Monday, June 30, 2008

Wexler - A Fire-Breathing Liberal. Cool!

My new favorite politician, after his performance as an advocate for Obama at the DNC Rules Committee meeting a month ago and which I recorded here, is Robert Wexler. I also highlighted a report of a town meeting he held in his district in Southern Florida, which also impressed me.

Wexler has a book out - Fire-Breathing Liberal: How I Learned How to Survive (and Thrive) in the Contact Sport of Congress.

I think Mom would have loved him, his debating skills. She once sat in the House gallery with me and we saw Barbara Boxer debate on the House floor. My mom declared that woman was an impressive debater and would be moving up. As usual, my mom was right. She would have been similarly impressed with Wexler.

Ted Koppel Does In Depth on China

Mark your calendar to watch Ted Koppel's The People's Republic of Capitalism. Here's the official web site. The program runs July 9th through 12th at 10 pm on The Discovery Channel. Why? Well, the first episode is called - Joined at the Hip (that would be to us - and he's not talking about the our national debt that China holds the notes on).

From the program notes:
The American and Chinese economies are irreversibly intertwined. The common complaint that the Chinese are taking jobs away from American workers is in many cases true. China's cheap and abundant labor attracts manufacturing from all over the world.
And Jon Stewart devoted his last show before a two week hiatus to Ted Koppel - for an old guy he did a fine job.

I'm going to set my dvr.

I've written before about China and our national security. Since that post on June 1st, there have been two additional reports about hackers originating in China into Congressional computers! On June 11th reported by The Associated Press. In that instance, two congressman who'd been critical of China's record on human rights had their computer's invaded. And on June 21st, The Hill (a DC newspaper covering the Capitol) reports that more than those two congressman were targeted.

This is serious stuff.

Tune in.

Hillary's "Family" - A Scary Religious Cult

I first got wind of this news months ago in mid-March in a column on The Huffington Post, Barbara Ehrenreich, Hillary's Nasty Pastorate:

There's a reason why Hillary Clinton has remained relatively silent during the flap over intemperate remarks by Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. When it comes to unsavory religious affiliations, she's a lot more vulnerable than Obama.

You can find all about it in a widely under-read article in the September 2007 issue of Mother Jones, in which Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet reported that "through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the "Fellowship," aka The Family. But it won't be a secret much longer. Jeff Sharlet's shocking exposé, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power will be published in May.
She adds, unflatteringly:
What drew Clinton into the sinister heart of the international right? Maybe it was just a phase in her tormented search for identity, marked by ever-changing hairstyles and names: Hillary Rodham, Mrs. Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and now Hillary Clinton. She reached out to many potential spiritual mentors during her White House days, including new age guru Marianne Williamson and the liberal Rabbi Michael Lerner. But it was the Family association that stuck.
Now the book is out.

Basically, the "Family" do not believe the meek and the poor will inherit the earth. I'm not sure how they dismiss the Sermon on the Mount, but they deliberately court the powerful to their group. One caller into an NPR radio interview with the author Sharlet was astounded and said it sounded like something out of the DaVinci Code. That's an understatement. Also, more scary 'cuase it aint' fiction.

A bit ago, NBC's investigative unit - Andrea Mitchell and Jim Popkin - did a piece back in early April. It's short and a good overview:

For more from NBC, click here.

This quote is from Mother Jones online, co-written by Jeff Sharlet, Hillary's Prayer: Hillary Clinton's Religion and Politics:

When Clinton first came to Washington in 1993, one of her first steps was to join a Bible study group. For the next eight years, she regularly met with a Christian "cell" whose members included Susan Baker, wife of Bush consigliere James Baker; Joanne Kemp, wife of conservative icon Jack Kemp; Eileen Bakke, wife of Dennis Bakke, a leader in the anti-union Christian management movement; and Grace Nelson, the wife of Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Florida Democrat.

Clinton's prayer group was part of the Fellowship (or "the Family"), a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast.
Okay, just to scare you more (Coe is the leader of the Family/Fellowship):
The Fellowship's long-term goal is "a leadership led by God—leaders of all levels of society who direct projects as they are led by the spirit." According to the Fellowship's archives, the spirit has in the past led its members in Congress to increase U.S. support for the Duvalier regime in Haiti and the Park dictatorship in South Korea. The Fellowship's God-led men have also included General Suharto of Indonesia; Honduran general and death squad organizer Gustavo Alvarez Martinez; a Deutsche Bank official disgraced by financial ties to Hitler; and dictator Siad Barre of Somalia, plus a list of other generals and dictators. Clinton, says Schenck, has become a regular visitor to Coe's Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, a former convent where Coe provides members of Congress with sex-segregated housing and spiritual guidance.
Weirdly, nary a whisper of Clinton came up in Sharlet's Diane Rehm interview last week. If I had listened live, I'd have emailed in. Alas, as usual, I was listening on my lap top while trying to sleep, listening to divert my mind from the pain. Democrats - unnamed - though, were acknowledged as being part of the group.


British Writers' Writing Rooms - Fascinating!

I ADORED this piece from the British paper, The Guardian. It's a survey and collection of writers' writing rooms. My Mom would have loved this. There's a picture and then a paragraph or two of commentary about the space and/or writing habits. It's really fascinating.

Here are the writers I knew of and whose rooms I checked out:
Charles Darwin, Virginia Wolfe, Rudyard Kipling (espeically interesting having just watched the Masterpiece drama, My Boy Jack), George Bernard Shaw, Roald Dahl, Simon Gray, Martin Amis (very amusing, of course), Seamus Heany, Alain de Botton (I actually had an email correspondence with him, long ago - I love his books), Margaret Drabble, Ian Rankin, Antonia Fraser, David Lodge, AS Byatt (sister of Drabble), Hillary Mantel, Sarah Waters, David Hare.

A Change of Climate by Hillary Mantel was one of two of my mother's favorite novels (The other is The Red and the Black by Stendahl). She liked a lot of Mantel's books. Mantel excerpts her new novel on Cromwell in the current issue of The New York Review of Books.

What I noticed were two things:
  1. how ordinary the rooms are
  2. how many of their desks face out a window
It struck me I situated and designed my own writing space well, by comparision. (One of the above has a bed for naps. I do too). I looked at these and thought I'd rather write in my own space. I suppose all writers feel that way - that their space is lovely. To me, mine seemed luxurious by comparision, so I suppose I have no excuse. I did yesterday rearrange the furniture so that my desk also faced out the window which has a lovely southern exposure. We'll see if the morning sun with enliven creativity.

My favorite is hard to calibrate - some are favorite because the commentary is funny (Lodge, Amis, and Botton). Others are intrigue and are favored because they contrast so with what I conjure the mind of the writing I know. How does that mind function in that room? (Byatt, Drabble, Fraser). Waters' was positively depraved. There wasn't one where I responded, ahh of course - such a place of course inspires such writing.

So interesting what the imagination creates about the object of admiration....

The assembly and interviews were clearly a lot of work. Thank you Guardian! (Imagine a US paper thinking such an exercise would be of interest to their readers).

My Favorite, Newest, Public Affairs Program,

My new favorite political affairs show is Fareed Zakaria's GPS on CNN, Sundays at 1 pm. I watched it for the first time yesterday and found it intelligent and broadening. The depth reminded me of BBC news - which is like a rich dense chocolate fudge cake compared to the cupcake state of television news in this country.

Kudos to CNN for giving world news a try.

In fact, quite a bit of American politics was discussed, as were issues affecting the US - Iran for one. Yesterday had a discussion among 3 British journalists including the Brit who is the New York Times bureau chief (names eludes me but he looks like Santa Claus). All bright guys.

Then a fascinating interview with Gordon Brown, which you can watch at the shows' web site.

