a political leader admit his wealth and his elite status without shame. There is no shame in wealth, only in behavior associated with its acquisition or expenditure.

Two of the greatest U.S. Presidents who undertook serious reform to help working and poor people, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, came from backgrounds of extraordinary wealth and privilege. I think it's likely that today these men's motivation would be regarded with the same suspicion often leveled at John Edwards, best illustrated by the ridicule of his allegedly spending $400 on a haircut. The post-Reagan, Right-wing version of correct etiquette for those who are wealthy demands playing down-home to the lower classes while you legislate against them at every opportunity; never failing to "dance with them what brung ya", or "my base" as George W. Bush referred to the "elite" at the 2000 Al Smith Dinner; and using hypermasculinity to imply that men who care about the needs of those less powerful are faggy (even if you secretly suck cock in Minnesota airport bathrooms or have a gay porn star being admitted after hours to the White House).

Edwards is using his political capital to launch and further a project called Half in Ten, "from poverty to prosperity", which "plans to reduce poverty in the United States by 50 percent within 10 years". Edwards' leadership is joined by Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN), and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR). The Half in Ten Project has come up with 12 key steps to cut poverty in half.

Reading the analysis and recommendations at Half in Ten is illuminating, as is the entirety of the transcript of Brancaccio's interview with Edwards. I'm going to skip ahead, however, to Edwards' remarks about the current Presidential campaign:

BRANCACCIO: Who's the constituency for this? I mean, what's in it for politicians who might wanna go along with this, put this into law?

EDWARDS: That's a more complicated question. I mean, what you hope is that politicians will do it because it's the right thing to do. If that doesn't work, then you—you put pressure on them to do it from the ground up.


BRANCACCIO: Have you had occasion to talk to the candidates left standing about your poverty proposals?

EDWARDS: Yes, yes I have. Well, before I got out of the race, I talked to Obama and Clinton at the time about some very specific things, which for now I'll keep private. But I got very specific commitments from them about making poverty central to their campaign, making it central to their presidency. And some very specific substantive ideas behind that. I've also spoken to McCain. It's a little harder with him.

BRANCACCIO: But you've talked to McCain about these poverty issues.

EDWARDS: I have I have. I know John McCain very well. Served with him. Traveled around the world with him. It's a little tough because I'm supporting his opponent in the presidential race and doing it vigorously. (some laughs) But having said that, while he doesn't agree with a lot of the policy issues that I'm behind, he's been receptive to the concept that this is something we have to do something about.


BRANCACCIO: Get through the presidential race and it will be 2009—what should we be looking for specifically that will give us some sense about whether this is going anywhere?

EDWARDS: There's a very clear early indicator—which is whether the President of United States has created at least a cabinet level position, responsible with dealing with poverty in America, and the connection between that and the issue of extreme poverty in the rest of the world. One person at the top responsible for that. If that's been done and it's married to appropriate authority, infrastructure and money, then that's serious. If on the other hand, they're just mouthing words, it's the same old stuff that we've heard for decades.

So there we have it, from a leader who remains committed to his issues:
(1) Clear identification of the problem.
(2) Clear sets of proposals about grassroots action we can take, and
(3) Clear criteria for assessing whether our new President and Congress are actually moving on the issue of poverty.

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Another Republican Indicted

Chuck Kennedy/MCT (taken from cited McClatchy article)

Ted Stevens (R Alaska) Indicted

For failing to disclose gifts.

Most Washinton folks have been expecting this for a long time. It reminds me of what happened to Dan Rostenkowski, it appears that being in a position where the money slushes around is, in and of itself, corrupting.

Stevens has been a legend, along with being one of the longest serving Senators in our history, for his ability to steer government pork into the trough for his constituents.

Thus, it is proven again, the old adage:

If you're robbing Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on Paul's vote.
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How To Stop a Republican From Laughing

title frame downloaded from show's website

Generation Kill

Is a fine minseries being shown on HBO. It does not pretend to be anything that it is not. It is a grunt's eye view of the initial invasion of Iraq.

I was watching the last episode with my filthy rich republican uncle, who, despite his dogged desire to remain a member of the thirty percent of people who still approve of George W. Bush has been having that faith rocked hard, again, and again.

One of the very bright spots in this show is the ramblings of the driver of the Humvee that the reporter, Evan Wright, is embedded with. Cpl. Ray Person is a young marine who, while under the influence of "Ripped Fuel" a since banned body builder's supplement that was nearly pure ephedra goes off on manic rants that are beautifully profane and wildly non-sensical.

