Monthly Archives: March 2008

Dear Abby Hijacked: Volume Two

Actual letters to Dear Abby, randomly selected, with my response:

DEAR ABBY: My closest friend, "Tina," who is married, has been having an affair for a few months. She has now decided she’s no longer in love with her husband, "Hal," and wants a divorce. Tina and Hal have been in my life for several years and are like family to me.

Hal recently reached out to me for an explanation about Tina’s 180-degree change in attitude, feelings and behavior. He is crushed and confused about why she wants a divorce. He told me he had asked her if she had been cheating. Of course, Tina lied to him.

I don’t want to be the one to tell Hal what she’s doing, but I feel I owe it to him. I’m disgusted with Tina, and it’s killing me to see him in so much pain. What do you suggest? Am I really a friend if I don’t tell, or should I continue keeping her dirty little secret? — IN THE MIDDLE IN CORPUS CHRISTI

DEAR IN THE MIDDLE:  No, don’t tell Hal.  He’ll find out soon enough, especially if shes sues for divorce.  The truth will always out, as Shakespeare said.

I would, however, start to distance myself from Tina, hard as it may be.  She’s made herself an ugly bed, and is essentially asking her friends to respect her decision to have an affair.  If you can, fine, but most people don’t approve of lies and deception.  Take your "disgust" with Tina, and move away from her.

DEAR ABBY: My children have been cared for by a wonderful baby sitter I’ll call "Sally" for two years. Mine are the only children Sally watches, and she has three of her own. Our families have a friendly relationship.

Once in a while I will stop at the grocery store on my way home, or take off from work early for a dental appointment or some personal time. It is rare, but it does happen. I always tell Sally because I want to be honest. When I do, sometimes she acts like I should have picked them up right away. I still get there on time — sometimes early — and I pay her well.

Is there an unwritten rule that sitters are only for when you are at work? I don’t think I have abused her services, but sometimes I feel as though she thinks so. — FEELING GUILTY IN ILLINOIS

DEAR FEELING GUILTY:  You may be reading her wrong.  Or she may have a legitimate gripe.  Perhaps a frank and honest discussion with her is in order.  There is no "unwritten rule" about babysitting; reasonable people are allowed to differ.   Perhaps she thinks her services are being provided for only the time when you work.  Just talk to her and see if you can both get on the same page.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, "Brady," and I do not share the same passions. I’m a gay rights activist and love animals. Brady is tolerant of gays, but does not love animals. (I have three cats.) Also, he is not altruistic.

"Something" is not right. I need to decide if I should go it alone because I have no intention of giving up my passions in life. What do you think? — ON DIFFERENT PATHS IN TEXAS

DEAR ON DIFFERENT PATHS:  No two people are exactly the same, and compatability does not mean they have to see eye-to-eye on all matters.  You need to decide how "passionate" you are about these issues (gay rights, animals) and more importantly, how passionate your ideal boyfriend should be.  (Perhaps he is passionate about something that you are not?).  If not being a gay rights activist, for example, is a "deal breaker" for you, then it’s time to move on.  But remember, a great part of any relastionship is being tolerant of the differences you have, and respecting those differences.

Lou Dobbs Steps In It

Lou Dobbs explains how he’s sick of "cotton pickin’" black leaders telling him how he can and can’t talk about race (he catches himself at the last minute — sorta) …

UPDATE:  The folks at CNN threw Dobbs a bone.  The CNN transcript cut the work "cotton"

Government Deregulations

From The New York Times:

At this point, according to a review by Politico.com, the election commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and the National Labor Relations Board do not have enough members to do their jobs. Scores of federal judgeships are vacant. The Council of Economic Advisers is down to one adviser.

Comforting, isn’t it?

Cell Phones “More Dangerous Than Smoking”

The Independent:

Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry must take "immediate steps" to reduce exposure to their radiation.

The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks.

It draws on growing evidence – exclusively reported in the IoS in October – that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer. Cancers take at least a decade to develop, invalidating official safety assurances based on earlier studies which included few, if any, people who had used the phones for that long.

Who ever thought that cell phone use could become a vice?

That said, I’m sure it’s like aspertame in Tab.  You probably have to be one of those people with a mobile phone headset glued to your ear 24/7.  Casual users, like most of us, probably won’t be affected.  I’m guessing.

UPDATE: Still, some people are afraid not to have their cell phones.

Obama Cutting Into Hillary’s Superdel Advantage

WSJ:

WASHINGTON — Slowly but steadily, a string of Democratic Party figures is taking Barack Obama’s side in the presidential nominating race and raising the pressure on Hillary Clinton to give up.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is expected to endorse Sen. Obama Monday, according to a Democrat familiar with her plans. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s seven Democratic House members are poised to endorse Sen. Obama as a group — just one has so far — before that state’s May 6 primary, several Democrats say.

[UPDATE:  The NC delegation that is supposed to endorse Obama en masse?  There’s been a denial issued on that.]

The graphic says it all.

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Also, the daily Gallup poll shows Obama widening on the popular vote over the past week or so, suggesting that the Wright controversy hasn’t hurt him:

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This marks the first time either candidate has held a double-digit lead over the other since Feb. 4-6, at which point Clinton led Obama by 11 percentage points.

I’m not among those who thinks Hillary should bow out now.  It is still very possible she can win, although the only way I think that can happen — realistically — is if Obama’s three illegitimate children show up (or something like that). 

Look, she’ll win Pennsylvania, but lose North Carolina and Indiana and most of the remaining states.  Superdels will continue to move into Obama’s column.  Her chances of winning are at 25% in my estimate, but that’s good enough to keep fighting the good fight.

