Monthly Archives: April 2008

Obama And Wright (The Latter Gets Thrown Under The Bus)

Well, I think Obama is doing (as I type this) what he needs to do.  Here in WInston-Salem, he is STRONGLY denouncing Wright.

Hopefully, this will put an end to the matter.

UPDATE:  Reformed log cabin Republican Andrew Sullivan:

That was a very impressive, clear and constructive re-framing of the core message of his candidacy; and a moment given to him by Wright. No one will ever be able to say that Obama threw his father-figure and pastor under the bus. We all know that the reverse happened. We also know that this clear repudiation of Wright’s toxic, indeed "ridiculous" views on AIDS, 9/11 and permanent immiseration of people of color could not have happened unless Wright had made it necessary. Skeptics may wonder whether Wright actually deliberately did Obama a favor. I doubt it. But a favor it unintentionally is.

Maybe God does bring good out of bad. Maybe these racial and cultural divides can help us understand how better to move beyond them. Cynics may scoff – and certainly will. They will parse every nuance and try to paint Obama as another cynical, positioning pol. I don’t believe it. He has more sincerity and integrity than the vast majority of politicians, more honesty, and more resilience in a very tough spot.

And today, we found that he can fight back, and take a stand, without calculation and in what is clearly a great amount of personal difficulty and political pain. It’s what anyone should want in a president. It makes me want to see him succeed more than ever. It’s why this country needs to see him succeed more than ever.

Okay, then.

Next manufactured controversy?

UPDATE:  The video…..

NC Polls

Rasmussen. 4/28. Likely voters. MoE 4% (4/3 results)

Obama 51 (56)
Clinton 37 (33)

The demographic results in North Carolina are similar to the dynamics seen nationally and in most primaries—Clinton leads by fifteen points among White voters while Obama leads 80% to 11% among African-Americans. Clinton does well among White Women and older voters while Obama leads among those under 65.

Among White voters who earn less than $60,000 annually, Clinton leads by a 2-to-1 margin. Obama leads among White voters who earn more than $75,000 a year.

PPP (PDF). 4/26-27. Likely voters. MoE 2.9% (4/19-20 results)

Obama 51 (57)
Clinton 39 (32)

Obama is clearly the odd-on favorite here, but Clinton has narrowed the margin.

McCain’s Gas Tax Holiday Plan

As a clear campaign ploy, McCain has proposed a gasoline tax “holiday” during the summer driving season.  Basically, it means that federal taxes will be cut from the cost at the pump, thus making gas cheaper.

Senator Clinton has endorsed a similar plan.

Good idea?  Nope:

But economists and energy analysts say it would have little impact on mitigating the rise in gasoline prices. In fact, it could lead to the opposite result.

The federal gasoline tax represents a flat fee of 18.4 cents a gallon nationwide. With gasoline currently averaging $3.39 a gallon, the tax represents a mere 5 percent of today’s pump price. While that’s not trivial, consider that gasoline prices have more than doubled since 2004.

The problem is that lowering gasoline prices at the pump would encourage more consumption. So in the long run, it would push prices up.

***

“You don’t want to stimulate consumption,” said Lawrence Goldstein, an economist at the Energy Policy Research Foundation. “The signal you want to send is the opposite one. Politicians should say that conservation is where people’s mindset ought to be.”

Mr. Goldstein said that instead of freezing the federal tax, the government should help lower-income populations pay for gasoline.  It would be cheaper and benefit those households that need it most.

Unlike McCain, Clinton’s plan also includes taxing the big gas companies, to make up for the lost revenue (which is used to make the roads better through the National Highway Trust Fund).  Problem with that is that the gas companies will just pass on the cost to consumers, and therefore, we won’t be saving anything.

The problem with rising fuel prices can’t be fixed with a bandaid like a "gas tax holiday" (which will only save you $25 to $30 bucks this summer anyway).

The only true solution is long-term, and it involves raising minimum MPG on cars, and conservation policies (car pooling, etc.).  That’s part of the Obama plan, and it’s the only one that makes sense.  Unfortunately, it’s not a politicallyt expedient as those proposed by the other candidates.  Hopefully, however, people won’t be lured by the dollar sign they think they’re seeing.

Sis And Family In The Paper

Must not be much going on in Auburn Maine.

My sister and her family attended the local Empty Bowls Supper, and it made the newspaper.  (I went to the Empty Bowl luncheon last week here in Winston-Salem).  As the article notes, my nephew Zach was unable to attend.

But not to worry — his whereabouts were covered in another article in the same newspaper….

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

$7 a gallon in 5 years?

As oil prices soared to record levels in recent years, basic economics suggested that consumption would fall and supply would rise as producers opened the taps to pump more.

But as prices flirt with $120 a barrel, many energy specialists are becoming worried that neither seems to be happening. Higher prices have done little to attract new production or to suppress global demand, and the resulting mismatch has sent oil prices spiraling upward.

….The outlook for oil supplies "signals a period of unprecedented scarcity," an analyst at CIBC World Markets, Jeff Rubin, said last week. Oil prices might reach more than $200 by 2012, he said, a level that would probably mean $7-a-gallon gasoline in the United States.

Get Out Of Reno

ShutterBig earthquake coming?

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Scientists urged residents of northern Nevada’s largest city to prepare for a bigger event as the area continued rumbling Saturday after the largest earthquake in a two-month-long series of temblors.

More than 100 aftershocks were recorded on the western edge of the city after a magnitude 4.7 quake hit Friday night, the strongest quake around Reno since one measuring 5.1 in 1953, said researchers at the seismological laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The latest quake swept store shelves clean, cracked walls in homes and dislodged rocks on hillsides, but there were no reports of injuries or widespread major damage.

Seismologists said the recent activity is unusual because the quakes started out small and continue to build in strength. The normal pattern is for a main quake followed by smaller aftershocks.

"A magnitude 6 quake wouldn’t be a scientific surprise," John Anderson, director of the seismological lab, said Saturday. "We certainly hope residents are taking the threat seriously after last night."

Well, if it happens, I’m sure FEMA will be there to help, just like in New Orleans….

Interesting But Ineffective Solution To The Gas Problem

Okay, then:

Rocky Twyman has a radical solution for surging gasoline prices: prayer.

Twyman – a community organizer, church choir director and public relations consultant from the Washington, D.C., suburbs – staged a pray-in at a San Francisco Chevron station on Friday, asking God for cheaper gas. He did the same thing in the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday, with volunteers from a soup kitchen joining in. Today he will lead members of an Oakland church in prayer.

Yes, it’s come to that.