And the hour concluding with a terrific piece on Churchill - showing the rooms he and his staff occupied during the Blitz and also illuminating other parts of Churchill's career (Gallipoli)

All was very interesting.

I don't always agree with Zakaria. He had a 30 minute weekly show on PBS, called Foreign Exchange, which I never saw. (He relinquished his hosting duties at the end of last year; the program is now hosted by Daljit Dhaliwal.) He also had a column in Newsweek, which I often read and found thought provoking even if I wasn't quite convinced to his point of view. Many of his columns won awards. I'm not sure if he's still writing for them. I stopped reading Newsweek when they hired Karl Rove. That's what my mother would have done.

He studied for his PhD at Harvard under Samuel Huntington, who wrote the largely read and debated piece, The Clash of Civilizations in Foreign Affairs magazine in 1993. (I still have my copy). Zakaria also served as managing editor of Foreign Affairs, I'm pretty sure after that time.

He is known as a "realist" Here is his wiki entry.

And apparently, Obama was reading Zakaria's latest book,The Post-American World. The link is to The New Republic which give a good annotation of Zakaria's views put forth in his latest book.

4 Investigations into Origin of Obama Smears

Three reports now have been issued, investigating the source of the email smears.

First, the Obama campaign itself has done an excellent job. Excellent because to discredit these trouble makers, they cite Republicans - George Bush (41), Newt Gingrich and Mary Matlin.
  • George H.W. Bush's campaign, referred to Bossie, Floyd Brown, and their associates as "the lowest forms of life."
  • Newt Gingrich: "I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the conference at the circus that went on" under Bossie in the House investigation of Clinton-Gore campaign finances.
  • Mary Matalin: "I'm not a big fan of Floyd Brown...He gave us the Willie Horton ads that the Republican Party has had to eat for two election cycles now."
They also provide a pretty good map, showing the links between the men, conservative organizations and various scandal mongerings. Click here to check it out.

Second, Saturday's Washington Post had a lengthy piece by Matthew Mosk entitled, An Attack That Came Out of the Ether: Scholar Looks for First Link in E-Mail Chain About Obama. The scholar is Danielle Allen.

Her credentials (which Politico labeled as "breathless" - funny and true):
Allen was ideally suited to embark on such a difficult hunt. She boasts two doctorates, one in classics from Cambridge University and the other in government from Harvard University, and won a $500,000 MacArthur "genius" award at the age of 29. Last year she joined the faculty of the institute, the only African American and one of a handful of women at the elite research center, where she works alongside groundbreaking physicists, mathematicians and social scientists. They don't have to teach, and they face no quotas on what they publish. Their only mandate is to work in the tradition of Einstein, wrestling with the most vexing problems in the universe.
Politico again, a bit disparaging, headlines - Allen's eureka moment: "Then she had another thought: What if she took some of the unusual phrases from the text of the e-mail and Googled them?"

It's quite a survey and the reporter allows these scumbags to expose themselves for the pond scum that they are. One is Andy Martin, a political opponent of Obama's back in Illinois. (emphasis added)

Martin was trying to launch a Senate bid against Obama when he says he first ran the Democrat's name by a contact in London. "They said he must be a Muslim. That was interesting to me because it was an angle that nobody had covered. We started looking. As a candidate you learn how to harness the Internet. You end up really learning how to work the street. I sort of picked this story up as a sideline." Martin said the primary basis for his belief was simple -- Obama's father was a Muslim. In a defamation lawsuit he filed against the New York Times and others several months ago, Martin says that Obama "eventually became a Christian" but that "as a matter of Islamic law began life as a Muslim" due to his father's religion.

The belief that Obama unavoidably inherited his religion was not uniquely Martin's -- as recently as May, it was proffered by Edward N. Luttwak, a fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, in a New York Times op-ed piece.

(After the Times was deluged with complaints, the paper's public editor, or ombudsman, later wrote that he had interviewed five Islamic scholars, at five American universities, recommended by a variety of sources as experts in the field. All of them disagreed with Luttwak's interpretation of Islamic law.)


"I'm not trying to smear anybody," Martin said. "I just felt that was an underreported story."

But Martin said he understands how his initial article has taken on a life of its own. "There's nothing sinister here. I was thinking of running for Senate and was looking for a story to put some sizzle on the plate."

Also named are Andrew Walden, Ted Sampley, Donna Shaw. They seem to have in common the Free Republic web site - a conservative web site. Re the shameless Donna Shaw
She began repeating the phrase "Once a Muslim, always a Muslim," when discussing Obama.

With the help of Allen's biographical sketch, The Post located Eva in rural Washington state. She is Donna Shaw, 60, a teacher who said Obama's ability to captivate audiences made her deeply uneasy because his "tone and cadence" reminded her of the child revivalist con-man preacher Marjoe Gortner.

Shaw says she has done extensive online research about Obama but believes many of the initial sites that provided "proof" of his Muslim background have been removed from the Internet: "Everything about his Muslim background was readily available on the Web in 2004. But they were all cleared from the Internet before he ran for Senate." Shaw says she's always had a hankering for politics. Probably, she muses, that's because her father served for a spell as a New Jersey state assemblyman. He was driven out, she notes without a hint of irony, when he became the victim of a 1950s smear campaign that wrongly accused him of being a communist.

Third, Ben Smith, Politico points to a piece he and Jonathan Martin did last October on the subject, Untraceable Emails Spread Obama Rumor . They name yet another source:
The first clear appearance of the theme on the Web came in a Dec. 18, 2006, column by Debbie Schlussel, a Detroit-based writer who often alleges ties between mainstream American figures — most recently, former Sen. Fred Thompson — and Islamic radicalism.

“I had a lot of readers ask me about Barack Obama and his background, and a lot of them had heard he was a Muslim or thought he was a Muslim,” Schlussel said. “I looked into it, I found out his middle name was Hussein.”

The result: a column titled “Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim.”
Then they make this observation:
The story jumped to Fox and then faded from public view in the face of Obama’s angry response.

It partly died because it was debunked but also because many mainstream conservatives refused to pay it much heed.
Of interest (remember this was written and reported last October):
“The Obama campaign have to be very vigilant about this,” said John Weaver, a former adviser to John McCain who saw McCain’s campaign stall in 2000 in South Carolina amid false rumors that he had fathered an African-American child.

“It’s a difficult thing to combat, and you have to ask yourself, at what point will it ever stop? How many African-Americans do we have to have do well until this kind of stuff stops?”

Weaver said campaigns rarely have the resources to trace a whisper like this to its source.
Well, yes he does. Obama does have the resources, evidently.

Fourth, Smith also points to a piece by Chris Hayes writing in the liberal The Nation, also last October who also traced the origin back to Martin in The New-Right Wing Smear Machine.
On how these email smears differ from what scummy conservative wrought before: the e-mail forward doesn't fit into our existing model of the right-wing noise machine's structure (hierarchical) or its approach (broadcast). It is, instead, organic and peer-to-peer.
He also provides some intriguing context:
"A lot of the chain letters that were accusing Al Gore of things in 2000 were recycled in 2004 and changed to Kerry," says John Ratliff, who runs a site called, which, like Snopes, devotes itself to debunking chain e-mails. One e-mail falsely described a Senate committee hearing in the 1980s where Oliver North offered an impassioned Cassandra-like warning about the threat of Osama bin Laden, only to be dismissed by a condescending Democratic senator. Originally it was Al Gore who played the role of the senator, but by 2004 it had changed to John Kerry. "You just plug in your political front-runner du jour," Ratliff says.
He then goes on to survey quite a few others, and notes
But even if the identity of the e-mail's author was unrecoverable, it was still possible to trace back the roots of its content. The origin proved even more bizarre than I could have guessed.
And then he concludes with this about Martin:

On August 10, 2004, just two weeks after Obama had given his much-heralded keynote speech at the DNC in Boston, a perennial Republican Senate candidate and self-described "independent contrarian columnist" named Andy Martin issued a press release. In it, he announced a press conference in which he would expose Obama for having "lied to the American people" and "misrepresent[ed] his own heritage."