The Washington Post editorial board sees some advantage to a protracted battle, namely:

* There are “millions of votes are yet to be cast,” and those voters should get “a chance” to express a preference;

* An “extended contest informs the electorate” and “battle-tests” the eventual nominee;

* Dems are gaining new voters for the fall with increased registration.

Sounds good to me.

How’s That Training Of Iraqi Police Going?

Um…..

Iraqi police in Basra shed their uniforms, kept their rifles and switched sides

Abu Iman barely flinched when the Iraqi Government ordered his unit of special police to move against al-Mahdi Army fighters in Basra.

His response, while swift, was not what British and US military trainers who have spent the past five years schooling the Iraqi security forces would have hoped for. He and 15 of his comrades took off their uniforms, kept their government-issued rifles and went over to the other side without a second thought.

Such turncoats are the thread that could unravel the British Army’s policy in southern Iraq. The military hoped that local forces would be able to combat extremists and allow the Army to withdraw gradually from the battle-scarred and untamed oil city that has fallen under the sway of Islamic fundamentalists, oil smugglers and petty tribal warlords. But if the British taught the police to shoot straight, they failed to instil a sense of unwavering loyalty to the State.

I know all this intra-Shi’ite infighting is confusing, but thanks to Kevin Drum, we now have a handy cheat sheet so we know who’s shooting whom.  Not that it matters.  A clusterfuck is a clusterfuck.

If This Is Positive….

Today we learn that:

American military forces for the first time conducted air strikes on targets in Basra late Thursday, joining Iraqi security forces in trying to oust Shiite militias in the southern port city.

…while in Baghdad:

U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City, the vast Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad, as an offensive to quell party-backed militias entered its third day. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting.

Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army’s AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.

Bush’s take?

I thought that was a very positive moment in the development of a sovereign nation, that is willing to take on elements that are — you know, that believe they’re beyond the law.

And secondly, we are helping, but it’s important to know that the Iraqis are in the lead. This is a positive moment in the development of a nation that can govern itself and defend itself and sustain itself. We will provide oversight and, on occasion, support when asked. This is an Iraqi operation.

The Oldest Audio Recording Recently Discovered

The New York Times had a great piece yesterday on an 1860 phonautogram of the French folk song "Au Clair de la Lune" sung by an unknown Frenchman.

Click here to hear it.  It’s mp3 format and lasts about 10 seconds.  It’s very scratchy; you can barely make out the song.

It is the oldest known recording of a human voice.  The reason this is important is that the recording predates Edison’s famous audio recordings by almost thirty years.  (Up to now, most experts agree that the first audio recording was made in 1888 – Edison’s recording of a snippet of a Handel oratorio)

The phonautograph audio transcription device was invented by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville in the late 1850s.

Here’s the cool thing:  Scott’s machine was intended to record audio waves onto a visual medium (in this case, black paper).  It wasn’t designed to be played back.  Scott’s idea was to visually examine the audio waves in order to study acoustics. He was trying to find a way to "write speech," not record sound per se. 

But modern day scientists have found a way to take Scott’s "audio waves on paper" —  just squiggles on a paper — and turn them back into the original sound, thus creating the "earliest recorded sound".

I’m Bernadette

Here she is on Zoom, explaining that arm thingee she does.  (Only certain people of a certain age will appreciate this)….

Obama Leads Big In North Carolina

He came into town (well, Greensboro) on Wednesday, and packed the house.

Hillary made three stops in North Carolina yesterday, including one in Winston-Salem, and Bill is hanging around today.  (In fact, as I look out my window, he’s on the streetcorner just standing there, talking to a hot dog vendor.  Nobody is even paying attention.  Now he’s trying to stop people and talk to them about how he feels their pain.  Oh, man.  Okay, now he’s talking to hot dog vendor again.  Buying a hot dog).

North Carolina is not used to be courted during primary season, because by this time, the nominations are all sewn up.  Anyway, the latest survey shows good news for Obama:

Hillary Clinton desperately needs to claim more white votes if she is to win a desperately needed primary by taking the Democratic presidential contest in North Carolina May 6.

But with five weeks to go, undecided whites likely to vote in that primary are, if anything, slowly moving to Obama’s column, or may be ready to.

Here are the results of our North Carolina poll from Wednesday night:

“If you are voting in the Democratic primary and the election were held today, who would you vote for?”

Barack Obama (49%)
Hillary Clinton (34%)
Undecided (17%)

The poll was conducted by InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion on March 26. It sampled 406 likely voters in the May 6 North Carolina Democratic presidential primary. The margin of error is plus or minus 5%. The data have been weighted for age, race, gender and party affiliation.

“Firewall state” has been the king of clichés during this campaign season, but that term has never applied more than North Carolina does for Clinton. If she loses badly here, regardless of any modest gains in the national delegate count, her candidacy may be done unless her primary victories in Florida and Michigan somehow end up being seated at the national nominating convention.

Click here for the crosstabs.

Other Obama poll news:

The recent controversy over comments made by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright does not appear to have undermined support for Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy, according to the latest Pew Research survey.

The poll finds that Obama maintains a 49% to 39% advantage over Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, which is virtually unchanged from than the 49% to 40% lead he held among Democrats in late February.

The same poll shows that both Obama and Clinton beat McCain, by the same amount, in a general election matchup….

40726_2

… although Obama is perceived by more people as being the stronger candidate:

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From The Family Archives

Is there anything better than a family member finding old faded photographs?

Uncle Jack uncovered a trove.  You don’t have to know these people to enjoy these photos.  They invoke what I imagine to be a simpler time, if only because the world was black sepia and white back then.

