Saturday, January 5, 2008

How it all ends

This is an awesome video on global warming/climate change/ climate destabilization. You must watch this! And then, please, forward it or a link to this post to everyone you know. Trust me, after you watch it, you'll know what I mean:

Friday, January 4, 2008

She's a witch!

O.k., I think I have it now! Here's the American press corps school of logic in action:

Have a great weekend!

Fuzzy Math Alert

As the pundits proclaim the various "landslides" and "sweeps" in the Iowa race, here's how the numbers really break down:

Total Voter Turnout (approximate)


Percentage of total vote

24.5% Obama
20.5% Edwards
19.8% Clinton
11.4% Huckabee (R)

So the "landslide," if there was one, was for the Democrats. (H/T to Hubris Sonic at Group News Blog)

And my favorite headline of the day (so far):
Hillary came in 3rd, but she still got almost twice as many votes as Huckabee

An open letter to Iowa Republicans: WTF?!

I understand that the choices on the Republican side were not great. Actually, they were downright craptacular. But really, Mike Huckabee? Can we just recap some of his flaws:
Good lord, do I need to go on? Do I need to remind you that his son (who was arrested last spring for trying to bring a gun onto an airplane) was fired from his job as a camp counselor after it was found that he had hanged a dog by its neck, slitting its throat and stoning it to death.

Yes, I know that's the son, not the father, but the nut doesn't fall far from the tree, as we used say in the teaching world. I mean, how else to explain what elder Huckabee said about the AIDS epidemic in 1992:

"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague."

I'm sure young Ryan White, who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion would have appreciated being isolated. But White died in 1990. Huckabee's claim is that we didn't know much about AIDS in 1992. In 1992! Yes, we did, Mike. Those of us who cared. The first AIDS cases were discovered as early as 1981, and but you must have followed the lead of Ronald Reagan, who refused to utter the term "AIDS" and allowed thousands to die before the federal government finally got involved in researching the disease.

Hell yeah I'm mad. A Mike Huckabee administration? Are you kidding me? Canada, here I come.

UPDATED: Now from we find that the the negative attack ad that Huckabee held a press conference to announce he would not run, actually did run.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee raised eyebrows Dec. 31 when he told reporters at a news conference that he had decided not to run an attack ad calling rival Mitt Romney "dishonest," then ran it in front of reporters and TV cameras anyway. Now it turns out that the ad actually appeared on at least three Iowa TV stations that same day.

Update, Jan. 4: According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group of TNS Media Intelligence, the ad aired three times on the day Huckabee made his announcement, and it aired seven times in the following two days. As of Jan. 2, the most recent date for which CMAG has tallied information on the ad, Huckabee's attack ad had run four times on KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, and had appeared on Davenport stations WQAD-TV, three times; KLJB-TV, twice; and WHBF-TV, once.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

January image

A break from politics. I turned the fountain off in my pond this morning and the sunlight caught the ice bubbles that had formed overnight. Enjoy.

Huckabee, clueless on facts again, crosses picket line

From the Los Angeles Times:
DES MOINES -- Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was a guest Wednesday on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" -- though he seemed earlier in the day not to know that he would be crossing a picket line to appear.

Huckabee flew from Iowa to make the appearance, a day before the state's first-in-the- nation caucuses. The candidate made no mention of the Writers Guild strike during his appearance and instead joked about having lived in a "triple-wide" trailer when he was governor of Arkansas. The amateur musician also played his guitar in Leno's band.

Strike supporters outside the NBC studios carried signs calling Huckabee a scab. One read: "Huckabee you can't deny this cross."

The Leno show is among those being struck by the Writers Guild of America.

Separately, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made a brief taped appearance on David Letterman's show. But Letterman, who owns his own production company, broke from other producers and reached an accord with writers last week. There is no such deal with Leno's show.

Writers Guild strike coordinator Jeff Hermanson said there was "no doubt about it" that Huckabee would be crossing a picket line by appearing on Leno's show, which is not part of any settlement.

Democratic candidates have vowed to honor the writers' picket line.

Earlier Wednesday, Huckabee, while campaigning in Iowa, said he did not believe he would be crossing a picket line to appear with Leno because he thought writers had settled their differences with the late-night shows.

"My understanding is that there was a special arrangement made for the late-night shows, and the writers have made this agreement to let the late-night shows to come back on, so I don't anticipate that it's crossing a picket line," Huckabee told journalists.