Martin raised all kinds of strange allegations about Obama but focused on him attempting to hide his Muslim past. "It may well be that his concealment is meant to endanger Israel," read Martin's statement. "His Muslim religion would obviously raise serious questions in many Jewish circles where Obama now enjoys support."

A quick word about Andy Martin. During a 1983 bankruptcy case he referred to a federal judge as a "crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race." Martin, who in the past was known as Anthony Martin-Trigona, is one of the most notorious litigants in the history of the United States. He's filed hundreds, possibly thousands, of lawsuits, often directed at judges who have ruled against him, or media outlets that cover him unfavorably. A 1993 opinion by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, described these lawsuits as "a cruel and effective weapon against his enemies," and called Martin a "notoriously vexatious and vindictive litigator who has long abused the American legal system." He once even attempted to intervene in the divorce proceedings of a judge who'd ruled against him, petitioning the state court to be appointed as the guardian of the judge's children.

When I asked Martin for the source of his allegations about Obama's past, he told me they came from "people in London, among other places." Why London, I asked? "I started talking to them about Kenyan law. Every little morsel led me a little farther along."

Within a few days of Martin's press conference, the conservative site Free Republic had picked it up, attracting a long comment thread, but after that small blip the specious "questions" about Obama's background disappeared. Then, in the fall of 2006, as word got out that Obama was considering a presidential run, murmurs on the Internet resumed. In October a conservative blog called Infidel Bloggers Alliance reposted the Andy Martin press release under the title "Is Barack Obama Lying About His Life Story?" A few days later the online RumorMillNews also reposted the Andy Martin press release in response to a reader's inquiry about whether Obama was a Muslim. Then in December fringe right-wing activist Ted Sampley posted a column on the web raising the possibility that Obama was a secret Muslim. Sampley, who co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry and once accused John McCain of having been a KGB asset, quoted heavily from Martin's original press release. "When Obama was six," Sampley wrote, "his mother, an atheist, married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian Muslim, and moved to Jakarta, Indonesia.... Soetoro enrolled his stepson in one of Jakarta's Muslim Wahabbi schools. Wahabbism is the radical teaching that created the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad on the rest of the world."

On December 29, 2006, the very same day that Sampley posted his column, Snopes received its first copy of the e-mail forward, which contains an identical charge in strikingly similar language. Given the timing, it seems likely that it was a distillation of Sampley's work.


"Everybody started calling me" when the e-mail first made the rounds, Andy Martin told me. "They said, 'Hey, did you write this?' My answer was 'they are all my children.' "

How do these people sleep at night? Have they NO shame? Now as in 2007, conservative - political and journalistic - need to step up and stamp this down.

It really makes Hillary's "not as far as I know" truly dispicably and disqualifying her for the VP slot.

2 Studies on FM Provide Hope

First, one that might lead to a test, with a caveat - the author of the study, Dr. St. Amand, has popularized a treatment using guaifenesin, which not incoincidentally this study is found to affect those proteins that are found to be different. He writes of the study results, It certainly reflects that guaifenesin has distinct effects on cytokines that have been previously unknown.

But it's still hopeful, just needs to be studied by others.

The function of our genes is to dictate the formation of proteins throughout the body. You know these proteins as enzymes, hormones, antibodies, components of cell structures and so on. Our study examined twenty-five circulating proteins known as cytokines or chemokines. We found that several were abnormally elevated in the blood of FM patients as well as in some of their family members (with and without fibromyalgia) when compared with normal controls.

Two proteins were most prominently elevated. They are known as

  • Eotaxin
  • And MCP-1 (monocyte chemotactic protein-1).
  • When tested in tandem, the elevations correctly identified fibromyalgia in up to 50% of the patients.

    But when two other less-prominently abnormal cytokines (four total) were factored into the testing, the diagnostic probability rose to somewhere between 70% - 80%.

    Conclusion, unsuprisingly,
    Obviously, we are closer to a solution for the complicated aberrant biochemistry and physiology that so thoroughly disrupts the life of fibromyalgics and their families. As Churchill would say, "This is not the end, but it is the beginning of the beginning." It gives credence to our protocol even though its benefits to patients were not part of this project.
    Still, hopeful news. For full report, click here.

    Then there's this second study, done the European Network of Fibromyalgia Association, but includes Mexico and S. Korea (without explanation). Also Pfizer, manufacturer of the first drug (Lyrica) to be approved by the FDA for the treatment of FM is a sponsor of the study. Perhaps is the upside of FDA approval. Here's the full report on this second study.

    A new global survey of Fibromyalgia patients and physicians shows that Fibromyalgia, a chronic widespread pain condition, results in poor quality of life and poses a financial burden on patients, often resulting in an inability to work and earn income.
    A few specifics:

  • In all countries surveyed, patients with Fibromyalgia say they experience 6 to 11 symptoms on average, including chronic widespread pain, sleep disturbance, fatigue and sensitivity to touch.
  • Many of the symptoms are described by patients as extremely or very disruptive to the overall quality of their lives.
  • Patients say the areas of their lives that are most affected are physical mobility, overall mood, concentration and memory, and motivation and drive.
  • And on the financial burden:

    Fibromyalgia places a financial burden on patients and can result in missed work days and limited ability or inability to work.
    Validating that it typically takes years and several doctors for a diagnosis (I've been accused by a disrepectful friend that I doctor shopped)

    The burden of Fibromyalgia may be further compounded by the fact that in most countries it takes patients on average 1.9 to 2.7 years, and between 2 and 4 physicians to receive an accurate diagnosis.

    The exact causes of Fibromyalgia are not yet known. Some scientists believe that there is an abnormality in how the body responds to pain, particularly a heightened sensitivity to stimuli. A growing body of evidence suggests that alterations in the central nervous system may contribute to the pain of Fibromyalgia.

    Mostly the study struck me as validating, nothing new, mostly my reaction was no shxt, Sherlock. But at least now there's a Sherlock looking....

    James Bond Movie Preview ( & Shout Out for MI-5)

    The trailer for the new Bond movie is out - Quantum Solace, opening November 7th. Yeah!!

    It picks up an hour after Casino Royale. Here's the official web site, with plot

    Hot! Hot! Hot!

    My other favorite British spies are on MI-5 (Spooks in Great Britain). The show aired on A&E for years - not well, badly scheduled, inconsistently. My mom, sister Eleanor and I watched an episode of MI-5 together less than 48 hours before she died. Elly had gotten it from Netflix. I own several of the early seasons.

    Finally, BBC America picked it up, but started running the series from the beginning. They've just now caught up with where the series left off on A&E, at the end of season 4. Viewers in Britain are way ahead, just finishing season 6. I'm craving British television (on the other hand they are only now getting the first season of Mad Men, while I only have to wait 4 more weeks for the start of season 2). The writing on MI-5 is smart, fast, and creative, and also well acted.

    One reviewer of Get Smart (the New York Times I vaguely recall) remarked that bumbling spies might have been funny and ripe for mockery in the 1960s (in part because of the Bond francise), but in the aftermath of 9/11 inept espionage is not a subject most nowadays want to laugh about. I think think that's dead on, though I love Steve Carell and loved the tv series as a child so still might try and see it. Americans know now that the CIA is not run as portrayed in The Patriot Games.