Jacklindajill_and_debbie1945001_2

"The Rough Riders"

That’s my Uncle Jack, my Mom, and Debby Van Dyke, with Jill Jane (Debby’s dog).  The still photograph camera ("picture machine") had just been invented. 

Childrensday1943002_2_2

"Show Us Your Kneecaps!"

Mother and Uncle Jack in 1943.  My mother’s hair was blonde when she was younger.  This was at a time when girls wore dresses.  It was also customary at the time for young boys to wear wide belts and shorts hiked up to their chest.  Fun fact: This is the last known photo of my mother in which she had her eyes open.

Linda_and_jack001_2

"Fighting Over The Remote"

My mother and Uncle Jack roughhousing, during the McCarthy Era.  Moments after this photo was taken, Jack Webb appeared out of nowhere and warned everybody about the evils of "the Red Menace".

Animal_abuse002_2

"Twas Beauty Killed The Beast"

This is my mother.  You can tell from her hairstyle that she was performing in USO shows at the time. 

In this picture, she is strangling the family dog (Clancy).  It was a phase; she outgrew it I’m told.  Although, I find it odd that after all us kids went off to college, the family cat — who had been just fine all the years we grew up in that house — suddenly "died".  Hmmmmm….

UPDATED to make corrections and additions.  Mater would like me to know that she does NOT appreciate photos posted of her in which she is wearing her pajamas, so let’s all pretend that she’s wearing a kimono.

Hillary On The Front Lines

I’d have to say that it really looks like Hillary was caught in a gross exaggeration:

Hillary made the above statements in a speech where she was trying to taut her bonafides for that "3 a.m." call.

The Washington Post has given her statements "four pinocchios".  Sinbad (the comedian), who was there, also had a different recollection of the events.  Hillary initially pooh-poohed Sinbad.

But now, there’s video (see above).  And now, she’s starting to backwalk.  She apparently "misspoke", but that’s even a bit of a stretch.  She recounted the story several times and in several ways.  it wasn’t like a slip of the tongue.

All in all, not a good thing for the Clinton campaign.

The Obama Doctrine

Good article in TAP about "The Obama Doctrine".  While both Obama and Clinton appear to be similar on the Iraq War (they both want out), Obama seems to be going the extra mile in arguing that he wants to change the mindset that got us into Iraq in the first place.  The article looks at the Obama mindset on foreign policy and calls it "most sweeping liberal foreign-policy critique we’ve heard from a serious presidential contender in decades".

Ezra Klein sums it up nicely:

The Bush administration has run a foreign policy utterly comfortable with implying that our allies and enemies alike are small, or powerless, or unworthy of respect. In other words, they’ve run a foreign policy comfortable with challenging our allies and enemies alike to prove to us that they are not small, and can in fact foil our initiatives, and they are not powerless, and can in fact hurt us quite badly, and are not unworthy of respect, and can in fact outmaneuver us diplomatically. A foreign policy based on a presumption of respect and an effort to use our power to confer dignity would be pretty appealing.

Respecting our enemies, and treating them as though have have a say, strikes me as a reasonable approach, if only because it is something we haven’t tried before.  This does not mean we need to cave.  It just means that if we treat them like they have no reason to be heard, they will make themselves heard.  Just like 9/11.

McCain’s Tax Plan

I know discussions about tax policy are boring, but Hilzoy’s readable post is an eye-opener.

Most of it can be explained in this chart:

Cap_mccain

This chart explains who benefits from McCain’s tax plan.  The third line is most important.  If you are in the bottom quintile (your income is in the bottom 20% of the country), only 1% of the total benefits from McCain’s plan will go to you and people like you.  But if you are in the top 20%, a full 90% of the benefits will go to you and people like you. 

That’s astounding.  McCain’s plan is quite simple and amounts to one thing: tax breaks for the wealthy (and for corporations).  For everyone else, don’t count on big tax breaks.

Of course, when anyone criticizes the McCain plan (which is like the Bush tax policy, but worse), they get accused of engaging in "class warfare".  But how can one look at the above chart, and see the "class warfare" isn’t already being waged against lower, middle, and even some high income people?!?

The other point to be made is that we are running into a recession and HUGE defecit problems.  How do we hope to make those up?  Saving on spending will only get us so far (especially if we’re going to continue fighting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and — if McCain has his way — Iran).

Richardson Backs Obama

(1)  Former candidate Bill Richardson backs Obama

(2)  James Carville calls the Richardson endorsement "an act of betrayal" and compares Richardson to Judas.

(3)  At AmericaBlog, Aravosis quips:

I’m gonna go on a limb here and say that Jesus did not die on the cross for Hillary’s superdelegates.

Sounds right to me.

To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate?

New York Times:

In a highly unusual outbreak of measles here last month, 12 children fell ill; nine of them had not been inoculated against the virus because their parents objected, and the other three were too young to receive vaccines.

The parents who objected to their children being inoculated are among a small but growing number of vaccine skeptics in California and other states who take advantage of exemptions to laws requiring vaccinations for school-age children.

Do parents have a right to object to their children being vaccinated? 

On first blush, I would have to say "yes".  Like religion and other things, parents should be able to make decisions about their children’s health.  In fact, the government mandating vaccinations of children sounds rather totalitarian.

But doesn’t their "right" stop when it threatens the community at large?

While nationwide over 90 percent of children old enough to receive vaccines get them, the number of exemptions worries many health officials and experts. They say that vaccines have saved countless lives, and that personal-belief exemptions are potentially dangerous and bad public policy because they are not based on sound science.

“If you have clusters of exemptions, you increase the risk of exposing everyone in the community,” said Dr. Omer, who has extensively studied disease outbreaks and vaccines.

***

There is substantial evidence that communities with pools of unvaccinated clusters risk infecting a broad community that includes people who have been inoculated.