"God is the only one we can turn to at this point," said Twyman, 59. "Our leaders don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. The prices keep soaring and soaring."

Well, before we get all holy-rolling, perhaps we can elect leaders who aren’t gas men themselves, we can conserve, and reduced our dependancy on foreign fuel sources.  Just a thought….

Wright? Riiiiight.

So it seems that black pastor Jeremiah Wright gave a speech at the NAACP and to the National Press Club this morning, and said some controversial stuff.

So I’ve decided I’m not going to vote for him if he runs for President.

Now can we get back to the issues?

For Women Looking For A Job….

move to England:

Scientists in the UK are seeking 150 women to eat chocolate every day for a year in the cause of medical research.

The trial, at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, eastern England, will test whether a natural compound found in cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate, could cut the risk of heart disease among women with diabetes.

A Belgian confectionist has created the special chocolate bar containing high levels of flavonoids — a plant compound that has been shown to reduce heart risk factors — to be used in the experiment. Soy, another natural source of flavonoids, has also been added to the bar.

The catch….

Participants, who must be postmenopausal women under the age of 70, will have their risk of heart disease tested on five occasions during the year to see whether change occurs.

Grant Swank Goes Off The Deep End

Over at Renew America, Grant Swank shows what he’s all about in what of his best screeds ever:

Muslim Michelle Obama lies for hubby

Right away, we’re off to a rousing start, Michelle Obama not being a Muslim and all.  But let’s stick our toe in.

In a Midwest rally, Michelle Obama says her husband works for America by climbing on "the shoulders of regular people."

Oh really?

No, not really.  Google this and see if you can find where she said it.  Apparently, the only place she said that her husband climbs on the shoulders of regular people (which, you know, doesn’t make any sense) is in Grant Swank’s column.

Listen up: one of those "regular people" categories B. Hussein Obama does NOT carry on his shoulders includes little boys and girls in women’s wombs.

He would have them stabbed in the neck upon birth — post-birth abortion. Yes, stabbed in the neck till dead.

Post-birth abortion?  Isn’t that, uh, murder?

B. H. O. said it was "horrific" that the Supreme Court banned post-birth abortion. Hillary Clinton joined him in slamming the Supremes. These two are filled with the "spirit of antiChrist" per the New Testament definition.

The Supreme Court banned post-birth abortion?   When?  Where?  And when did "B.H.O." and Hillary condmen the Supreme Court?

So while Michelle tries to make hubby buddy to "regular people," she conveniently dismisses the regular of regular people — innocent children in female bodies.

Michelle lies. Her hubby lies. Muslims lie to advance Allah’s Koran killing passages.

So says the Reverand Grant Swank, who doesn’t lie.  Way to represent Christianity, dude.

Further, Michelle in addressing her Sunday audience said that B. H. O. said his opponents spread fear of her spouse because of his youth and name.

His opponents spread fear? I don’t think so. They don’t need to.

Right, they don’t need to.  Just look at his middle name Hussein.  You don’t need someone to point it out to you.  It’s Hussein, for crying out loud.  You know what that means, right?  Just look at it.  LOOK AT IT!!!

What Michelle does not realize is that intelligent people can handle B. H. O.’s age and his name. What they cannot tolerate are his alliances to Islam and blackism, his left-of-left voting record in Congress and his anti-Christianity by declaring in his book, "Audacity," that Judeo-Christian heritage will be doused in favor of all religions blocked into one.

Except, no.  And the book is "The Audacity of Hope".  Not that Obama’s oppoonents are spreading fear….

Michelle says to her listeners that her hubby is "in the race for the White House. . .for change in everything."

Everything? Yes, Michelle underlined the word "everything."

Grant apparently saw the written text.

Well, on that she spoke truth.

B. H. O. would change our entire nation, and I mean our entire nation, in favor of Muslim aggressors and theological and political liberalism such as pro-homosexual activity. He wants human stem cell research and every sort of abortion possible.

He wants to eat babies for lunch, too.

What, it’s true!

Further, he will see to it that whites are put down and blacks are lifted up per Jeremiah Wright’s brainwashing for two decades. Though B. H. O. says not, he lies. He’s been brainwashed and now speaks out of the other side of his non-head. It’s typical political hypocrisy.

I see.  He doesn’t say he wants to do those things, but he really does want to do those things.

"The America people are ready to move forward," she proclaimed. With that, Michelle continued her rally speech with a litany of worn cliches. Cliches. And more cliches.

That is typical of course of B. H. O., too. "Change." "Unite."

Obamamaniacs are caught up in empty rhetoric. They love it. They cry over it. They cling onto every ragged word. That’s what is so utterly frightening to intelligent Americans.

Those who are dumb but mass hysteria excitable by cliché cheerleaders may vote The Boy on to PA Ave. That’s the crisis now facing this Republic.

Oh, Grant, Grant….

World Hunger

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time, because it’s one of the most underreported stories (in my opinion) of the year.

The issue is world hunger.

Now, for those uninformed, you probably are aware that this is a constant problem.  But the problem of world hunger NOW is absolutely alarming.

The reason for the alarm?  Rising food prices.  They are absolutely skyrocketing.

Take, for example, the price of wheat, a worldwide staple of diet:

Wheatpriceslg

The same hold true for corn:

Corn_prices

As well as rice, which is up 74%.

This has created a crisis with the World Food Bank.  Says Robert Zoelick, President of the World Food Bank:

"In Bangladesh a two-kilogram bag of rice … now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family," he said. "The price of a loaf of bread … has more than doubled. Poor people in Yemen are now spending more than a quarter of their incomes just on bread."

What’s driving up the prices?  Droughts, financial market speculators, and increased demand.  With corn, a lot of it is being channeled into making biofuels such as ethanol.  World grain stocks are at record lows and next year’s prices depend on the success of the next harvest in the northern hemisphere.  And it doesn’t look good.

The food crisis is so bad, that it is even affecting us here in the prosperous United States.  Just recently, Sam’s Club (Walmart) and Costco decided to limit the amount of bulk rice that individuals can buy, something they have never had to do before.  That’s right — there’s a run on rice, as people clamor to stock up on it, and both chains are concerned about their ability to supply it in the future.

Could we all be the next Joads?

So, what can you do?  Educate yourself.  Donate.  Support local activities.  It’s important.

Ignominious Honor

Gallup:

President Bush has set a record he’d presumably prefer to avoid: the highest disapproval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high for any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

The previous record of 67% was reached by Harry Truman in January 1952, when the United States was enmeshed in the Korean War.