    So - Bond November 7th; Mad Men July 27th, MI-5 "no scheduled shows"

    Sunday, June 29, 2008

    Whole Foods Not So Wholesome

    Check out this investigative report from the local ABC affiliate, WJLA, here in DC. As usually the FDA is protecting the industry more than the public. Most of the problem foods are under the Whole Foods label 365, which also tends to be the cheapest on the shelf. Problem is that most of the frozen packaged food is grown and packaged in China. So don't be sure it's really organic or safe for you or the environment.

    To see the list you can click here. It's an 8 page pdf with the subheading - "Whole Foods Internal Document - Do Not Distribute"

    Click here for more information (scroll to bottom) and to file a complaint with the FDA National Organic Program.

    Well, I suppose now I'll be going to the Dupont Circle Market today and every Sunday......

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    Terror Attack, Plus Election = Republican. Not!

    The Charlie Black flack (McCain would benefit from a terror attack) prompted Jon Stewart to offer this excellent summary and explanation of the effect of a terrorist attack, called "Terror Attack Lesson" Subtitle: A terror attack, when added to an election, equals Republican.

    Check it out:

    It's a more succinct assessment (and broader) than Richard Clarke's very convincing book Against All Enemies. If any one believes that the Republicans have a record of being tough on terror, just read the first 50 pages of that book.

    Shame on Network News Divisions

    From last Thursday's Daily Show:

    And the interview prompted this New York Times piece, Reporters Say Networks Put Wars on Back Burner.
    “If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts,” Ms. Logan said.
    (on The Daily Show). Yeah, I feel the same way, and I don't know nearly as much as she does.

    The sad facts:
    According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been “massively scaled back this year.” Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The “CBS Evening News” has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC’s “World News” and 74 minutes on “NBC Nightly News.” (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)
    This abhorrent state of affairs is a direct result of news divisions being viewed improperly as profit centers, rather than a civic duty in exchange for the use of public broadcast bands. I've long bemoaned the obstacle courses and games and bridal contests and network promotions of the morning "news" programs. Without an informed citizenry, democracy breaks. Hence, George Bush's re-election.

    The Times finishes with:

    “It’s terrible,” Ms. Logan said in the telephone interview. She called it a financial decision. “We can’t afford to maintain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time,” she said. “It’s so expensive and the security risks are so great that it’s prohibitive.”

    Mr. Friedman said coverage of Iraq is enormously expensive, mostly due to the security risks. He said meetings with other television networks about sharing the costs of coverage have faltered for logistical reasons.

    Journalists at all three American television networks with evening newscasts expressed worries that their news organizations would withdraw from the Iraqi capital after the November presidential election. They spoke only on the condition of anonymity in order to avoid offending their employers.

    The internet may be changing things. Instead of 3 minutes on Obama's speech on race, for example, any one who wishes can watch the whole thing, get the context, on YouTube.

    Dobson's Fear & Fearful Theology and Sharpton's Pithy Comeback

    I agree with Andrew Sullivan - Dobson's ridiculousness is a HUGE gift to Obama, and calling attention to Obama's intelligent approach that will be a game changer with respect to church and state.

    In the set up piece, I honestly did not understand the comment of a "neutral" observer that Obama's religion doesn't match his policies. I had no idea where the disconnect was. I saw beautiful harmony. I only later realized that's because the moron assumes that if you're religious you can't possible believe that homosexuals deserve to be loved no less than anyone else or that you can be pro-choice. He'd completely bought into the perversions of the religious right.

    Someone sent me today this quote:
    St. Anselm described this beginning as faith seeking understanding. He wrote: I do not seek to understand so that I may then be­lieve, but I be­lieve in order that I may truly understand.
    Inherent in that approach is a humility, sadly lacking by many of faith. Not my faith.

    Best quote of the night: Al Sharpton last night on CNN's Anderson Cooper's 360:
    I may think what you do Anderson is going to put you in hell. But I'm going to defend your right to get there.
    He went on to add that he, Sharpton, can't force him to heaven, legislating him to heaven rather than converting him.

    That's a pithy summary of the difference between right wing and left wing religious approach to civic life.

    Sullivan again: But no one should be in any doubt: Dobson is afraid. And he should be.

    Here's Sullivan's take on what Obama is up to:
    this pushback against the extreme of the right is an enormously important project - central to Obama's promise to get us past the hideous cultural deadlock of the past two decades. Obama is as productive to this debate as Bush was toxic. And what Obama is doing - whether he intends to or not - is to open space within conservatism for the kind of reasoned, limited government, pragmatic conservatism that we badly need to revive.
    The speech Dobson is reacting to has been much analyzed and commented. I'm most familiar with E.J. Dionne's.

    It's all good.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    How To Survive a Disaster or Terrorist Attack

    I first listened to the interview with the author about this book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes--and Why by Amanda Ripley, on the Diane Rehm Show last Thursday.

    The interview got into some interesting facets - such as differences between men and women and how those differences can cut different ways depending on the nature of the disaster. Women tend to worry more and therefore tend to evacuate earlier. This quality is helpful to surviving a flood. Men tend to believe they have control over their destiny (whether they actually do or not) and this quality propels them more readily to act in other, usually man made, circumstances (maybe I should say human made).

    How to Survive a Disaster is an excerpt from that book, which was printed by Time in the magazine.

    disasters are part of the human condition. We are more or less vulnerable to them, depending where we live.

    But survival is not just a product of luck. We can do far more than we think to improve our odds of preventing and surviving even the most horrendous of catastrophes. It's a matter of preparation--bolting down your water heater before an earthquake or actually reading the in-flight safety card before takeoff--but also of mental conditioning. Each of us has what I call a "disaster personality," a state of being that takes over in a crisis. It is at the core of who we are. The fact is, we can refine that personality and teach our brains to work more quickly, maybe even more wisely.

    Best use of quote:
    Of course, no one can promise a plan of escape. But that doesn't mean we should live in willful ignorance. As Hunter S. Thompson said, "Call on God, but row away from the rocks."
    Flight or fight is a mis-perception. In fact, humans tend to freeze:
    When disaster strikes, a troubling human response can inflate the death toll: people freeze up. They shut down, becoming suddenly limp and still...Contrary to popular expectations, this is what happens in many disasters. Crowds generally become quiet and docile. Panic is rare. The bigger problem is that people do too little, too slowly. They sometimes shut down completely, falling into a stupor.
    Unless they have a child (another reason to have a child):
    Later, when interviewed by the police, some survivors said they understood this behavior. At some point, they too had felt an overwhelming urge to stop moving. They only snapped out of the stupor, they said, by thinking of their loved ones, especially their children--a common thread in the stories of survivors of all kinds of disasters.
    Why we freeze and how to prevent that from happening include drills and awareness:

    Firefighters, police trainers--even stockbrokers--have told me similar stories of seeing people freeze under extreme stress. Animals go into the same state when they are trapped, evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. has found. Playing dead can discourage predators from attacking. In the case of the Estonia and other disasters, the freezing response may have been a natural and horrific mistake. Our brains search, under extreme stress, for an appropriate survival response and sometimes choose the wrong one, like deer that freeze in the headlights of a car.

    But the more encouraging point is that the brain is plastic. It can be trained to respond more appropriately. Less fear makes paralysis less likely. A rat with damage to the amygdala, the primitive part of the brain that handles fear, will not freeze at all--even if it encounters a cat. If we can reduce our own fear even a little bit, we might be able to do better.

    Fire drills, particularly if they are mandatory and unexpected, can dramatically reduce fear, should the worst come to pass. Just knowing where the stairs are gives your brain an advantage. Likewise, research into plane crashes has found that people who read the safety briefing cards are more likely to survive. These rituals that we consider an utter waste of time actually give our brains blueprints in the unlikely event that we need them.