For instance, in a 2006 mumps outbreak in Iowa that infected 219 people, the majority of those sickened had been vaccinated. In a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana, there were 34 cases, including six people who had been vaccinated.

In other words, if everybody doesn’t get vaccinated, then the vaccination is no good for anybody.  And at that point, a parent’s right to avoid vaccination stops, as far as I am concerned.  (It’s like the old law school adage: "You have every right to swing your hand around.  But that right stops the second your hand touches my face.")

Megan McArdle goes one step further:

I just think that people who are unvaccinated, unless they have a legitimate medical reason for same, should not be allowed to use public roads, public sidewalks, or public services. They have a right not to vaccinate their children. But they do not have a right to risk my health.

The NYT article is a little vague about why some parents are choosing not to have their kids vaccinated.  Apparently, it has to do with the threat of adverse side effects.  But one wonders just where these parents are getting their information from (the ol’ reliable Internet?, and whether such fears are justified.  [UPDATE:  Kevin Drum blames it on Robert Kennedy]

We, as a society, sometimes have to pool together to make health decisions that are for the good of the community.  Our water supply, for example — each community shares the same resource, so we make a group decision, for the good of the local "village".  So, too, it should be with immunization.  And I tend to agree with Ms. McArdle — if you want your kid to "opt out", that’s fine.  Then that kid should be quarantined.  Parents will still have a choice, but it’ll be a harder one — with consequences.

Broadway Musicals Written By Gender Studies Professors

Annie Get Your Symbol of Violent, Colonizing Western Masculinity

Hello, Doula!

How to Succeed in Unpaid, Undervalued Domestic Labor Without Really Trying

The Best Little Female-Operated Sex-Worker Co-op in Texas

Bye Bye Burqa

Joseph and the Amazing Heterosexist Dreamcoat of Male Privilege

Jesus Christ Oppressive Religious Figure

Lys Mys

Mcsweeney’s Lists (Sascha Cohen)

Obama To Be In GSO on Wednesday

Barack Obama will return to North Carolina on Wednesday to host a town hall meeting in Greensboro.

Mayor Yvonne Johnson of Greensboro made the announcement at the Guilford County Democrats this morning, after declaring her endorsement of Senator Obama’s campaign.

"Senator Obama has outlined a broad agenda for change and shown his unique ability to bring people of all backgrounds, beliefs and party affiliations together to make change happen," Mayor Johnson said. "I’m proud to endorse his candidacy and pleased that Barack Obama is bringing his campaign for change right here to Greensboro. This will be an historic opportunity for North Carolinians and citizens of Greensboro to hear Senator Obama’s message, and to play a decisive role in choosing our party’s nominee."

Obama will meet with North Carolina voters and share his plans to jumpstart the economy, improve our education system, end the War in Iraq, and make quality health care affordable and accessible to all Americans.

Wednesday, March 26
Greensboro, NC

TOWN HALL MEETING WITH BARACK OBAMA
War Memorial Auditorium
Greensboro Coliseum Complex
1921 W. Lee Street
Greensboro, NC

Doors Open: 11:00 AM
Program Begins: 1:00 PM

Media Coverage: The event is open press. For credentials please visit www.barackobama.com/mediarsvp.

The event is free and open to the public; however space is limited and tickets are required. Free tickets are available at the locations listed below. For more information, please visit www.barackobama.com.

Ticket Locations

Students for Obama Table
UNC—Greensboro, The Atrium
1000 Spring Garden Street
Greensboro, NC 27412
Available: 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Guilford County Democrats
6600 West Market Street
Greensboro, NC 27409
Available: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM

For security reasons, no bags are allowed. Please limit personal belongings. No signs or banners permitted.

Ingrates

In a recent column, right-wing pundit Pat Buchanan attempted to argue that blacks benefited from slavery because they “grew into a community of 40 million” in the United States:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

It’s hard to know how to process that kind of thinking.

In his first paragraph, Pat seems to gloss over the timeline.  America started importing slaves from Africa about 350 years ago.  Yet blacks didn’t get their full panoply of rights until about 40 years ago, despite a war for their "freedom" fought 120 years ago.  So while I don’t agree with everything that Wright has said, I can certainly understand why people like Wright can’t look back on history and NOT get down on his knees and "thank God he is an American".

In his second paragraph, Pat lists several social programs on the assumption that those social programs were geared toward blacks, rather than toward poor and impoverished people.  Of course, the fact that he recognizes that those programs tend to "lift up blacks" is a tacit admission that blacks need lifting up.  And why?  Largely because of the discrimination they have faced over the years.  It’s kind of like a wife-beater who says his wife should be grateful because he provides good health insurance.

Why, you’re welcome, Pat!

UPDATE:  Dave Neiwert

But really, the richest line in Buchanan’s column — the one that no doubt resonates most with black voters — was this one:

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

Damn, I’m sure most black people forgot to be grateful for segregation, the lynching era, sundown towns, and the continuing discrimination they face both in employment and in residence. Because the institutional conditions created by those decades of bigotry have in fact gone largely unchanged, though to white guys like Buchanan, that simply isn’t a factor:

Is white America really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of white America? Is it really white America’s fault that illegitimacy in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?

Is that the fault of white America or, first and foremost, a failure of the black community itself?

Well, I’m sure black voters are convinced by that argument. After all, it’s obvious that the matter of continuing discrimination is just an illusion in their heads.

The Youtube Election

The funny thing about this presidential election, that was present in even the 2004 election, is that people are making up their own advertisements for the candidates, and these ads get seen by millions.

Here is an ad for John McCain whicih, I’m guessing, is actually done by Obama or Clinton supporters, because after you see it, you’ll never even think about voting for McCain.