When reporters noted that the writers settled with only Letterman's show, Huckabee protested: "But my understanding is there's a sort of dispensation given to the late-night shows, is that right?"

Huckabee added that he supports the writers, "unequivocally, absolutely."
I don't know which I find more disturbing: either he's completely clueless or he is a complete liar. We've already tried both of those traits in the White House -- in fact we've currently got a two-fer with George W. -- and it's not worked out so well.

And they're off! Iowa caucuses begin today!

I thought this might be a good day to revisit a favorite site of mine:, which is run by the Annenberg Foundation. The hyperbole, the grandiose claims, the ... well, lies, are getting a little thick these days.

From their "Whoppers of 2007" post:
Presidential candidates kept us busy:
Republican Rudy Giuliani made false claims over and over about his record as mayor of New York, and even about England's health care system.

Democrat Bill Richardson also mangled the facts repeatedly, claiming credit for creating more jobs as New Mexico's governor than actually materialized and using a made-up figure about the performance of U.S. students, among other misstatements.

Republican Mitt Romney claimed undeserved credit for himself as governor of Massachusetts and made false or misleading claims about two of his rivals.

Democrat Hillary Clinton ran an ad claiming that National Guard and Reserve troops had no health insurance before she went to work, when in fact most of them did.

Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee repeatedly twisted the facts when talking about his record on taxes in Arkansas and other subjects. And there were plenty of other howlers from the large field of candidates.
Read more about the facts behind these false statements at

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

Two deaths, and the story keeps getting stranger and stranger. For those of you from Mars, or for anyone who's been under a rock for the past week, on Christmas Day a rare Siberian tiger escaped its enclosure and attacked three young men at the San Francisco Zoo. The first young man died from his wounds, and the tiger was shot by police. The other two victims are brothers (and friends of the dead man).

Tragic story for everyone involved, yes, including the tiger. Given the headline in the New York Post, I would say, especially the tiger:

January 1, 2008 -- SAN FRANCISCO - Two brothers who were injured when a tiger attacked them at the San Francisco Zoo had slingshots on them at the time, a source said.

An empty vodka bottle was also found in a car used by Amritpal Dhaliwal, 19, and his brother, Kulbir, 23, on the day of the mauling, which left 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. dead, according to the source.

The discoveries could be an indication that the brothers may have taunted the 350-pound Siberian tiger before it leapt from its grotto.
Just the New York Post, you say? Well here's an odd development from the local ABC News affiliate:
Tiger-attacked brothers hire legal pit bull
The brothers who survived the vicious tiger attacks at San Francisco Zoo last week have hired legal pit bull Mark Geragos in anticipation of filing a lawsuit against the zoo.
Sure, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And everyone deserves competent legal representation. Some of the poor folks who have hired Geragos to help them in their times of woe include:

Michael Jackson
Wynona Ryder
Scott Peterson

And although he didn't represent Mark Vick, noted dog killer, he did offer this advice on one of his many t.v. interviews (the man can't see a camera without doing an interview): Geragos said Vick and his defense team should be thinking about casting a positive light on the quarterback. "The best thing is to put a good face on the matter, do something charitable immediately," said Geragos.

And lo and behold, Gergaos is now saying this about his tiger brother clients: they were simply good samaritans, trying to get help for their dying friend:

Attorney: Zoo guard ignored plea for help
According to Geragos, the tiger initially attacked Sousa and Paul Dhaliwal about 4:30 p.m. While Sousa was seriously hurt, Paul Dhaliwal escaped, and he and his brother ran 300 yards to a zoo cafe where they had eaten earlier.

The brothers then spotted a female security guard who appeared "diffident" when told of the escaped tiger, Geragos said.

"Who knows what would have happened if the guard had acted earlier?" Geragos said. "But Carlos would have stood a better chance of not dying. And maybe the police would not have shot the tiger as well."
I want to know more about the slingshots and vodka .... Geragos?

Study suggests polls overestimate support for Obama, underestimate back for Clinton

The study was released a couple of weeks ago, but given the amount of exit polling we're bound to hear tomorrow from Iowa and New Hampshire, I thought it might be a good idea to remind ourselves of the inherent problems with exit polling.
A new national study of voters who say they might vote in Democratic primaries and caucuses shows a striking disconnect between their explicit and implicit preferences, according to University of Washington researchers.