    And we often die in disasters how we live, in our social, expected roles:
    the fire also complicated official expectations for crowd behavior: in the middle of a crisis, the basic tenets of civilization actually hold. People move in groups whenever possible. They tend to look out for one another, and they maintain hierarchies. "People die the same way they live," says disaster sociologist Lee Clarke, "with friends, loved ones and colleagues, in communities."

    At the Beverly Hills, servers warned their tables to leave. Hostesses evacuated people that they had seated but bypassed other sections (that weren't "theirs"). Cooks and busboys, perhaps accustomed to physical work, rushed to fight the fire. In general, male employees were slightly more likely to help than female employees, maybe because society expects women to be saved and men to do the saving.

    And then, there's Rick Rescorla. My mom read the biography of Rescorla, Heart of a Soldier by James B. Stewart's. If you don't know his story you should. He saved the employees of Morgan Stanley on 9/11 and died that day.

    Here's a New Yorker profile that Stewart wrote in February 2002, a precursor to his biography of Rescorla; my mom and I both read and discussed it. He was quite a guy and lived in the town next to ours in New Jersey.

    From Amanda Ripley in Time:
    Rescorla felt it was foolish to rely on first responders to save his employees. His company was the largest tenant in the Trade Center, a village nestled in the clouds. Morgan Stanley's employees would need to take care of one another. He ordered them not to listen to any instructions from the Port Authority in a real emergency. In his eyes, it had lost all legitimacy after it failed to respond to his 1990 warnings. And so Rescorla started running the entire company through his own frequent, surprise fire drills. He trained employees to meet in the hallway between the stairwells and go down the stairs, two by two, to the 44th floor.

    The radicalism of Rescorla's drills cannot be overstated. Remember, Morgan Stanley is an investment bank. Millionaire, high-performance bankers on the 73rd floor did not appreciate the interruption. Each drill, which pulled brokers off their phones and away from their computers, cost the company money. But Rescorla did it anyway. His military training had taught him a simple rule of human nature: the best way to get the brain to perform under extreme stress is to repeatedly run it through rehearsals beforehand.
    The lesson and success of Rescorla has not been learned. Even after 9/11.

    Rescorla taught Morgan Stanley employees to save themselves. It's a lesson that has become, somehow, rare and precious. When the tower collapsed, only 13 Morgan Stanley colleagues--including Rescorla and four of his security officers--were inside. The other 2,687 were safe.

    And she points us to her web site for her book, "to learn more about survival skills in a disaster, go to"

    Russert's Overcoat

    Here's another, in my view, accurate assessment of Russert and what his death means:
    Dostoevsky said that all Russian authors came out from Gogol's overcoat, and clearly legions of cable news hosts have come out from under Russert's. Whatever limitations there are to his approach, it's unlikely his successor will improve upon them. Rather, we'll probably get more of what much of television news already is -- broadcasting a la Russert, but without the full measure of skill and commitment of the master himself.
    Matthew Ygelesias in Goodbye to the Master (in The Atlantic)

    Monday, June 23, 2008

    Europeans Yawn Over Civil Liberties

    As the far left bloggers (Daily Kos and Moveon.ort) threaten Obama to try and force him into a stronger stand on the FISA bill, Congressional Quarterly publishes a fascinating essay on civil liberties in European countries called We Rage, Europeans Yawn, Over Domestic Counterterrorism Ops by Jeff Stein.

    The opening:

    Ever since I attended a conference on homeland security in Paris four years ago, I’ve been fascinated by how little the French, Italians, Germans and other continentals worry about violations of their civil rights by their spy agencies.

    In fact, outside the United Kingdom, which invented civil liberties with the Magna Carta 993 years ago last Sunday, ordinary Europeans couldn’t care less about wiretapping, national ID cards, preventive detention and police spies in mosques, all of which have millions of Americans, not to mention the ACLU and libertarian Rep. Ron Paul , R-Texas, up in arms.

    And even in London, only the newspapers and a few liberal politicians made a fuss over the Labour government’s decision, ratified by the House of Commons on June 11, to extend to 42 days the police’s authority to hold terrorism suspects without charge.

    “British liberties have been eroded under Labour. Few seem to mind much,” the Economist headlined one story on the row this week.

    “Liberals have long lamented that, despite much stirring rhetoric about the mother of parliaments and Magna Carta, modern Britons have little real interest in their hard-won liberties,” the magazine maintained. “On June 17th, as Gordon Brown gave a speech on the subject, that pessimism seemed confirmed when one rapt listener fell asleep in the middle of the prime minister’s oration.”

    I find this strangely both incredible and not incredible, re Italy here:

    Prominent civil liberties groups don’t even exist in Rome.

    “Occasionally, there are panels on these matters organized by university professors, historians, legal experts, judges or journalists,” Sisti said. “But it’s like talking to the winds.”

    The public’s indifference even extends to U.S. covert activities in Italy, where 26 Americans, all but one CIA operatives, are being tried in absentia on charges they kidnapped an al Qaeda suspect in Milan in 2003.

    Sisti said that when testimony in the trial recently revealed that the CIA had placed a spy inside the Milan mosque attended by the suspect, Abu Omar, there was “no reaction."

    “Sometimes jurists or editorialists try to stir up interest in such legal matters,” he said, “but there are only a few.”

    As in France, Italian police keep tabs on the mosques with bugs and informants, generally an anathema here, where the struggle for religious freedom and the separation of church and state are part of the national political fabric.

    And Armando Spataro, the Italian prosecutor in the CIA case, told me the public doesn’t worry much about its rights.

    “They’d rather watch the football championships!” he said by e-mail on Friday.

    I guess I knew this. I read Michael Dibdin who writes very good crime novels set in Italy. I suppose I thought he was exaggerating. (A great read, his Dirty Tricks.)

    A European journalist remarks:
    “There is a more highly developed sense [in the United States] of what freedom means,” he said.

    But here's the salient point, buried at the very end. In all but Great Britain, there's a different judicial system. Britain and the US are common law jurisdictions and the trier of fact is a jury. In France and in other civil code countries, the trier of fact is a judge (or magistrate). The whole set up is different. Here we have the government vs. the defendant, with the judge as arbiter and the jury deciding the case. In Europe, those familiar structures don't transfer.
    “We don’t have ‘habeas corpus’ because the investigative magistrate (juge d’ Instruction) is present from the very beginning of the investigation,” Bruguière told me. “Moreover, in the French judicial system, the judge is allowed to conduct wiretaps in order to gather pieces of evidence. For that purpose he issues a special warrant.”

    Another Poem - Do not stand at my grave and weep

    Do not stand at my grave and weep;
    I am not there. I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glints on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning's hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am not there. I did not die.
    thought to be written by Mary Elizabeth Frye

    Why Russert's Death Disorients DC

    Here's an excerpt from a review of Tim Russert's book Big Russ & Me from May 2004. I think it's dead on and gives a pretty good sense of why Russert's sudden death has been so disorienting.
    Russert absolutely rules Sunday-morning Washington television journalism: he’s crushing his competitors—Bob Schieffer, of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” and George Stephanopoulos, of ABC’s “This Week”—in the Nielsen ratings. When there’s a monstrous “get” to be got, such as, back in February, an interview with President Bush in the Oval Office, Russert obtains it. His hour-long interviews with the Democratic Presidential candidates have ranked just behind the primaries this year as crucial tests for them. Since Bob Woodward publishes a book only every year or two, week in and week out Russert probably holds the distinction of being the journalist whose work Washington talks about most obsessively. The leading figures in both Washington journalism and television journalism are more than just solitary seekers and tellers of truth about the holders of governmental power. Russert performs a journalistic function on “Meet the Press” in the sense that he peppers officials with questions, but even if you don’t live in Washington it’s obvious that he’s a bigger deal than most of his guests. His role is that of a luminous fixed star in political space, around whom other bodies must orient themselves

    Amtrak vs. Other National Passenger Rail Lines

    A history of Amtrak, US passenger trains and how they measure up, abroad and to our own glorious railroad past.