The Speech

Here it is:

I thought it was amazing (although it reads better than his actual delivery — although, then again, his delivery was better than any other candidates’ could have been).

Obama managed to distance himself from the rhetoric of Wright (not a hard trick — in fact he’s been doing that for a couple of weeks now).  But then he was able to simultaneously embrace it, and the harsh and divisive rhetoric of others (both black and white), as being a fundamental problem that should be addressed.  When it comes to race issues, Obama was saying, attention must be paid, and this media-driven nonsense of wallowing in racial tension, rather than fixing it, does not help.

He avoided the obvious cheap political tricks that one would expect from a typical, and lesser, politician.  He spoke of lofty ideals and goals.  From a political campaign standpoint, it was brilliant, perhaps unintentionally, because it successfully cast Obama as the man to take on the racial divides of this country (Subtext: You hear that, uncommitted superdelegates?  Now if you choose against Obama, it’s almost like you are dismissing the goals he set out).

As one might expect, Obama fans are swooning, some even calling it one of the most important speeches on race relations in many decades.  Many conservatives, naturally, are being divisive and cynical, without any apparent irony that they are precisely the type of people of which Obama spoke.  The good news for Obama is that the media establishment — at least on television — seems to think it was a success.

The Last Five Years

Happy Fifth Birthday, Operation Iraqi Freedom!

U.S. Deaths Confirmed By The DoD: 3988
U.S. Deaths Pending DoD Confirmation: 2

Total: 3990

David M. Herszenhorn, NYT:

At the outset of the Iraq war, the Bush administration predicted that it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to oust Saddam Hussein, restore order and install a new government.

Getting at the true cost of the war is difficult. Expenses like a troop increase were paid from the base defense budget, not war bills.

Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.

Among economists and policymakers, the question of how to tally the cost of the war is a matter of hot dispute. And the costs continue to climb.

***

All of the war-price tallies include operations in the war zone, support for troops, repair or replacement of equipment, reservists’ salaries, special combat pay for regular forces and some care for wounded veterans — expenses that typically fall outside the regular Defense Department or Veterans Affairs budgets.

The highest estimates often include projections for future operations, long-term health care and disability costs for veterans, a portion of the regular, annual defense budget, and, in some cases, wider economic effects, including a percentage of higher oil prices and the impact of raising the national debt to cover increased war spending.

Swamped

Light and/or intermittant blogging for a while.

Work is a bear.  And I’m in rehearsal for two shows:

(1)  The Nebula of Georgia, playing at Open Space Theatre on April 10-12, and April 17-19, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 2:00 (for tix and information, call 336-292-2285).  I play Lyndal, a goofy filling station owner in rural Georgia, in a comic drama about a family coming to terms with their past.

and

(2)  The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, presented by Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance, May 9-18, to be performed at SECCA, Winston-Salem.  Times and information to come (although you can always call 336-768-7655).  I play the Governor of Texas (played by Charles Durning in the film).  And yes, I do this number:

Don’t ask me how I plan to do this….

John Adams

I caught parts one and two of the HBO miniseries John Adams last night.  It is very gripping and Paul Giamatti is amazing, so if you get a chance to see it (it’s being repeated many many times this week and next), you really should.  Or fire up the DVR.  A really interesting look not only at Adams himself, but the personalities of the characters with whom he was associated (Abigail Adams, Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson).  You all know who those people are, but you actually learn about what kind of people they are.

War And Romance

Bush laments that his advanced age doesn’t let him participate in his own screw-ups:

"I must say, I’m a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

"It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks," Bush said.

Of course, we all remember that Bush had an actual opportunity to put his life on the line in a war, and he chose to avoid doing so.

This Week’s “Dear Abby Hijacked”

Today I am introducing, as a semi-regular feature on this blog, a segment called DEAR ABBY HIJACKED, in which I take letters to Dear Abby (printed earlier in the week) and provide my own answers without bothering to read what "Abby" said in response.

Simple concept really.  Might be fun.

So away we go with the debut installment:

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, "Richie," and I have been together three years. Richie watches his pennies, so I was very surprised two days before Valentine’s Day to return from a family trip and find a gorgeous vase of professionally arranged flowers and a small heart-shaped box of chocolates on my coffee table.

I was very impressed, surprised and excited. I asked Richie where he got them, and he told me the name of a high-priced florist. I was off work the day before Valentine’s Day, so I went out, bought expensive wine and filet mignon and made a fantastic home-cooked meal for him.

When Richie got home from work, I asked him again where he got the flowers, and he again named the florist. I asked if he really went and got them, and if they were really intended for me. (It was just so out of character for him to splurge like that. The arrangement must have cost at least $100.) When he didn’t respond, I probed some more. He finally confessed they were from a funeral his parents had attended the day before I got home.

Can you believe Richie was trying to pass off flowers from a complete stranger’s funeral as nice flowers he got me for Valentine’s Day? He lied to me. Now he says I’m ungrateful and that there’s nothing wrong with what he did! I told him he is greedy and cheap, and the thoughtful thing to do with leftover funeral flowers would have been to take them to a cancer ward at a hospital or to a local nursing home.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? I’m afraid this may be a deal-breaker. — ANN IN GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.

Dear Ann,

Yes, I think you might be overreacting.  Why was it important that Richie have spent actual money on you?  Do you measure his love for you (or your love for him) by the amount of dollars and cents he spends?

And why is it less "thoughtful" to give those flowers to you rather than to a cancer ward or local nursing home? 

The fact is, he DID get those flowers for you for Valentine’s Day, and it doesn’t matter that he was able to get them for free.  The same goes for the chocolates (which you seem to have ignored).