When asked who they would vote for, Sen. Barack Obama held a 42 percent to 34 percent margin over Sen. Hilary Clinton. Former senator John Edwards was in third place with 12 percent. However, when the same people took an Implicit Association Test that measures their unconscious or automatic preferences, Clinton was the runaway winner, the favored candidate of 48 percent of the voters. Edwards was second with 27 percent and Obama had 25 percent.
The study, part of Harvard University's Project Implicit is called the Implicit Association Test. I've taken the test previously on issues of racism, and found it interesting, and challenging. Basically, you are given words and asked to quickly (i.e., without thinking about it) respond favorably or unfavorably. I took the presidential candidate test (for Democratic candidates only -- I don't need to know who I rate most unfavorably among the Republicans). Below are my results:

I wasn't surprised at the order, but I was surprised at far below the rest I rated Obama. Like those mentioned in the study, I would have said I was sort of "on the fence" about the Clinton-Obama rivalry, but my implicit responses indicate that's not so. Clearly, my lingering doubts about Obama's experience level and ability to lead on an international level continue to linger.

You can take the test here. It only takes about 10 minutes, and I would be curious to hear back from you about your results.

Iraq War deaths: The story behind one Christmas Day tragedy

I was watching The News Hour the other night on PBS, and at the end of the program, they ran the names and photos of soldiers recently killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the images displayed in silence, it was a profound moment. And it was exactly the kind of "in your face" reporting we need about these military conflicts.

I was a child during the Vietnam War, but I remember the images of battle on our little black and white t.v. I remember my mother worrying that maybe my brothers and I shouldn't be watching this level of violence. That was on the evening news. Who is reporting on the violence facing our our soldiers today? No one! When you turn on the evening news today, you will see soundbites of the presidential candidates, possibly with one of them strolling through a market in Baghdad -- escorted by the military, of course. Or you will see images of politicians -- U.S. and Iraqi -- sitting in big chairs talking. That's the face of war?

Please don't forget the realities of the Bush Administration's war. The family and friends of this young man never will.

Sgt. Bryan J. Tutten

From the U.S. Department of Defense:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Bryan J. Tutten, 33, of St. Augustine, Fla., died Dec. 25 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

From the Daily Kos:
Bryan Tutten was the only child of Sylvia Smallwood of St. Johns and the late Thomas Robert Tutten of Vilano Beach, the Florida Times-Union reports. He grew up in his native St. Augustine, went to St. Augustine High School, and attended St. Johns River Community College. He married his high school sweetheart and had worked at various occupations, including restaurant chef and landscaper before joining the army when he was 27. And he was an avid sportsman who loved to fish and cook.

The Tutten family suffered another loss in 2001, when Tutten's father, a popular artist and musician in St. Augustine, drowned while trying to retrieve a raft for some children he had rescued from the surf when they were playing on the beach, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Bryan Tutten leaves behind his wife of 10 years, Constandina Peterson Tutten; his daughter, Catherine, who was born during his first tour of Iraq and will be four years old tomorrow, on New Year’s Eve; and his son, Gareth, who will be one year old in May. Tutten is also survived by his grandmother Jeannette McSwain of Conyers, Georgia, and members of the Peterson family.

Pope Benedict: Teh gays a threat to peace

Wow. We've been accused of a lot of things before, but does the Pontiff really think we're the cause of violence around the world?
"Those who are hostile, even unknowingly, to the institution of the family ... make peace fragile for the entire national and international community," the Pope told crowds gathered in a sunny St. Peter's Square.

"I wanted to shed light on the direct relationship that exists between the family and peace in the world," the Pope said.

"The family is the primary agent of peace and the negation or even the restriction of rights of the family ... threatens the very foundations of peace."
The irony, of course, is that internationally so many gays and lesbians are in fact involved in the peace movement. If only the Pontiff would turn his peace-lovin' attention toward the religious right who preach hate and intolerance. That is the true threat to "the very foundations of peace," sir.

Wednesday poetry break

A poem for the New Year

“Your Luck Is About To Change”

(A fortune cookie)

Ominous inscrutable Chinese news
to get just before Christmas,
considering my reasonable health,
marriage spicy as moo-goo-gai-pan,
career running like a not-too-old Chevrolet.
Not bad, considering what can go wrong:
the bony finger of Uncle Sam
might point out my husband,
my own national guard,
and set him in Afghanistan;
my boss could take a personal interest;
the pain in my left knee could spread to my right.
Still, as the old year tips into the new,
I insist on the infant hope, gooing and kicking
his legs in the air. I won't give in
to the dark, the sub-zero weather, the fog,
or even the neighbors' Nativity.
Their four-year-old has arranged
his whole legion of dinosaurs
so they, too, worship the child,
joining the cow and sheep. Or else,
ultimate mortals, they've come to eat
ox and camel, Mary and Joseph,
then savor the newborn babe.