[…]

Views of Bush divide sharply along party lines. Among Republicans, 66% approve and 32% disapprove. Disapproval is nearly universal — 91% — among Democrats. Of independents, 23% approve, 72% disapprove of the job he’s doing.

Hi, Women! You’re Going To Die!

WaPo:

For the first time since the Spanish influenza of 1918, life expectancy is falling for a significant number of American women.

In nearly 1,000 counties that together are home to about 12 percent of the nation’s women, life expectancy is now shorter than it was in the early 1980s, according to a study published today.

The downward trend is evident in places in the Deep South, Appalachia, the lower Midwest and in one county in Maine. It is not limited to one race or ethnicity but it is more common in rural and low-income areas.

Not to fear.  We have the best health care in the world, right?  Right?

The phenomenon appears to be not only new but distinctly American.

"If you look in Western Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, we don’t see this," Murray said.

Oh….

Trapped

Amazing time lapse footage of a man trapped in an elevator for over 40 hours:

Poor guy…

Morons In South Carolina

Ugh:

JcogsignA sign is causing heated arguments outside of a church in Jonesville.

Pastor Roger Byrd of Jonesville Church of God put the sign up which reads "Obama Osama humm are they brothers?"

Pastor Byrd says the sign is not meant to be racial or political but rather to make people think.  "His name is so close to Osama I have a feeling he might be Islamic therefore he doesn’t recognize Christ," Pastor Byrd said.

Right.  Because his name sounds kind of like Osama’s, he must not recognize Christ.

Wheee!  Let’s all play:

Churchsign1_2

Churchsign2

A Suit That Washes In The Shower

A clever idea, but who wears suits anymore?

It is billed as the first two-piece that can be washed in the shower each evening and be ready to wear again in the morning – with no ironing required. And amazingly, after a rigorous road test, it appears to fulfil that pledge.

Konaka, a Japanese menswear retailer, and Australian Wool Innovation Ltd devised the suit as a solution to the problem of long, hot, sticky summers during which salarymen have to remain fully suited and booted. The lightweight woollen suit, made using a fabric blend that includes polyester, has two special finishes that help it to maintain its shape.

Our tester, IoS reporter Andrew Johnson, said: "The suit is surprisingly light and comfortable, although probably not too warm in winter. Nor is it very waterproof. It only takes moments for it to become soaked once in the shower. It’s definitely a summer suit.

"Once hung up to dry, however, the miracle begins. The suit quickly drips to a damp state and the next day is bone dry with only one crease – where it should be, down the front of the trousers."

PTSD

A RAND study just showed that something like 20% of all returning servicemembers from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from depression or PTSD.

That’s an astounding number — almost 300,000 men and women.

But it is just a number.

What is it like?  Read this post from a vet actually suffering from this syndrome.  A sample:

So it’s like that — you’re all alone. But, hey, at least you made it home!

So you go to your barracks room, dump your stuff, then you head to the PX so you can get some civilian clothes to go out on the town.

You shower. You eat. Then, you go out.

And…and…and nothing. You head to the mall, for lack of something better to do, and you see the people milling around — and it’s like nothing ever changed. If you didn’t tell them, they wouldn’t know you’re a soldier, they wouldn’t know we’re at war, and they wouldn’t know that you just got back.

Don’t get me wrong — they’re not ungrateful. They’ll thank you, they’ll congratulate you…and then, they’ll go on their lives and you’ll go on with yours.

Except for this: the whole time you were in Ar Ramadi or Balad or Tuz Khurmatu, your platoon leader and your company commander and various VIPs were telling you that you were the only thing standing between America and the massed hordes of Osama bin Laden. We were fighting them in some godforsaken shithole in Ad Dawr because the other option was kicking their ass in Aurora or Hilliard or Prestonsburg.

Or you were helping the Iraqis win their freedom — fuck it, we’re making their livesbetter — see that kid, over there, Jalal? We hooked his family up…kid had a cleft palate, we helped rebuild his dad’s car garage so he could fix old beaters up. We did some good, we did!

But none of this matters to the folks out at Nordstrom’s or JCPenney’s or Bed, Bath & Beyond. They’re just regular folks, they just want to do their thing.

You turn on the news…nothing. The very thing that was at the center of your life for a whole year…you might see it get 90 seconds in the regular news. And when I say a whole year — I mean it: I lived my life day to day. I was grateful to see the dawn — the end of my tour snuck up on my ass like a thief in the night. There’s really no way to describe the centrality of existence to someone who hasn’t been there.

Given all that…how would you react? How would you feel? What kind of emotions would be roiling inside you?

Some guys get pissed. I’m not talking regular angry — I’m talking pissed, like Incredible Hulk you-wouldn’t-want-to-see-me-when-I’m-angry. I was one of those guys. Hell, I’m still one of those guys, though a lot less now than I was four years ago, when I got back.

You see pictures of me from back then — even my smile looks, really, frighteningly, like a snarl. A look into my eyes reveals a glimpse into a world where death walked in the afternoon, or morning, or really, any time he damn well felt like walking. A glance at the words that I wrote reveals the tension of a man trying maximally to keep the shards of his world from falling apart.

And then…and then, they did. All came undone.

My marriage fell apart. It fell apart as I unleashed the hurricane strength of my anger and indignation upon my wife. My wife, who had had the simple common decency to stand by me while I was gone and try, superhumanly, to care for me once I returned, was no match for the fury that I felt at having had to quietly withstand the dead simple savagery of war in a distant land, only to find that people back home simply didn’t give a good goddamn whether I lived or whether I died.

Read the whole thing…..

End Of The Nebula

I have to say, The Nebula of Georgia experience was great.  It was by far the most successful show at Open Space — we sold out this entire week.  Lots of praise right and left.  Joe has created a terrific piece, and it was exhililarating to develop it.

Won’t miss the daily drives to G’boro, but I really will miss Kelly, whom I’ve grown to love even more, when she moves to Greenville.  It was, as always, a special gift to share the stage with her, as well as the rest of the talented cast.

Pentagon Institute Calls Iraq War “A Major Debacle”

So is there anyone left besides the boneheads in the White House who still thinks it was a good idea to go into Iraq?

WASHINGTON — The war in Iraq has become "a major debacle" and the outcome "is in doubt" despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon’s premier military educational institute.

The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush’s projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.

The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.

It was published by the university’s National Institute for Strategic Studies, a Defense Department research center.