That said, there may be a problem if Richie is financially well off and can afford to splurge on you.  But perhaps he can’t.  Does he "watch his pennies" because he HAS to, or because he truly is miserly?  It’s not clear from your letter.  If it is the former, then cut him some slack.  If it is the latter, then consider this incident a red flag. 

Another red flag is the fact that he initially lied to you.  But before you castigate him for that, ask yourself why you think he lied.  Was he ashamed?  Have you been so materialistic as to make him feel ashamed?  If the answer to those questions is "yes", then the two of you have much to work out, and that includes you.  If the answer is "no", then — again — you have yourself another red flag warning.

Sincerely,

Dear Abby Hijacked

DEAR ABBY: Will you please suggest a response that will end the conversation when someone comments in a negative way on how young I look, and asks what I have done? I’m 69, but look a decade younger.

I grew up plain and poor, but became a successful professional and changed my appearance. I have had hair and makeup lessons, advice on clothing and cosmetic surgery.

I often receive rude comments from both strangers and acquaintances who have chosen to age "naturally." I’m not interested in answering their sly questions about cosmetic surgery, but because I’m usually accosted in social settings, I don’t want to be rude. I just want to make them realize that I consider their questions impolite and want them to shut up. Any ideas? — PRETTY CAN BE BOUGHT, WACO, TEXAS

Dear Pretty,

Perhaps the thing to do is to not take compliments about "how young you look" negatively.  There is no shame in cosmetic surgery, getting hair and makeup lessons, etc.  The prejudice against those things seems to lie within you, not others.  Why not just be up front?  Why not say "I care about how I look, so I had my face lifted?"  Or whatever.

People taking an interest in your youthful looks is not impolite.  It’s a compliment.  Take it as one.  And if they still look down on you because you won’t allow yourself to age "naturally", then find yourself a new set of acquaintances who accept your lifestyle choices.  But before you can ask others to accept your choices, be sure that you have accepted those choices as well, and are proud of them.

Sincerely,

Dear Abby Hijacked

Wilhelm Scream Compilation

From Wikipedia:

The Wilhelm scream is a stock sound effect first used in 1951 for the film Distant Drums. Actor-singer Sheb Wooley is considered to be the most likely voice actor for the scream, having appeared on a memo as a voice extra for the film.

The Wilhelm scream has been featured in many films and television programs since. Alongside a certain recording of the cry of the Red-tailed Hawk, the "Universal telephone ring", the Goofy holler, the Tarzan yell and "Castle thunder", it is probably one of the best-known cinematic sound cliches.

A compilation:

Mississippi Voting

With Obama’s huge win in Mississippi this week, Meteor Blades, a blogger at Daily Kos, remembers what he was doing 44 years ago in Mississippi — trying to get black voters registered.  It was the summer when three civil rights workers — James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner — went missing, and whose bodies were later unearthed in the Mississippi mud.

Good read.

The Skittles Caper

At least it’s not drugs:

Skittles NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (AP) — School officials have decided to go light on an eighth-grader caught with contraband candy in New Haven, Connecticut.

Michael Sheridan, an eighth-grade honors student who was suspended for a day, barred from attending an honors dinner and stripped of his title as class vice president after he was caught with a bag of Skittles candy in school will get his student council post back, school officials said.

Superintendent Reginald Mayo said in a statement late Wednesday that he and principal Eleanor Turner met with student Michael’s parents and that Turner decided to clear the boy’s record and restore him to his student council post.

Michael was disciplined after he was caught buying a bag of Skittles from a classmate. The classmate’s suspension also will be expunged, school officials said.

The New Haven school system banned candy sales in 2003 as part of a districtwide school wellness policy, school spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo said.

"I am sorry this has happened," Turner said in a statement. "My hope is that we can get back to the normal school routine, especially since we are in the middle of taking the Connecticut mastery test."

Turner said she should have reinforced in writing the verbal warnings against candy transactions.

Michael had said that he didn’t realize his candy purchase was against the rules, but he did notice that the student selling the Skittles on February 26 was being secretive.

If You’re At All Interested in “Kristin”…

…the high-priced call girl with whom soon-to-be-former governor Spitzer had repeated liasons and "business" transactions, then this New York Times article is for you.

Or you can check out her Myspace page (her real name is Ashley Alexandra Dupre) although for all I know it won’t be viewable by the time you read this.

Or you can just ogle this picture and muse as to whether she’s worth $3,000 an hour:

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Here’s a snap of her Myspace (click to enlarge):

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Consider youself titillated for the day…..

UPDATE:  Her last blog entry, via Radar Online:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

positive energy will attract positive energy: Law of Attraction
Current mood: determined

Hello Everyone!! how are you?? This Blog i am going to just talk about my feelings on relationships…from a boyfriend/girlfriend, to closest friends, to family and business relationships…they are all the same to me…

The past few months have been a roller coaster with so called friends, lovers, and family…but its something you have to deal with and confront in order to move on…

I stepped away from each situation that happened and asked myself…

1) What is this person doing to make my life better? (financial, intel, drive, networking etc.)

2) How does this person make me feel? (happy, sad, motivated, depressed, constantly doubting, drama, etc.)

3) How is this person a positive influence in my life? (do they share the same interests, same dreams, does that person make me better when i am with them, or when they are in my life…i would be the same person if they werent in my life, but its just better with them in it…is my best interest always number one in their head ADoes that person drive you to be better?

*Is that person right there behind you when things arent that good, or even if they are??

*Will that person be an asset to your life…(will that person have value): doesn’t have to be financial, i am talking respect, courage, and umm RESPECT.

If you are in a relationship, and it is "doing absolutly nothing" for you, makes you feel bad about yourself or situations, just causing unessesary drama, and ruining things that you may actually care about…why would you want that in your life?? you need to surround yourself with the people that make you feel good, and that will help you get to that next step in your life. that is what a relationship is all about…growing and moving forward.

Surround yourself around people that are making moves, and doing what "they want and love" with their lives, positive energy…thats what life is all about…living. Because if you dont, misery loves company, they will only try to bring you down with them…but the question is, are you strong enough, to not let that happen?

Its hard to see if you let it get to that point…

…and then from all those answers you have to decide if that person is worthy of being a part of "your" life….because it is your life, your show…you decide who you want the characters to be…not the other way around. Every person is different, every person has their voice…can you recognize your voice, listen to it, and stick up for it??

Bless,

much love…aad

UPDATE:  Well, well, well — look whose songs are #1 and #2 of downloaded songs at Amie Street

Am I Broadway Bound?

Having told a few people that I am in the world premiere of a new play called "The Nebula of Georgia", and that the play is in development for a limited Off-Broadway run by the Abingdon Theatre (in NYC), and that the director of my little production might be the same one who is going to direct it in New York….

I am frequently asked, "Well, is there a possibility that you might be tapped to play the role in the New York production?"

My answer: "Right.  Because that’s how it works.  I move from New York (where I never tried to be an actor anyway) to Winston-Salem, where I work as a lawyer while doing community theatre, and that’s how I end up on the legitimate New York stage, bypassing the countless thousands of younger actors who are standing in long lines auditioning and auditioning."

Shorter answer: "Only in fantasyland."

Even shorter answer: "Uh, no."

Sssshhhhhh!

You know that Pentagon study I mentioned yesterday?  The one where the Pentagon concluded, after scouring Iraq for evidence, that there was no link between Saddam and Al Qaeda?

The Bush Administration is trying to keep it quiet.  ABC News reports:

The Bush Administration apparently does not want a U.S. military study that found no direct connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda to get any attention. This morning, the Pentagon cancelled plans to send out a press release announcing the report’s release and will no longer make the report available online.

The report was to be posted on the Joint Forces Command website this afternoon, followed by a background briefing with the authors. No more. The report will be made available only to those who ask for it, and it will be sent via U.S. mail from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

It won’t be emailed to reporters and it won’t be posted online. Read the report’s executive summary HERE.

Asked why the report would not be posted online and could not be emailed, the spokesman for Joint Forces Command said: "We’re making the report available to anyone who wishes to have it, and we’ll send it out via CD in the mail."

Another Pentagon official said initial press reports on the study made it "too politically sensitive."

Just another attempt to keep America pig ignorant.

The Nebula Of Georgia

Well, for those people following my theatrical goings-on (and I flatter myself to think I have any), I have some news.

I will be appearing in the world premiere of "The Nebula of Georgia" at the Open Space Theatre in Greensboro.  The playwright is Joe Nierle.  The play centers around a quirky family in Georgia trying to keep past family secrets from impacting the present.  A state senator has died, Jamie along with her husband returns to Georgia for the funeral… and so it goes.

Want to know more?  Me, too.  But it sounds interesting.

The play will debut in Greensboro, although it is in development for production at The Abingdon Theatre in New York.

Show dates are April 10-19, 2008, so it’s a quick rehearsal schedule.  Hope y’all can come out and see it.  Also features Kelly Wallace and Lee Huggins.

Heh

Amid Charges of Spitzer Tryst, Embattled Prostitute "Kristen" Expected to Resign

New York – At a hastily scheduled morning press conference at the headquarters of New York’s exclusive Emperors Club prostitution ring, high priced call girl "Kristen" announced that she would  temporarily step aside in the wake of charges that she had engaged in sex with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

"I made a serious mistake and betrayed the trust of my co-workers, my many clients, and my pimps," she said in a quiet voice cracking with emotion. "I will be taking a leave of absence to earn their forgiveness, and redeem myself in the eyes of the entire expensive whore community."

The embattled prostitute did not mention Spitzer by name, and stopped short of offering an official resignation. But longtime sex industry insiders say that it will be difficult for Kristen to return to her post in light of mounting federal wiretap evidence that she had sexually serviced the Governor on at least two occasions.

"It will be hard for her to spin her way out of this," said Destinee Rizzo, editor of the trade journal Executive Concubine."After taking on clients like that, her days as a five diamond, high-roller suite call girl are over. Frankly, with all the press coverage she’ll be lucky to get a job as a $5 truck stop lot lizard in Kentucky."

"The big problem now is to keep this incident from threatening the whole expensive whore industry," added Rizzo.   

excerpt from here

P.S.  Balloon Juice reports:

He just resigned, and the SOB dragged his near sobbing wife, who looks like she hasn’t slept in 5 days, up to the podium to look like she was about to have a breakdown and then give a two minute speech which featured the word “I” thirty seven times.

The Politics Of David Mamet

In the Village Voice, Mamet explains "Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal’".

While it may appear at first blush like Mamet has jumped the aisle from being a liberal to a conservative, that’s not my take.  I think instead he’s gone from being a non-thinking liberal to a thinking independent, having realized that government intervention isn’t always the best, and leaving things to the free market isn’t always the best.

That’s fine.  I don’t agree with him though, especially when he writes this:

I found not only that I didn’t trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.

I don’t think you can compare Bush/Iraq with JFK/Vietnam.  Kennedy got us in, initially, but he was also very concerned about it being a limited involvement.  Johnson, not Kennedy, turned it into a full-scale war.  Whereas Bush, of course, was for the full-scale war right away.

Anyway, it’s an interesting read.