— Susan Elizabeth Howe

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

I don't know why a date on the calendar makes us feel like we have a fresh start, but it sure does, doesn't it? I mean, honestly, I could just as easily make the decision to change my eating habits on February 9th, but I don't.

Well, one of the reasons why I personally use this time of year to make changes in my life is that I have the time now. I feel very fortunate to work in academia, where I have off  from Christmas to New Year's without burning any vacation days. I don't know why, but when I take vacation days from work, I always feel pressure to be "doing something." I should take a trip somewhere. If I take a vacation day and stay at home and vacuum, I get depressed because I feel I've "wasted" the day. While I haven't vacuumed this week (today might be the day, though), I have been sorting through old papers, putting up bookshelves, taking the dog on long walks, and relaxing.

So it's been wonderful to have this time off to re-organize myself. I still have to go through some old magazines and catalogs lying around and make the bold decision to put them in the recycling. I'm telling myself that this is all a part of "living simply," but it's hard! My other half wants to start doing stained glass projects in our spacious basement, so we cleared out boxes and boxes of things that we ended up taking to Salvation Army. We've been in our house for 4 and half years, and I guess if there are items we never used -- or even unpacked -- in that time, they might be more useful to someone else. At least that's how I consoled myself over giving up the ski boots, which I have not worn in probably 10 years now.

My new year's resolutions are probably boringly familiar:
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Eat healthier foods
  • Get more exercise
  • Put more money into my savings
But I'll add some others, too:
  • Stay calm in the face of insidious lying politicians -- of any party
  • Reduce the amount of material I add to the landfill
  • Hold the door open for the person behind me, without getting upset if they don't say "thank you"
  • Plant more flowers this spring
  • Take nothing in life for granted
I would be interested to hear about your new year's resolutions if you feel like sharing.  It looks to be a busy year ahead. In the words of Bette Davis, "Fasten your seat belts, we're in for a bumpy ride ..."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Headline of the month: "Yoga Instructor Zapped by Officer for Yelling"

I must have missed this story in all the pre-Christmas hoopla. Everyone else must have missed it, too, because otherwise I would think (that is, I would hope) that it would get more press than just a couple of paragraphs.

From The Ledger:
DAYTONA BEACH | A police officer used a stun gun to zap a yoga instructor who yelled at her in a crowded department store, drawing questions about the non-lethal weapon's use.

Elizabeth Beeland, 35, went to a Daytona Beach Best Buy on Nov. 26 to purchase a CD player for her father. Her lawyer said she stepped outside the store when she received an emergency call about her daughter, leaving her credit card behind.

A store clerk suspected Beeland was using a stolen card and called over Daytona Beach Police Officer Claudia Wright, who was at the store.

When Wright approached Beeland, she became "verbally profane, abusive, loud and irate," Wright reported.

In a video posted on the Daytona Beach News-Journal Web site, Beeland is seen backing away and avoiding Wright before crumpling to the floor after being hit with the Taser's 50,000 volts.

She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer without violence.

The "Don't taze me bro" story from earlier this year got lots and lots of attention and outrage at the time. Unfortunately we were all subjected to repeated showings of the young man badgering John Kerry at the Florida speech, and I guess eventually we all thought, well, he was getting kinda obnoxious. After watching the video over and over again, well, tasing started to seem almost reasonable. I at least wanted to flick him in the forehead.

But here we have a woman who's in the pre-Christmas shopping nightmare that is Best Buy, and she mouths off to a security guard. And that's enough to get her tased?! Good lord almighty! What's next -- Customer Service will have a handy taser behind the counter for when customers get upset about an expired 30 day warranty?

I emphasized the final sentence in the news story because this is where your civil rights just gasped their last sigh: She was not violent, yet she was tased. The arresting officer said the woman was "verbally profane, abusive, loud and irate."

Sister, I taught six years of middle school. Do you know how many hundreds of students I would have tased if that were the benchmark? There was a time in this country when we were allowed to be an irate customer.  Have we become so afraid of the terrorist shadow that even that little slice of our lives has been taken away?

I, for one, plan to continue to be an irate customer when warranted. But I guess I'd better invest in one of those t-shirts: "Don't tase me, bro!" for whenever I hit the mall.