In the first episode he explained to the reporter that the war was invevitable because the leaders of Iraq and the United States were "not getting enough pussy."

In Sunday's episode while the unit was parked at night he told the reporter to "Be sure and write this down. The war's not about pussy. It's about NAMBLA. The national man boy love association."

His theory is that since the markets for sex tourism in places like Thailand is drying up the leaders of our nation began the invasion of Iraq to destroy the society and culture to a point where they can come in and establish a marketplace for NAMBLA to go and purchase young boys.

We were laughing out loud at the wildly insane and ludicrous inanities bubbled forth from the ephedra fast mind of the young man.

Then, I suddenly had a flash of insight. It flashed so brightly that I had to quit laughing. My filthy rich republican uncle noticed this and asked me what was up.

I said: "I just realized that what Person has said about the reasons for war, first pussy, and now NAMBLA, are exactly as true as anything the President, the Vice-President, The Secretary of State, the Director of CIA, and the National Security Advisor told our country before the invasion."

He quit laughing too. We sat there for a long time in silence.
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More Reasons to Turn Off the TV

As I have shared before, I am not a fan of TV. I know there is some good stuff on the tube-- but frankly not enough to make up for even 10% of the societal ills that TV perpetuates. Seriously, even a great discovery channel show is not as good as going on outside yourself and going hiking somewhere in real nature. I often wonder how many new inventions and discoveries have not happened since the coming of TVs into every room and every part of our lives? People used to tinker, and play, and read, and talk. How many conversations have not happened as interesting people sat in a room together all over the world and said nothing as the flickering images have washed over them?

There have been lots of studies on the bad aspects of the boob-tube. But this is a new one and it is pretty darn troubling.
Even if young children aren't watching the TV, it may be distracting them from their play and depriving them of developing critical attention skills, a new study says.

When children aged 3 and younger played in a room with a television on that was tuned to adult programming, they played for about 5 percent less time than when there was no background TV. More importantly, when there was no background TV, the children's play was more focused with longer play episodes, the study found.

"Background TV is a disruptive and distracting influence. Our evidence is that TV keeps the children from sustaining their attention at a time when developmentally, they're beginning to organize their attention skills and sequencing behaviors," said study senior author Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children 2 years old and younger be exposed to no screen time. For older children, the AAP suggests limiting screen time -- including TV, video games and computer use -- to one to two hours a day of active viewing time.-By Serena Gordon
Message to moms and dads everywhere-- Don't be afraid to use that off button! For now at least, TVs still come with that option.
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Obama 49% McCain 40%

Belmont Horse Racing Photo, 1950's Anonymous

Sen. Barack Obama now leads Sen. John McCain among national registered voters by a 49% to 40% lead, according to the latest Gallup Tracking Poll.

The margin is the largest for Obama over McCain measured since Gallup began tracking the general election in March.
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Win a Trip to the Convention

Win a day in the campaign press pool and a trip to the 2008 political conventions by creating a video answering the question,
"Why are you a Democrat in 2008?"

For more details or to submit your video, go to Take a look around the channel at other videos posted about Denver, the convention and about our party.
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Gonzales and Justice Dept. Guilty of Partisan Hiring

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

shocked, shocked I say...

Is anyone surprised by this?
Former Justice Department officials broke the law by letting Bush administration politics dictate the hiring of prosecutors, immigration judges and other career government lawyers, according to an internal investigation released Monday.

For nearly two years, top advisers to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discriminated against applicants for career jobs who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists, the Justice report found.

At times, their search for GOP activists to fill judgeships threatened to clog courts and potentially delay deporting illegal immigrants, the report said.

The federal government makes a distinction between "career" and "political" appointees, and it's against civil service laws and Justice Department policy to hire career employees on the basis of political affiliation or allegiance.

Yet Monica Goodling, who served as Gonzales' counselor and White House liaison, routinely asked career job applicants about politics, the report concluded.

"What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" Goodling asked at least some candidates, according to the joint investigation by Justice's Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility. Others were asked about their views on abortion and gay marriage.-- By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer
It is going to take a lot of chemical cleansers and elbow grease to clean up this mess. Or maybe a good exterminator company... we are going to have to spend the first few years uncovering all these insects that have infested and burrowed into every department in our government.
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