    Michelle Obama's Designer Featured in WSJ

    Wall Street Journal piece on the 51 year old Chicago designer, Maria Pinto, favored by Michelle Obama and how the attention has changed her business and her life. Best quote: her clothes appeal to women who value original styles and a custom fit over label status. "My clients aren't into all the Gucci hoo-ha," she says.

    And she sells at my favorite New York department store - Takashimaya.

    The clothes featured are beautiful so I checked out the Maria Pinto's web site. Awesome! The opener is an gorgeous coral suit with a 50 flip at the waist. The accessories are mostly well structured wraps (that bodes well, I have a few unstructured ones, not as breathtaking). My favorite is this one. There's not a bad one in the bunch.

    What a wonderful bonus it'll be to have a beautiful woman in the White House who is a fashion icon!

    Maureen Orth, Tim Russert's widow, wrote a piece last December 2007 about Washington society - When Washington Was Fun - The grand hostesses are history, the president would rather be in bed, and there’s a price tag on every evening these days. Who killed Washington society? Ask a few of the local experts. A light piece but a good bit of DC history.

    Syrians Amazed at Obama's Nomination

    I like hearing about the view of the US from around the world.

    Stories like this inspire and move me - from a Huffington Post blogger, Derek Shearer, a post entitled Waiting for Obama - The First Global Election:
    In Syria, for example, students at the elite public policy school at Damascus University were fascinated to learn that Obama's middle name is Hussein, and that his mother's second husband was a Muslim who took young Barack to live for years in Indonesia. These young Syrians seemed amazed that the United States which many in the region see as the Great Satan would actually nominate such a person to be president -- and the thought that he might be the next president of the US was almost beyond belief. Of course, I got the not unexpected questions about whether Obama too would would be under the thumb of the Jewish lobby -- but overall, a sense of hope and optimism seemed to prevail.

    He goes on to describe encounters in South American, Bolivia and Peru. And Shearer finishes with this:
    I have no idea if my public diplomacy -- I also spoke last year in Kazakhstan, Chile and New Zealand, and I go to Australia his fall -- is having much impact, but my message is always clear and simple: I come in peace and bring fraternal greetings from progressive Americans. Barack Obama seems to embody this message, and to carry with him in the upcoming presidential contest the hopes not only of Americans, but of citizens in almost every country of the world. It is a heavy responsibility, and not to be taken lightly. If Obama can prevail, and can govern with strength, compassion and political wisdom, then he might turn out to be the first truly global president.

    The whole world will be watching.

    Poem for the Day- Tell all the Truth but tell it slant

    Tell all the Truth but tell it slant -
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth's superb surprise

    As Lightning to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind --

    #1129 by Emily Dickinson

    Mad Men Profiled In NYTimes

    The New York Times printed a terrific article yesterday. Mad Men Has Its Moment is a profile of Matthew Weiner and the show. My aunt gave me a heads up about the lengthy, yummy piece. Wonderful reminders of pitch perfect tone, awesome dialogue as well as background on the origins and production (like casting!).

    First the facts:
    “Mad Men,” about the world of advertising on Madison Avenue set in New York in the early 1960s, languished for years after being rejected by HBO and Showtime before the unlikely AMC (formerly known as American Movie Classics) took its maiden voyage into original-series programming and picked it up. The show had its premiere last summer and won instant critical acclaim, a Peabody Award and the Golden Globe Award for best drama. Its second season begins July 27; the DVD set of the first season goes on sale July 1.
    Yes, I've pre-ordered the DVD.
    Weiner (pronounced WHY-ner) is the creator and show-runner of “Mad Men,” which means the original idea was his: he wrote the pilot; he writes every episode of every show (along with four other people); he’s the executive producer who haggles for money...and he approves every actor, costume, hairstyle and prop...He is both ultimate authority and divine messenger, some peculiar hybrid of God and Edith Head.
    That hybrid made me laugh out loud! Very evocative and funny, if you know of Edith Head and her personality.

    The dashing mysterious leading man evokes the dashing mysterious leading man in my life...(though I think not Gregory Peck but rather Cary Grant in Hitchcock's Notorious, an international man of inscrutability).
    That Sterling Cooper’s creative director, Don Draper, is played by Jon Hamm, a leading man in the Gregory Peck mold who manages to make his sometimes oblique and often heartless character into a sympathetic figure (and won a Golden Globe for best actor), eases the pain.

    When contemplating a new account, Draper asks his boss, Roger Sterling, played with perfect cynical pitch by John Slattery, “What do women want?”

    “Who cares?” is his answer.

    When a Jewish department-store heiress comes to the agency in search of a fresh approach for her business, Sterling tries to find someone Jewish in the company to include in the meeting. “Have we ever hired any Jews?” he asks Draper. “Not on my watch,” Draper says, before adding, “You want me to run down to the deli and grab somebody?”

    Some more of the fun....
    Knowing that these unsuspecting sexists and bigots sit on the brink of their doom is all part of the fun. It is also perverse entertainment of a sort (Weiner calls it pornography) to watch them smoke like chimneys (including pregnant women), drink like extras from “The Lost Weekend” and eat steak, cheesecake and creamed corn without consequences. Or mostly. When Sterling is felled by a heart attack, he laments: “All these years I thought it would be the ulcer. Did everything they told me. Drank the cream. Ate the butter. And I get hit by a coronary.”
    The writing is key, laugh out loud funny at times -
    ANOTHER MAJOR pleasure of “Mad Men” is its writing, which is consistently adult and witty. When Roger Sterling takes Joan Holloway, the voluptuous redheaded secretary (played by Christina Hendricks in a turn that pays an affectionate homage to Helen Gurley Brown’s “Sex and the Single Girl”) to a hotel room for a midday tryst, he says of the room-service lunch: “Look, we’ve got oysters Rockefeller, beef Wellington, napoleons. If we leave this lunch alone it’ll take over Europe.”
    The time warp fascinates, but I agree with this:
    It’s the universality more than the period that’s the hook, of course. Absent the surgeon general’s warnings, statins and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion or sex), the people on this show struggle with the same backbiting co-workers, unhappy marriages and ongoing search for the meaning of life that we do now. We’d like to think that things were simpler then, but what’s hard now has always been hard.
    More on Don Draper, the lead, by the terrific actor who plays him:
    Jon Hamm’s assignment as Don is to locate the emotions in a man who spends his life denying them. “Don’s trying to be a better guy,” Hamm said. “He’s trying to get back to what it means to be a person in a family. He has a marriage he’s not that involved in, kids he’s not that involved in, a brother he wasn’t involved with at all. He realizes these things have consequences. He tries to make amends a day late and a dollar short. That’s his great tragedy. He wanted the image of the perfect family, so he married the beautiful model. He takes his cues from advertising, the Coke commercial with the two kids and the dog. And there’s no there there, and why is that? It’s a curious thing.”
    Read the whole piece and be sure to tune in later this summer. I posted some clips just last week. The Wikipedia entry lists where the series can be seen around the world - Britain, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, Brazil......

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    A History of Histories

    A fascinating piece in The New Republic on history by Anthony Grafton, called Yesterdays, which is a review of A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances, and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century by John Burrow.

    It's a great essay; like most good reviews are they provide an expanded context and helpful perspective.