You can read the report by the National Defense University (pdf format).  Written by a former deputy of Rumsfeld, it begins:

Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle. As of fall 2007, this conflict has cost the United States over 3,800 dead and over 28,000 wounded. Allied casualties accounted for another 300 dead. Iraqi civilian deaths–mostly at the hands of other Iraqis–may number as high as 82,000. Over 7,500 Iraqi soldiers and police officers have also been killed. Fifteen percent of the Iraqi population has become refugees or displaced persons. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the United States now spends over $10 billion per month on the war, and that the total, direct U.S. costs from March 2003 to July 2007 have exceeded $450 billion, all of which has been covered by deficit spending. No one as yet has calculated the costs of long-term veterans’ benefits or the total impact on Service personnel and materiel.

The war’s political impact also has been great. Globally, U.S. standing among friends and allies has fallen. Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and various issues concerning the treatment of detainees. At the same time, operations in Iraq have had a negative impact on all other efforts in the war on terror, which must bow to the priority of Iraq when it comes to manpower, materiel, and the attention of decisionmakers. Our Armed Forces– especially the Army and Marine Corps–have been severely strained by the war in Iraq. Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East.

As this case study is being written, despite impressive progress in security during the surge, the outcome of the war is in doubt. Strong majorities of both Iraqis and Americans favor some sort of U.S. withdrawal. Intelligence analysts, however, remind us that the only thing worse than an Iraq with an American army may be an Iraq after the rapid withdrawal of that army…. No one has calculated the psychopolitical impact of a perceived defeat on the U.S. reputation for power or the future of the overall war on terror. For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a "must win," but for many others, despite the obvious progress under General David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a "can’t win."

Says it all. (Emphases mine)

But, you know, this is unimportant stuff.  What IS important is whether or not Obama wears a flag lapel pin.

Dear Abby Hijacked: Volume Three

Image002Another installment:

DEAR ABBY: For most of my life, I have parted my hair on the right. I am now being told that men should part their hair on the left. Is there a correct side for men?  — HARRY W., MORRO BAY, CALIF.

Dear Harry:

No, there is no correct side, as long as it doesnt make your hair stick up.  But, for what it’s worth, Hitler parted his on the right.  So, you know, keep that in mind.  — Dear Abby Hijacked

DEAR ABBY: I recently presented a research proposal. I did the best I could and was verbally attacked by my boss. She is often tactless and can at times be cruel.

I tried to defend my research, but perhaps I did it too emphatically and went overboard, because my team member turned off my microphone and apologized to the boss.

I understand some of the criticisms, but what bothered me was that other proposals were more flawed than ours, but were not attacked in a similar fashion. One thing led to another, and I broke down in tears at the table. Luckily, the boss did not see it, but other team members did.

Is showing emotion in public wrong? I tried to hold it in but couldn’t. I was insulted and felt terrible for my team. Was crying unprofessional? Should I have run to the powder room to sob — or would that have made it worse? — TEARY-EYED IN MALAYSIA

Dear Teary-eyed:

Showing emotion in public is not wrong.  You can go too far with it, of course, and it is wise to keep things in check.  If you find yourself frequently crying or going over overboard with anger, then you may have some issues going on entirely unrelated to work.  I think running to the powder room would have drawn more attention to yourself.  But as for that meeting — unless you think this is a chronic problem — chalk it up to a bad day. — Dear Abby Hijacked

DEAR ABBY: I am deeply patriotic and support our troops wholeheartedly. Because I am people-oriented, I try to go out of my way at my job (I am a hotel front desk clerk) to say nice things to people or do something for them. I often see government IDs on individuals (usually military) and I would like to say thanks — but I don’t know how. I don’t know who’s been overseas or not, and was wondering if you had any suggestions. I would just like to be able to say thanks without being intrusive and remain professional about it. — ELIZABETH IN ORLANDO

Dear Elizabeth:

Just say "Thank you for your service" when you see their ID.  Even people who do not serve overseas do a service to their country. — Dear Abby Hijacked

VD Ad From 1969

This public service ad from 1969 is about VD.  Of course, if you didn’t know what VD was, you might view this ad and think VD is something that will make you desireable, successful and happy.

For The Love Of God, Stop It

The newest Election 2008 scandal?  Obama supposedly gave Hillary the middle finger.

Here’s the clip:

You see that?  He scratched his face while talking about Hillary yesterday in Raleigh, and he used his middle finger.

This is going to be the controversy now for the next day or two.

No wonder people get turned off to politics.  (Other versions of the video also show him using his pinky to scratch his face at a later point.  Which mean…. aw, who gives a crap?)

RELATED: Publius presents the Lincoln/Douglas debates as moderated by ABC.

GAO Report: No Plan To Get al Qaeda

This is pretty embarrassing:

The Bush administration doesn’t have a comprehensive strategy for eliminating Osama bin Laden’s sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal region and preventing the region from being used for launching terrorist attacks on the United States, the investigative arm of Congress said Thursday.

President Bush and his senior lieutenants frequently claim that eradicating the threat that bin Laden’s al Qaida terrorist network poses to United States and its allies is their top national-security priority.

But in a scathing report, the Government Accountability Office said there was no plan that "includes all elements of national power — diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic and law enforcement support — called for by the various national-security strategies and Congress."

Al Qaida established its sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal region when bin Laden and his followers fled Afghanistan after the 2001 U.S.-led intervention.

"No comprehensive strategy for meeting U.S. national-security goals" in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas has been developed even though the administration’s counter-terrorism policy, congressional legislation and the mission of the National Counter-Terrorism Center mandate such an approach, the report says.

When terrorists strike the U.S. in the next few years, this report will be remembered.

But Is It Art?

Uh, I’m pretty broad-minded when it comes to art, but this is borderline, even for me:

Art major Aliza Shvarts ’08 wants to make a statement.

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts’ project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock . saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.

But Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for "shock value."

"I hope it inspires some sort of discourse," Shvarts said. "Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it’s not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone."

The "fabricators," or donors, of the sperm were not paid for their services, but Shvarts required them to periodically take tests for sexually transmitted diseases. She said she was not concerned about any medical effects the forced miscarriages may have had on her body. The abortifacient drugs she took were legal and herbal, she said, and she did not feel the need to consult a doctor about her repeated miscarriages.

Shvarts declined to specify the number of sperm donors she used, as well as the number of times she inseminated herself.

Art major Juan Castillo ’08 said that although he was intrigued by the creativity and beauty of her senior project, not everyone was as thrilled as he was by the concept and the means by which she attained the result.

"I really loved the idea of this project, but a lot other people didn’t," Castillo said. "I think that most people were very resistant to thinking about what the project was really about. [The senior-art-project forum] stopped being a conversation on the work itself."

Although Shvarts said she does not remember the class being quite as hostile as Castillo described, she said she believes it is the nature of her piece to "provoke inquiry."

"I believe strongly that art should be a medium for politics and ideologies, not just a commodity," Shvarts said. "I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be."

The display of Schvarts’ project will feature a large cube suspended from the ceiling of a room in the gallery of Green Hall. Schvarts will wrap hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting around this cube; lined between layers of the sheeting will be the blood from Schvarts’ self-induced miscarriages mixed with Vaseline in order to prevent the blood from drying and to extend the blood throughout the plastic sheeting.

Schvarts will then project recorded videos onto the four sides of the cube. These videos, captured on a VHS camcorder, will show her experiencing miscarriages in her bathrooom tub, she said. Similar videos will be projected onto the walls of the room.

Yikes.

UPDATE:  Possible hoax?

NEXT DAY UPDATE:  Not a hoax, but not real either.  It’s a "creative fiction" by the art student.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE:  Then again:

The supposed senior art project of the Davenport College senior was a “creative fiction,” a Yale official said Thursday afternoon as students on campus and bloggers across the country expressed colossal outrage over what Shvarts described as a documentation of a nine-month process during which she claimed to have artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking “abortifacient drugs” to induce miscarriages.

“The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body,” Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said in a written statement e-mailed to the News this afternoon.

But Shvarts stood by her project, calling the University’s statement “ultimately inaccurate.”

Klasky said Shvarts informed three senior Yale officials today — including two deans — that she neither impregnated herself nor induced any miscarriages. Rather, the entire episode, including a press release describing the exhibition, was “performance art,” Klasky said.

“She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art,” Klasky said. “Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.”

But Shvarts reiterated Thursday that she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself. At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant.

“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, “because the nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”

Debate Wrapup

The New York Times: “Clinton did not let an opportunity pass as she repeatedly challenged Mr. Obama on his record and views — assisted, as it turned out, by vigorous questioning by the two moderators from ABC News, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous. The result was arguably one of Mr. Obama’s weakest debate performances. He at times appeared annoyed as he sought to answer questions about his former pastor, his reluctance to wear an American flag pin on his lapel and his association in Chicago with former members of the Weather Underground, a radical group that carried out bombings in the 1960s that were intended to incite the overthrow of the government.” 

The Washington Post adds, "The encounter, particularly in the early stages, seemed more like a grilling of Obama on a Sunday-morning talk show than a debate between the two candidates. Obama fielded most of the questions calmly, although at times he appeared to choose his words with extreme care as he faced perhaps the toughest series of questions he has encountered since taking the lead in delegates in the nomination battle."

The Los Angeles Times: "With the moderators and Clinton raising assorted questions about Obama’s past for the first half of the debate, issues received relatively short shrift. Not until 50 minutes in was a policy issue — Iraq — asked about by the moderators. More than an hour went by before a question was asked about what Stephanopoulos called ‘the No. 1 issue on Americans’ minds’ — the economy."

The Boston Globe: “Clinton, seeking momentum in the dwindling weeks of the primary campaign, accused Obama of associating with controversial figures, including his own former preacher. Though she called Obama a ‘good man’ and said, after some prodding, that he could win the White House, Clinton said he would have many liabilities in the fall campaign.”

Editor & Publisher:

Clinton-Obama Debate: ABC Decides Top Issues Facing Americans Are Gaffes, Flag Pins and ’60s Radicals

The Carpetbagger Report:

Over the last year or so, we’ve seen debates that were pretty bad. We’ve seen a few that were embarrassingly bad. But at least in this cycle, I’m not sure if we’ve seen anything quite as train-wreck, cover-your-eyes bad as the spectacle on ABC last night.

What may prove to be the last Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama wasn’t just awful on its face, it was hard not to watch wondering if moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos were actually undermining the public discourse with their inanity. It marked a new low for the media freak-show. I was conflicted emotionally between anger at ABC for this travesty and pity for the network for having sunk so low.

It was evident very early on that we were in for a long night. The candidates, for some inexplicable reason, were given an opportunity to make opening statements — in previous debates, hosts generally want to get right into questions, not hear mini-speeches — which was followed by an immediate commercial break. Four minutes after getting started, it was time to hear a word from our sponsors.

When the returned, the first question pressed Clinton and Obama on whether they’d commit to taking the other as a running mate. The second was about the “bitter” flap. The third was about whether Clinton thought Obama was electable, and vice versa.

From there, in order, the topics were as follows: the Jeremiah Wright controversy, the Bosnia/sniper flap, lapel flag-pins, and William Ayers and the Weather Underground.

From Daily Kos:

In case you were wondering, as well as I can recollect, Gibson and Stephanopolus were too concerned with "bitter" and flag pins and superexcellentness of cutting the capital gains tax to ever get around asking Obama and Clinton questions about any of the following subjects:

The financial crisis
The collapse of housing values in the US and around the world
Afghanistan
Health care
Torture
The declining value of the US Dollar
Education
Trade
Pakistan
Energy
Immigration
The decline of American manufacturing
The Supreme Court
The burgeoning world food crisis.    
Global warming
China
The attacks on organized labor and the working class
Terrorism and al Qaeda
Civil liberties and constraints on government surveillance

If Horton Lived In My Neighborhood

A McSweeney’s List by WENDI AARONS

Horton Hears a Leaf Blower

Horton Hears a Car Alarm

Horton Hears a Teenager, Who Apparently Doesn’t Believe in Car Mufflers, Driving Way Too Damn Fast

Horton Hears an Ambulance

Horton Hopes It’s for the Teenager

Horton Hears a Basketball Bouncing

Horton Always Hears a Basketball Bouncing

Horton Hears a Basketball Bouncing So Fucking Much That Horton Now Feels Like He’s Living in a Real-Life Version of Poe’s "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Horton Hears an Inner Voice Telling Him to Grab the Basketball

Horton Hears a Middle-Aged Woman Sprinting Down the Street Desperately Clutching Onto the Basketball and Laughing Maniacally

Horton Hears the Basketball Being Angrily Stuffed Down the Neighborhood Storm Drain

Horton Hears Rumors of a Lawsuit

S’up?

You would think that after not blogging for a couple of days, I would have something to write about.  Not so.  Been busy with work, Whorehouse rehearsal, getting ready for the closing week of Nebula of Georgia, late night chats, and so on.

Missed the debate last night.  Apparently it was a travesty, with emphasis on gaffes and gotchas, and almost no questions on policy or substance.  Sigh.  Better media please.  Atrocity of the debate aside, apparently neither did well, with Obama doing worse (probably because it was pile-on night).  Most people I’ve read thought the winner was McCain.  Great.