UPDATE:  Sadly, No weighs in:

A quick history review for Mamet is in order. Eisenhower arguably started the Vietnam debacle by sending Diem to Vietnam and funding and training his armies there. The first U.S. ground troops were sent there by LBJ. Kennedy won the Kennedy-Nixon election by a margin wider than the number of electoral votes from Illinois. There is no evidence that any CIA agents were among the Cuban exile force that invaded Cuba, much less “hundreds” of them. Sorenson always said that Kennedy had significant input on the book. (Bonus question: tell me, David, if I reveal to you that Brent Bozell wrote The Conscience of a Conservative for Barry Goldwater, will you become a liberal again?) And if Kennedy was in bed with the Mafia, what on earth was Bobby Kennedy doing going after all those mob members?

At best Mamet’s claim to no longer be a “brain dead” liberal would appear to be only half true.

Clinton Has An Edge?

Can someone explain to me why Rick Klein had ABC News thinks that "Clinton Might Have An Edge"?

Obama won the last two primaries.  He trounced Clinton in Mississsippi last night, getting six to seven more delegates than Clinton.  And before yesterday, he was 600,000 votes ahead of Clinton in the national popular vote.  That has since expanded to 700,000.

So why does Clinton have an edge?

Well, according to Rick Klein, because she has "time".  There are no primaries until April 22, when the Big Penn holds its primaries.

But what, might I ask, is time going to get Hillary?

First of all, she’s already ahead in Pennsylvania.  And she’ll probably win that.  So time gets her nothing that she doesn’t already have.

If anything, time gives Obama the chance to close that gap in Pennsylvania.

But according to Klein, this six week gap will allow Clinton to make an orchestrated attack on Obama, attacking (most likely) his supposed lack of experience.

Huh?  Like Clinton hasn’t done this yet?

Look, here’s the deal.  Obama leads in pledged delegates.  He leads in popular vote.  When the convention rolls around, and he still has both those things, the superdelegates — most of them — will unite behind him.  There’s no way on God’s green earth Hillary will pull ahead in the pledged delegate count number.  She has a chance to win the overall popular vote, and then make her case to the superdelegates.  But "time" is just as much his friend/enemy, as it is hers.

Fallon Out; War With Iran In?

In a recent article in Esquire, CENTCOM Commander Adm. William "Fox" Fallon openly criticized the idea of a possible war with Iran, which Fallon called an "ill-advised action".  Fallon implied that he would resign rather than go to war against Iran.  (Fallon is not alone on this; most military leaders are opposed to war with Iran).

Breaking news out of the Pentagon (so new there’s no link) — Fallon is stepping down as CENTCOM cammander.

Uh oh….

UPDATE:  Here’s a link; Fallon asked to resign, supposedly….

The New And Improved Seven Deadly Sins

I guess because the old ones were sooooo passe, the Vatican released a list of new seven deadly sins.

I’ll cut to the chase, and give them to you (they’re not in any order).  But first, let’s review the old seven deadly sins.

  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Greed
  • Sloth
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Pride

And now the new ones:

  • Polluting
  • Genetic engineering
  • Being obscenely rich
  • Drug dealing
  • Abortion
  • Pedophilia
  • Causing social injustice

It should be stressed that these are deadly sins, meaning that "immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell."  These are not venial sins — sins which "threaten the soul with eternal damnation unless absolved before death through confession and penitence."

So in other worse, this is pretty serious stuff.

Right off the bat, you gotta give props to the Pope for being more specific this time around.  I mean, with the old list (whichi, as far as I can tell, is still operative), you have all kinds of wiggle room.  I mean, pride is a sin?  What’s wrong with pride?  Now, excessive pride — that I can see being a mortal sin.  But just common pride?

Then again, the new list is harsh in its own way.  What is so bad about genetic engineering, like when you create new strains of wheat that can save millions, even billions, of lives? 

And being obscenely rich?  I guess that begs the question about what is "obscene".  But suppose I inherit a billion dollars.  Why should I go to hell for that?  Suppose I inherit it three days before I die.  Man, that’s kind of harsh.

The Fashion of Faux Pas

I have little to say about the whole Spitzer-prostitute scandal.  Seems he got caught with his pants down, seems he’s going to resign.  I have little interest for the details, or the theory that he was "targeted" by Republicans in the FBI, or other such nonsense.

However, what I don’t get are these women — in Spitzer’s case, in Vitter’s case, in New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey’s case — who come out and stand behind their husband when these things happen.  Ladies, have some dignity.  Beat his ass.

And what I really really really don’t get is the uniform they all seem to wear when they do.  Blue business suit and pearls on the women.  Red striped tie for the guys.  Does that mean something now?

Below:  James McGreevey apologizes for his gay sex scandal, wife at his side

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Below:  Eliot Spitzer apologizes for his prostitution sex scandal, wife at his side

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OTHER POINTS OF VIEW….

TAPPED‘s Dana Goldstein complains:

"When politicians are caught cheating, I wish they’d leave their wives in the green room while they address the press. You’re in the dog house, and it should look that way. Those ‘stand by your man’ visuals are tired and demeaning."

The New Republic‘s Michelle Cottle agrees:

"How many men do you think would really do the same for their wives? Consider it: You wake up one morning to discover that the papers are awash in juicy details (and even juicier innuendo) about how you are such a loser that your woman went out looking to pay some young stud to scratch her itch. You are utterly humiliated. You want nothing more than to phone the meanest divorce lawyer in the state. Instead, you get to shower, shave, put on your special-occasion tie, and try your best to look aggrieved yet supportive while standing two-steps behind your lying, cheating tramp of a wife — possibly even holding her hand — in front of God and 10,000 drooling reporters all thinking that you must be the most pitiful creature on the planet. Riiiight. That’s gonna happen a lot."