    Grafton quotes Thucydides (and notes Orwell himself did not offer a sharper diagnosis of the ways in which political passions corrupt language):
    In peace and prosperity, states and individuals have better sentiments, because they do not find themselves suddenly confronted with imperious necessities; but war takes away the easy supply of daily wants, and so proves a rough master, that brings most men's characters to a level with their fortunes. Revolution thus ran its course from city to city, and the places which it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before, carried to a still greater excess the refinement of their inventions, as manifested in the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals. Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. (emphasis added)
    Holy cow. If that isn't the 2004 presidential campaign - right there - the ability to see all sides of a question is equated with an inaptness to act on any. And it was written thousands of years ago!

    Then Grafton observes this difference between the two ancient history writers:
    Thucydides stands as the ancestor of what we used to call, in graduate school, "real history": the history of politics and wars, traditionally written by and for men, though a number of female historians now practice this art at the highest level. Herodotus, by contrast, stands as the forefather of the human sciences: the history of rituals and customs, of beliefs and behaviors, that survived as antiquarianism in the pre-modern world and branched out more recently into anthropology and sociology.
    When I was in school, I didn't see any history of the kind Thucydides had done. The view was that had all been done before, that there was nothing innovative in studying "real history," the history of the movers and shakers, political history. All my teachers were doing social history and worse - the social history of identity politics. And there went my aspirations of a professorial career.

    The essay talks about how the concept of what constitutes history has changed over the ages. I remember well a piece about history now compared to medevial times - and exactly when a sense of "objectivity" became required.

    This piece is one I would have sent my mother.

    Ross Perot Is BACK!!!!

    In three different ways, Ross Perot has been in the news in the last week.

    First he was quoted in a Daily Mail article, called The Wife U.S. Republican John McCain Callously Left Behind, last Sunday that flew around the political blogs and internet.

    H. Ross Perot, a billionaire Texas businessman, future presidential candidate and advocate of prisoners of war, paid for her medical care.

    When McCain – his hair turned prematurely white and his body reduced to little more than a skeleton – was released in March 1973, he told reporters he was overjoyed to see Carol again.

    But friends say privately he was ‘appalled’ by the change in her appearance. At first, though, he was kind, assuring her: ‘I don’t look so good myself. It’s fine.’

    He bought her a bungalow near the sea in Florida and another former PoW helped him to build a railing so she could pull herself over the dunes to the water.

    ‘I thought, of course, we would live happily ever after,’ says Carol. But as a war hero, McCain was moving in ever-more elevated circles.

    Through Ross Perot, he met Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California. A sympathetic Nancy Reagan took Carol under her wing.


    But Ross Perot, who paid her medical bills all those years ago, now believes that both Carol McCain and the American people have been taken in by a man who is unusually slick and cruel – even by the standards of modern politics.

    ‘McCain is the classic opportunist. He’s always reaching for attention and glory,’ he said.

    ‘After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.’

    It was discovered that those last Perot quotes were lifted from a Jonathan Alter piece, When Ross Perot Calls.... in Newsweek printed January 18, 2008:
    Perot's real problem with McCain is that he believes the senator hushed up evidence that live POWs were left behind in Vietnam and even transferred to the Soviet Union for human experimentation, a charge Perot says he heard from a senior Vietnamese official in the 1980s. "There's evidence, evidence, evidence," Perot claims. "McCain was adamant about shutting down anything to do with recovering POWs."
    Okay, so there was THAT.

    Then, Russert died and everyone recalled his pivotal interview with Perot and those charts, about which Russert's friend David Broder wrote:
    When "Meet the Press" went to Texas in 1992 to interview Ross Perot, the wealthy businessman-turned-independent presidential candidate took strong offense to Russert's aggressive questions and threatened to walk out halfway through. Tim stared him down, and the interview ran its full course.
    And then in today's Washington Post, Broder writes about a new Perot comeback:
    In recent weeks, when I have found myself in conversations with David Walker and other economists who know how grim the long-term budget picture really is, I have mused aloud, "We need Ross Perot back." Turns out, he was quietly preparing his return. He took some of the basic work done by Walker and others, and had professionals turn it into 35 very clear charts and link them on a Web site with an equally simple narration.
    You can see it here - Actually, this could be a good thing; as Broder notes, Perot did quite a nice job of raising awareness and helped set the stage for Clinton's fiscal responsibility. The public was ready for it.

    That's a lesson, in my view, Obama has learned well. The power of words on that presidential platform (if not charts).

    Revolutionary British War Ship Found In Lake Ontario

    I think this stuff is pretty cool 1780 British Warship Found In Lake Ontario:
    A 22-gun British warship that sank during the American Revolution and has long been regarded as one of the "Holy Grail" shipwrecks in the Great Lakes has been discovered at the bottom of Lake Ontario, astonishingly well-preserved in the cold, deep water, explorers announced Friday.

    Shipwreck enthusiasts Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville used side-scanning sonar and an unmanned submersible to locate the HMS Ontario, which was lost with barely a trace and as many as 130 people aboard during a gale in 1780.

    The 80-foot sloop of war is the oldest shipwreck and the only fully intact British warship ever found in the Great Lakes, Scoville and Kennard said.

    "To have a Revolutionary War vessel that's practically intact is unbelievable. It's an archaeological miracle," said Canadian author Arthur Britton Smith, who chronicled the history of the HMS Ontario in a 1997 book, "The Legend of the Lake."

    And apparently the wreck is in great shape:
    The dark, cold freshwater acts as a perfect preservative, Smith said. At that depth, there is no light and no oxygen to hasten decomposition, and little marine life to feed on the wood.

    The Ontario went down on Oct. 31, 1780, with a garrison of 60 British soldiers, a crew of about 40, mostly Canadians, and possibly about 30 American war prisoners.

    Contemporary reports include:
    After the ship disappeared, the British conducted a sweeping search but tried to keep the sinking secret from Gen. George Washington's troops because of the blow to the British defenses.

    Hatchway gratings, the binnacle, compasses and several hats and blankets drifted ashore the next day. A few days later the ship's sails were found adrift in the lake. In 1781, six bodies from the Ontario were found near Wilson, N.Y. For the next two centuries, there were no other traces of the ship.

    And here's a wierd fact I didn't know:
    There are an estimated 4,700 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, including about 500 on Lake Ontario.
    And they are going to do a documentary. Cool.

    Obama's Political Chicago Roots

    A great piece from Chicago Magazine on Obama, his background, his milieu, his friends - is worth checking out. It fills in much of the blanks that people have about Obama who have not troubled to read his excellent books.

    Called The Friends of O, written by James Merriner - the piece is divided into parts:
    1. Old line Dems
    2. Black entrepreneurs
    3. University of Chicago gang
    4. Political Pals
    5. the trouble cluster
    It's a lengthy, meaty piece and worth a full read if you really want to get to know the guy.

    Fascinatingly, the comments section has it's own smear and fight the smears thing going on. In case you didn't hear, after a reporter last Thursday asked Obama himself about the rumor that Michelle had said "whitey" on tape, Obama decided it was time to get more aggressive in fighting the rumors and directly asked his supporters to help fight back. And his campaign created a web site to help.

    I guess we're listening.

    Three Views on Russert

    Three memorials to highlight about Tim Russert:

    Joe Klein - He Was Loving Life, after telling a fascinating story that he witness with Russert about Clinton in 1992, Klein finished his essay with this:
    Tim was boggled by Clinton, impressed and appalled by him. The only real differences we had in 30 years of friendship were over his treatment of both Clintons, which I thought was occasionally too sharp — and had its roots, I believed, in the strict lessons about sex and probity he'd learned from the nuns (which he often joked about). Our last conversation, sadly, was an argument over that.