Not paying attention to the news.  Again, better media please.

Not even paying attention to the Red Sox.

Heather’s got some pictures though.

Baby News [Bumped and Promoted]

Heather is delivering her baby today, after staying up all night with contractions.  Looks like her husband Jeff was live-blogging it from the hospital this morning (they’re still waiting around as of 8:45 am), although as the day goes on, I suspect he will have better things to do.

Picture25252017255b1255d

Thought and prayers to the two three of them.

UPDATE:  Cassandra Christine Maggs. Born this 14th day of April 2008 at 11:48am, weighing 6lbs. 2oz. at New York Presbyterian Hospital.  Pictures here.

Gonzales Can’t Get Hired

Heh:

Alberto Gonzales can’t find a job.

The former attorney general has been on the market for more than six months, but The New York Times reports that he has yet to find a full-time gig in the private sector.

"The greatest impediment to Mr. Gonzales’s being offered the kind of high-salary job being snagged these days by lesser Justice Department officials, many lawyers agree, is his performance during his last few months in office," the paper says. "In that period, he was openly criticized by lawmakers for being untruthful in his sworn testimony. His conduct is being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the Justice Department, which could recommend actions from exonerating him to recommending criminal charges."

“Bitter”

I haven’t been paying attention to politics, but I can’t seem to get my head around this whole Obama ‘bitter" thing.

For those of you who (like me) don’t have a program to the latest controversy, apparently Obama was speaking at a San Fran fundraiser a few days ago, and opined that "bitterness" is the reason small town voters in Pennsylvania "cling" to their religion, guns, and anti-immigrant/anti-trade sentiments.

This caused both the Clinton and McCain campaigns to assert that Obama was being "elitist", and Clinton also took the opportunity to peddle her pro-gun bona fides (of which she has none).

I think Obama probably made a poor choice of words, something he readily admitted to the Winston-Salem Journal:

“What I meant was something that I don’t think any of us can argue with, which is that people feel abandoned, after 20 or 25 years of plants closing, jobs not coming back. People feel like Washington’s not listening to them, and as a consequence, they find that they can only rely on the traditions and the things that have been important to them for generation after generation. Faith. Family. Traditions like hunting. And they get frustrated.”

O.K.  Sounds right to me.  Don’t know how that is an insult, or even "elitist".  In fact, it’s been said before (just using better words).

Here’s Bill Clinton in his book.

"If [Republicans] could cut funding for Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment, middle-class Americans would see fewer benefits from their tax dollars, feel more resentful paying taxes, and become even more receptive to their appeals for tax cuts and their strategy of waging campaigns on divisive social and cultural issues like abortion, gay rights, and guns."

And here’s Jim Webb in the WSJ Op-Ed.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet.

What was Obama saying that was so different?

“The Nebula of Georgia” Is A Hit!

Very positive review from the Greensboro News and Record (sorry, only dead-tree version), praising every cast member as well as the play itself:

"familiar characters in a fun dramedy…southern flavor penned by a damn Yankee…it’s easy to see this enjoyable show becoming a staple for the theatre…characters are well drawn and familiar…this show is likely to sell out!"

Gotta love that!

It’s been selling very well — not sold out, unfortunately — but it is very popular already!

Wish I Lived Near Wilmington

N.C. Gas Station Sells Gas For 35 Cents A Gallon:

Deshauna Canty is never in a good mood after filling up her Lincoln Navigator.

But she was all smiles today when she swiped her Visa credit card to pay after gassing up her sport utility vehicle.

Why wouldn’t she be? Gas was 35 cents a gallon.

Canty was among hundreds of people who found temporary relief from $3-plus gasoline prices today after an employee accidentally set the price at 35 cents at the Kangaroo Express station at 17th Street and Wellington Avenue, employees said.

The trouble started about 9 a.m. today when an attendant at the BP station punched in 35 cents instead of $3.35 for premium-grade gasoline, said employee Shane Weller. The mistake wasn’t noticed until about 6 p.m., when crowds jammed the pumps and caused traffic jams on nearby roads, Weller said.

By that time news of the low-priced gas had spread like wildfire through e-mail and word of mouth, he said.

Canty heard about the price from her children’s baby-sitter and filled up her Ford Taurus earlier in the afternoon, she said.

“I wasn’t sure if it was true, but I decided to come out here and check it out,” Canty said. “I didn’t have anything to lose and everything to gain.”

After spending a fraction of what she usually pays for fuel for her Taurus, she returned around 6 p.m. to fill up her sport utility vehicle.

Filling up her Navigator usually costs Canty close to $100, but at Thursday’s price it would only cost her $9.80 for a full 28-gallon tank.

Venus Mitchell passed a dozen gas stations after driving from a Market Street shopping center to take advantage of the prices, she said.

“A lady came up to me in the parking lot and told me that gas was 35 cents so I hopped in my car and drove,” said Mitchell from her late-model Oldsmobile.

But Mitchell didn’t make it to the pump before employees switched the prices back.

“I’m a little disappointed because I’ve never paid 35 cents for gas,” she said.

In 1972, the year before the Arab oil embargo, gasoline was selling at 36 cents per gallon, according to a Cato Institute report issued in 2006. Taking inflation into account, that 1972 price would still only be $1.86 a gallon.

Station employees discovered the pricing error after calling their district manager to inquire about changing the price of gas as a way of stemming traffic, Weller said.

“People had been coming in all day stiffing us, not telling us nothing,” Weller said. “They knew something was wrong because regular gas was still $3-something a gallon, and when have you ever known premium gas to be lower than regular?”

After the price returned to normal people continued to flood the gas station, hoping to take advantage of the low the price.

Wilmington police arrived about 6:30 p.m. to help deal with traffic and control the crowd.

There were no reports of accidents or incidents of violence, New Hanover County 911 officials said.

Weller said he doesn’t know what will happen to the employee who typed in the wrong price.

He also isn’t sure how the gas station will deal with money lost from the gas sales during the 10-hour mix-up.

“What can you do?” Weller asked. “There’s nothing illegal about being immoral, but I just don’t see how people could do that to us.”

Mitchell said people didn’t mean any disrespect. They were probably looking for some relief, she said.

“Gas is high these days so I really can’t say I blame them,” Mitchell said.

Bad Bird Flu News

Not good news:

Tests on a father diagnosed with bird flu in China show he probably caught the disease from his dying son.

Scientists are concerned that if the virus evolves to pass easily from human to human millions could be at risk.

A genetic analysis of the Chinese case published in The Lancet found no evidence to suggest the virus had gained that ability.

But an expert has warned that failure to control outbreaks of disease in poultry is fuelling the risk to humans.

Note the word “easily.” It’s only a matter of time before the virus mutates to that point.

Hillbilly Teeth Recalled

HillbillyteethI know people who own these, so this is a shoutout to them:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of about 26,000 packages of Chinese-made "Hillbilly Teeth" due to a health hazard.

The CPSC said the importer, Funtastic of Houston, initiated the recall because gray surface paint on the teeth was found to contain excessive levels of lead, violating the federal lead paint standard.

The recall involves item No. 2657, a 2-pack of fake "Hillbilly Teeth." The item number is printed on the packaging. The recalled toy was sold nationwide from March 2005 through March 2008 for about $2.

Consumers can contact the company at 800-434-5207 for refund information.

Are You Better Off Than You Were Five Years Ago?

Pew Research has been asking this polling question for over 40 years, and the recent trend line is revealing:

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That rise and dip in the past year is astonishingly significant.

Observations from Kevin Drum:

First, as a baseline, you’d expect lots of yes answers to this question because a big part of the population consists of young people who are graduating from high school/college, getting jobs, getting married, having kids, getting promotions, etc. Most people in their 20s and 30s have rising economic fortunes regardless of their long-term prospects. And that’s exactly what we see up until about 2000.

Second — oddly — recessions seem to have little effect on how people respond to this question. There aren’t enough data points to say this with certainty, but I’ve overlaid recessionary periods in red and they really don’t seem to map at all to downturns in average optimism. Until 2000, that is. The 2001 recession maps to an initial drop in optimism in 2002, followed by another drop in 2005, followed by a complete collapse in 2008. As a result the percentage of people who think they’re better off now than five years ago has dropped from about 56% in the 2000 data point to 41% in the 2008 data point. This is by far its lowest point ever.

My guess is that part of this is a result of the end of the baby boom and the graying of the American population. But only a small part. Almost certainly the bulk of this downturn is due to the fact that the Republican economy of the past seven years has been aimed like a laser at improving the fortunes of the affluent, with the result that for the first time in recent memory an economic expansion — a long economic expansion — hasn’t improved the fortunes of the middle class even slightly. After seven years of this, the working and middle classes are finally starting to realize that this isn’t likely to change.

Good news, I think, for the upcoming elections.

Clinton’s Lead In PA Shrinking

Time:  Clinton has a 6 point lead in PA, and adds:

One in five Pennsylvania Democrats has yet to pick a favorite candidate; and roughly one in six voters who told TIME they favor either Obama or Clinton said they could change their minds in the next two weeks. Notes Stanley Feldman, the SUNY Stonybrook political scientist who analyzed the poll for TIME, "Clinton’s six point lead over Obama at this point should not make her very comfortable. There is still plenty of opportunity for Obama to gain the voters he needs to win the Pennsylvania primary."

CNN:  Clinton has a 4 point lead in PA (down from 11 points last Friday)

Top Bush Advisors Approved ‘Enhanced Interrogation’

Explosive report from ABC:

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects — whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed — down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

This is the first time sources have disclosed that a handful of the most senior advisers in the White House explicitly approved the details of the program.  Then there’s this:

According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: "Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly."

No, it won’t.  But worse than that, it raises the spector that Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powel, Tenet and Ashcroft might have committed, or approved, war crimes.  Jack Balkin thinks that even if they did, nothing will happen, since it won’t be in the national interest (even under a Clinton or Obama presidency):

It is not that certain members of the Bush Administration haven’t committed war crimes. I’m pretty certain that at least some of them have. The point rather is that it is very unlikely that they will ever be brought to justice for it, at least in our own country– despite the fact that there are statutes on the books which assert that the commission of war crimes violates our laws. That is not a normative recommendation. It is rather a prediction about power politics and about the deeply unjust world that we live in.

Aside from political considerations, Balkin notes that the Gang of Six could have a defense that they relied on Ashcroft’s legal approval, thus shielding them from war crimes conviction.

Still, there are some immediate consequences from this news.  Mostly, you can now forget about Condaleeza Rice as a running mate for McCain.  In fact, forget about her political career, as well as Powell’s.

August: Osage County Wins Pulitzer

Not a surprise to me.  It was one of the best theatrical experiences (for a straght play) I’ve ever experienced, with the possible exception of Angels in America (another Pulitzer winner):

Augustosagestepprod20015014q6iTracy Letts’ dysfunctional-family drama August: Osage County, which opened at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre in December 2007, has won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalists were Yellow Face by David Henry Hwang and Dying City by Christopher Shinn.

The 2008 Letters, Drama and Music jurors included Peter Marks (drama critic for The Washington Post), David Lindsay-Abaire (the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner), Jeremy McCarter (drama critic for New York Magazine), Charles McNulty (drama critic for the L.A. Times) and Lisa Portes (head of MFA Directing and artistic director of Chicago Playworks for Young Audiences, the Theater School, DePaul University).

Since Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County arrived on Broadway — directly from Steppenwolf, where it also garnered rave reviews — theatre folk have talked of the triple-decker drama (three acts, three generations of one tortured family) as a classic award-getter. It’s serious-minded; it’s long; it examines the timeless American subject of family — all earmarks of those sorts of works that are frequently considered significant.

At this time last year, few would have thought Chicago-based playwright Letts a contender for the Pulitzer. He was known for two potboiler genre plays, Killer Joe and Bug, both of which did well Off-Broadway, but didn’t necessarily inspire critics to dust off a place for the writer in the theatre pantheon. His third play, Man From Nebraska was a Pulitzer contender. Still, when August: Osage County opened at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company in June 2007, many remarked that it constituted a wholly unexpected step up for Letts. Reviews compared it to Albee, O’Neill, Shepard and a host of other weighty writers.

The story concerns the Weston family, a large Oklahoma clan with its share of problems. The family is handed a fresh peck of trouble and strife when patriarch Beverly up and disappears. Old wounds are torn open and new ones are unearthed, with the force of family exerting as irresistible a tidal pull on the various Westons as any ocean.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play — directed by Anna D. Shapiro — will offer its last performance at its current home, the Imperial Theatre, April 20 at 3 PM. Beginning April 29, the Steppenwolf production will begin performances at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre.

The cast features Ian Barford, Deanna Dunagan, Kimberly Guerrero, Francis Guinan, Brian Kerwin, Madeleine Martin, Mariann Mayberry, Amy Morton, Sally Murphy, Jeff Perry, Rondi Reed and Troy West. Michael McGuire recently joined the cast as patriarch Beverly Weston. McGuire succeeded Dennis Letts, the playwright’s father, who created the role of the dissipated poet and died Feb. 22 after a battle with lung cancer.

Obama Leads Even Bigger In North Carolina

Rasmusson:

In North Carolina, Barack Obama has opened up a twenty-three percentage point lead over Hillary Clinton. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that Obama attracts 56% of the vote while Clinton earns 33%. A month ago, Obama’s lead was just seven percentage points.

Also, according to the new Gallup:

Barack Obama has extended his lead over Hillary Clinton among Democrats nationally to 52% to 42%, the third consecutive Gallup Poll Daily tracking report in which he has held a statistically significant lead, and Obama’s largest lead of the year so far.

Jekyll & Hyde

I have to say, David Joy was every bit as good in Jekyll & Hyde as this article suggests.  A real tour de force.  His duet with himself as both Jekyll and Hyde was fun to watch.

Also standing out was Courtney Willis as Emma.  A gorgeous voice.

The entire ensemble was sharp and crisp.  Fantastic staging.  But the show is all David’s.  Go see it.

Quote Of The Day

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.

– George Washington (1732 – 1799)

Local Theatre: Jekyll & Hyde

Despite some internal problems (which I shall not go into), it looks like the show is a success, and if the review is right, it’s due to the stagework of David Joy:

With its current production of Jekyll & Hyde, the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem is taking on quite a challenge, one that proved worthwhile during last night’s sneak-preview performance.

The show, which will open tonight at the Arts Council Theatre, proves a solid winner for lots of reasons. One of the most important is the man who plays the title role(s): David Joy.

Joy plays Dr. Henry Jekyll, a London physician who hopes to find a cure for his father who is suffering in a mental institution. He experiments on himself in an attempt to separate the evil and good, and in so doing, the evil begins to take over in the form of a new persona named Edward Hyde.

This transformation, of course, underscores the show’s exploration of good and evil warring with one another. It goes back and forth, calling on Joy to play two different characters over the course of a fairly long night (the show lasts more than 2 hours and 30 minutes).

Joy remains in command of the diverse material from beginning to end, proving particularly compelling during his transformations. He is the affable, idealist and workaholic Jekyll one moment and someone completely different in Hyde the next. And each part of the Jekyll/Hyde character is drawn to a different woman: Emma (Courtney Willis) and Lucy (Lauren Stephenson).

In musical terms, some of the soloists are not on top of every note in their parts. But they conquer enough of Frank Wildhorn’s almost-operatic music, and in convincing-enough fashion, to make us overlook the occasional deficiency here and there.

The chorus sounds powerful and, setting an example for many other groups to follow, enunciates each and every word clearly — which is so important in Jekyll, in which music dominates. Margaret Gallagher proves an adept music director.

The imaginative stage direction of Bobby Bodford and the choreography of Benji Starcher are impressive. Scenes that would otherwise look crowded and/or static come alive in visually inventive ways.

What scenic designer Bland Wade has done with the sets is noteworthy, too, proving that a lot of interesting looks can be achieved with just a few materials — which include a couple of red frames and backdrops of drawings that evoke Victorian England.

■ The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem will present Jekyll and Hyde at 8 p.m. today and Saturday, and April 10-12 and 17-19, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, and April 13 and 20. Tickets are $22, $20 for senior adults and $18 for students at the Arts Council Theatre, 610 Coliseum Drive. Call 336-725-4001.

Congrats to David and the rest of the cast.

Wrong Track

Picture4This is a very astounding number:

Americans are more dissatisfied with the country’s direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.

In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." That’s up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.

Politically, this is very bad news for the incumbent party, which means the McCain people cannot be happy.  He’s got to distance himself from Bush, something he’s shown almost no serious signs of doing.

RELATED:  Robert S. McElvaine at the History News Network writes:

HNN Poll: 61% of Historians Rate the Bush Presidency Worst.

In an informal survey of 109 professional historians
conducted over a three-week period through the History News Network, 98.2 percent assessed the presidency of Mr. Bush to be a failure while 1.8 percent classified it as a success.

Asked to rank the presidency of George W. Bush in comparison to those of the other 41 American presidents, more than 61 percent of the historians concluded that the current presidency is the worst in the nation’s history. Another 35 percent of the historians surveyed rated the Bush presidency in the 31st to 41st category, while only four of the 109 respondents ranked the current presidency as even among the top two-thirds of American administrations. …

In a similar survey of historians I conducted for HNN four years ago, Mr. Bush had fared somewhat better, with 19 percent rating his presidency a success and 81 percent classifying it as a failure. More striking is the dramatic increase in the percentage of historians who rate the Bush presidency the worst ever. In 2004, only 11.6 percent of the respondents rated Bush’s presidency last. That conclusion is now reached by nearly six times as large a fraction of historians.

More On The Pre-9/11 “Safe House” Call

Dan Gilmour of the Center for Citizen Media takes journalists to task:

A truly extraordinary example of journalistic malfeasance is playing out right now. Attorney General Michael Mukasey told a San Francisco audience last week that the Bush administration was aware in the days before the 9/11 attacks that an Al Qaeda official was making calls from a “safe house in Afghanistan” to U.S. but that our government failed to act on that.

Mukasey said the U.S. lacked the legal authority, a flat falsehood as legal commentators have pointed out.

As pointed out here yesterday, if Mukasey’s account is true, it is apparently news to even the 9/11 Commission, and begs the question: if the U.S. knew about a call from an AQ person from a safe house in Afghanistan, why didn’t they follow up (as they legally could have done at the time)?  (On the other hand, if Mukasey’s account is untrue, that raises other issues — namely the fact that he was lying in order to get a bill passed).

Gilmour points out that only the San Francisco Journal has raised the issue, but they haven’t followed up or asked the questions.  He continues:

It’s vastly vastly worse journalism that virtually the entire media establishment has failed to pick up on a story of real significance. Why are journalists not hounding the Justice Department, White House and Congress for answers? (The failure of Congress to ask obvious questions is nothing new for that weak-kneed crowd, sadly. And it’s scary that the presidential candidates don’t care, either.)

Who’s asking, besides MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann? Bloggers, for the most part. Oh, right, blogging is just a trivial activity, unworthy of journalistic recognition.

This kind of thing is why traditional journalism is forfeiting its soul.

Greenwald meanwhile reports that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has sent a letter to Mukasey "asking all the right questions". So that’s good.

UPDATE:  Here’s the letter (pdf)