    The last time I saw Tim on television was the night that Barack Obama secured the nomination — and he was, appropriately, telling a Big Russ story, about his dad nailing a John F. Kennedy sign on the side of the house in 1960. Tim asked, "'Why are we for Kennedy?' And my dad said, 'Because he's one of us.' And that's the big question Barack Obama is facing," he concluded, "Will Americans accept him as 'One of us.'" I remember thinking, "Ahh, Tim. We're getting old. Maybe Big Russ and my parents — and you and I — wonder if someone named Barack Obama is 'one of us,' but not our kids." I figured I'd mention it to him next time we talked. Now there won't be a next time. I can't get my head around that yet, except — it's so, so sad. He was loving this election, as much as any we'd covered. I just can't believe he won't be around to find out how it ends. My love to Maureen and Luke, Big Russ and Tim's sisters. And Tim, if they're pouring up there, save a stool for me.
    There was a bit about that just the other week between Hendrick Hertzberg and Andrew Sullivan, which I wrote about two weeks ago, on the 29th of May.

    Noam Scheiber at The New Republic writes, Tim Russert's Hidden Genius:

    Like a lot of opinion journalists, I've been known to lament Tim Russert's central place in the media cosmos. Russert elevated the gotcha question into an occasionally tedious art form, then forced us to admire his handiwork. Those of us who believe a public official can be more than the sum of his inconsistencies--or, for that matter, less than the sum of his consistencies--sometimes had trouble forgiving him this.

    But you have to give Russert his due. While just about every other mass-market news organ has suffered an absolute bloodletting these last two decades, the fortunes of "Meet the Press" have moved in the opposite direction.


    The gotcha may have been a wearying journalistic device. But, as a strategy for getting big names in front of big audiences on a regular basis, and driving the political news cycle in a way that no other TV program could, it was a stunning success. For that, Russert deserves real credit.

    And that's really what's been lost. No one has the stature to tell GE - no, we're not going to break for a commercial because this civic conversation is too important. No one.

    David Remnick piece in The New Yorker, titled simply - Tim Russert
    His preparation insured that a politician could not drift long in a mental comfort zone. After one particularly contentious Sunday session, John McCain recalled that he told Russert, “I hadn’t had so much fun since my last interrogation in prison camp.” That expression of grudging admiration may well have been McCain’s clever means of D.C. ingratiation, but one can guess it’s not one he would have thought to extend to most of Russert’s network and cable colleagues.


    Russert did not come to television without an insider’s sense of politics as it is played on the ground. During Moynihan’s 1982 reëlection campaign, it was Russert who pointed out to reporters inconsistencies in the record of a Republican opponent, Bruce Caputo: Caputo had claimed to be a draftee and an Army lieutenant when, in fact, he had taken a civilian job in the Defense Department as a way to avoid the draft. Caputo’s campaign ran to ground, and the phrase “to be Russerted” entered the lexicon of New York politics. “Get me a Russert,” Gary Hart later demanded of his staff. Lawrence Grossman, the president of NBC News, was so taken by Russert’s grasp of practical politics that he hired him as his assistant; eventually, Russert was appointed chief of the Washington bureau.

    Russert was defined as much by what he was not as by what he was. He was not lazy or lax, he was not an ideologue or a cynic. Beyond his family, Russert’s passion was politics, and he cared enough about the game to try to keep it, and its players, honest.
    Remnick also noted that some, like Arianna Huffington, wanted him to go "much farther." I often did too.

    Now I can think of no one who even can. No one has the power, the stature, the guts to go farther.

    That's what has been loss and it's hitting me harder today that it did immediately on Friday.

    Rep. Robert Wexler, A Political Star to Watch

    Rep. Robert Wexler, from Florida's 19 District, is a guy to watch. He did an amazing job at the Rules Committee meeting two weeks ago, arguing Harold Ickes to silence. (I transcribed that exchange here.) He became my hero then.

    Last week, he became the only other Democrat to sign on with Kucinich's bill to impeach George Bush. Another good marker. The Miami Herald reports as follows:

    According to Wexler, Kucinich has outlined "numerous allegations against President Bush, including his creation of a massive propaganda campaign to mislead the nation into war with Iraq, the illegal use of torture during interrogation, the authorization of a warrantless wiretapping program on American citizens, and the repetitive use of signing statements to negate legislation passed by Congress."

    "President Bush deliberately created a massive propaganda campaign to sell the war in Iraq to the American people and the charges detailed in this impeachment resolution indicate an unprecedented abuse of executive power," said Wexler, who chairs Barack Obama's Florida campaign. "A decision by Congress to pursue impeachment is not an option, it is a sworn duty....Our Founding Fathers bestowed upon Congress the power of impeachment, and it is now time that we use it to defend the rule of law from this corrupt Administration."

    And then I found this report from early last week, a week ago Monday, the day before the primary ended - a personal, riveting report on a town meeting Wexler held in his home district in FL, defending his roll in the Rules Committee, his support for Obama, and the candidates' support for Israel. Here's a quote:

    The next lady said "I was ashamed to see your disgraceful performance on Saturday." Lots of groans. "How could you represent your constituency, while voting to take away 50% of its votes?" He answered that no one had fought harder against Howard Dean when the DNC originally tried to take away Florida's delegates, but they'd voted, and the primary campaign began in earnest, and the candidates signed a pledge, and it was unfair to bait and switch, by changing the rules halfway through. More applause.

    There were other policy-related questions, until nearly the last questioner revisited Obama. "Could you please tell us more specifically why you chose Obama over Hillary?" Lots of "Yeahs!"

    Congressman Wexler hit this one out of the park: "I support Barack Obama because he showed better judgment on the Iraq War, because he has remained more forcefully against it. I support him because of his stand on ethics reform, and commitment to engaging our enemies. I support him because he speaks truth to power. He spoke in front of a largely Cuban-American organization in Miami. Everyone has told this organization the same thing for 40 years. 'We're going to continue the embargo against Cuba, no monetary remittances there, no anything.' Whether or not it works, that's all any politician dares to say. Obama suggested to them we engage with Raul Castro, and take steps towards ending the embargo. Obama told a crowd in Detroit that we should increase fuel efficiency standards, and he told members of Martin Luther King's church in Atlanta that we all share some of the blame for some of the race problems in America today."

    And it occurred to me, this is exactly what Congressman Wexler was doing, and did on Saturday. He was speaking forcefully and with conviction in the face of hostility. He took a courageous stand, speaking truth to power. He spoke passionately for his candidate, and for what was fair, despite the fact that it was not what his constituents necessarily wanted to hear.
    Wexler is someone to watch. His legal training was evident and he had moral authority in his arguing with the Rules Committee. Obama is smart to have this guy advocate - not just because of Wexler's intelligence, but because of his standing. It was the best political, legal theater since David Boies argued before the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore.

    Mad About Mad Men - 2nd Season July 27th

    My mom would have loved this show. My aunt, her sister, and my uncle and I enjoyed sharing bits and dialog. So many great scenes - the extended office party scene from the night of the 1960 election; the episode where Don got his boss drunk and then arranged for him to have to walk up 20 flights of stairs - all in revenge for the pass his boss made as his wife; the roof scene with Rachel; Betty shooting the birds in the backyard and manipulating her psychiatrist once she discovers he ratting on her to her husband.

    The settings and clothes and language all create a completely foreign world. The misogyny and anti-antisemitism, the homophobia, the drinking - all seem shocking.

    Mad Men won the Golden Globe for best drama and best actor for Jon Hamm, who plays the riveting, tortured, mysterious, dashing Don Draper. It's my favorite show and the second season starts on July 27th, Sunday nights at 10 pm, on AMC. Can't wait. I still have the first season on my dvr. AMC is even issuing a music cd.

    Here are some clips.....

    Mad Men on Nostalgia (from the excellent episode, The Wheel:

    Mad Men on the Past:

    Mad Men on Women:

    Mad Men on Sex:

    Mad Men on Love: