mm446: Clueless in America, and Michael too

July 21, 2008
mccainbush From Daniel Kurtzman, About.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Frank Rich of the NYTimes eviscerated John McCain over both his supposed area of expertise, military affairs, as well as Sen. McCain’s admitted area of weakness, matters economic. It wasn’t pretty.

nytimes

It’s the Economic Stupidity, Stupid

Op-Ed Columnist | By FRANK RICH | Published: July 20, 2008

THE best thing to happen to John McCain was for the three network anchors to leave him in the dust this week while they chase Barack Obama on his global Lollapalooza tour. Were voters forced to actually focus on Mr. McCain’s response to our spiraling economic crisis at home, the prospect of his ascension to the Oval Office could set off a panic that would make the IndyMac Bank bust in Pasadena look as merry as the Rose Bowl.

“In a time of war,” Mr. McCain said last week, “the commander in chief doesn’t get a learning curve.” Fair enough, but he imparted this wisdom in a speech that was almost a year behind Mr. Obama in recognizing Afghanistan as the central front in the war against Al Qaeda. Given that it took the deadliest Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul since 9/11 to get Mr. McCain’s attention, you have to wonder if even General Custer’s learning curve was faster than his.

Mr. McCain still doesn’t understand that we can’t send troops to Afghanistan unless they’re shifted from Iraq. But simple math, to put it charitably, has never been his forte. When it comes to the central front of American anxiety — the economy — his learning curve has flat-lined.

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mm445: Another dietary mistake

July 20, 2008

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© Simone Van Den Berg | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Summertime. People are vacationing. The weather, here in the Northern Hemisphere, at least (reportedly quite chilly in Oz, sorry guys!) is excessively hot and humid. The beach beckons.

News is sparse, but the need to sell the advertisers’ wares means that the 24-hour news cycle keeps on spinning.

Thus a story in the New England Journal of Medicine received undue prominence this week: a report on a clinical study of a comparison of two popular diet programs, the Atkins diet (once a tool of yr (justifiably) humble svt) vs. the Mediterranean diet (a favored tool of an official brother of y[j]hs). So it was all over the headlines for a day or so, midweek, filling those column inches and 30-second sound bites during the summer doldrums and of more than a little personal interest.

This was a 2-year study, and the weight loss reported was depressingly small. What was going on?

I turned, as often I do when trying to dig beneath the headlines on medical issues, to Left-Handed Complement‘s favorite authority on such medical studies, especially as regards weight loss, Sandy Szwarc, writing in her amazingly wise blog, Junkfood Science. Here are some previous occasions when she cut through the jargon and the statistical distortions for us.

Junkfood Science: Sandy Szwarc’s Genius

mm390: Mudge’s Healthy Obsession
mm363: “60 Minutes:” Dead wrong?
mm305: Google Health – 1984 for the 21st Century
mm276: Fat Tuesday…
mm197: Short attention span
mm177: Healthy eating — Overrated!
mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13

Sure enough, yesterday’s Junkfood Science post provided a thorough analysis, detailed but not excessively technical, of the study. Were you aware, for example, that it was partially funded by the Atkins people?

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mm444: End the madness – we need Cuba now!

July 19, 2008

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© Robert Paul Van Beets | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

If biofuels make any sense at all, and the jury is still out on that one outside the White House, and the state of Iowa, ethanol made from sugar cane rather than from corn has already been shown to be far the better choice.

First, a review. We have discussed this topic many times:

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm429: World Bank: biofuels cause starvation
mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime
mm360: Global food price crisis: Genocide?
mm298: Nutty Richard Branson flies to Holland on biofuel
mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…
mm260: The other oil shock
mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools – Salon.com
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan

A prime source of sugar cane, that, if developed, would become the third largest source of ethanol after the U.S. and Brazil, is a mere 90 miles from our shores, in Cuba.

One of the last vestiges of the long since over 50-year Cold War is the United States’ odd non-relationship with the nation of Cuba.

salon

One more good reason to lift the embargo on Cuba

Let’s seize the potential of the nation’s sugar-based ethanol — before China beats us to it.

By Joe Conason

July 18, 2008 | Listening to the mouthpieces of the oil industry on talk radio and cable television — as well as in the Bush White House — one gets the impression that we must start drilling in America’s coastal waters immediately. If only we unleash the oilmen to explore and exploit, then the price of gasoline will start to fall, the scheming petroleum cartel will collapse, and the United States will be independent once again. And if we don’t unleash the oilmen, then the Chinese communists will siphon off all the oil from the coast of Cuba before we can even launch a rowboat into the Caribbean.

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mm443: Don’t you feel like this guy?

July 18, 2008

 

MUDGE’S Musings

Can anyone still doubt our national (perhaps global?) economic distress? Runs on the banks. A tank of gas edging toward Benjamin territory. Someone you know (or mayhaps many someones you know) out of work and/or looking. Or giving up looking. Starbucks (Starbucks!) closing 600 stores.

Let’s have a show of hands: How many of you (U.S.) readers believe that this Spring’s tax refund “stimulus” could have been an order of magnitude larger (that’s 10 times), and still not been enough?  Two orders (that’s times 100)? smile_sad

It doesn’t go away, our concern with the dire state of the economy.

Paul Krugman, economics professor and columnist of the NYTimes has been consistent in identifying our present financial dismay, and he has some grim news — it’s not going to get better very quickly.

nytimes

L-ish Economic Prospects

By PAUL KRUGMAN | Published: July 18, 2008

Home prices are in free fall. Unemployment is rising. Consumer confidence is plumbing depths not seen since 1980. When will it all end?

The answer is, probably not until 2010 or later. Barack Obama, take notice.

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mm442: Blast from the Past! No. 35

July 17, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s baaaaaack! Mid-summer lethargy. Another in a string of Midwestern 90/90 days.

So begging your indulgence yet again, we bring back another gem from the dim, cool and crisp past, last October.

l-hc760-190

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 8, 2007, and originally titled “mm164: A Nation of Christians is Not a Christian Nation,”

MUDGE’S Musings

The creation of the United States of America was the result of two parallel streams: the twin manifest desires for freedom of economic opportunity and freedom of religion.

The Bush theocracy would like us to forget the latter. So thanks are due to Jon Meacham in today’s NYTimes, for a useful reminder.

nytimes

By JON MEACHAM

JOHN McCAIN was not on the campus of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last year for very long — the senator, who once referred to Mr. Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance,” was there to receive an honorary degree — but he seems to have picked up some theology along with his academic hood. In an interview with Beliefnet.com last weekend, Mr. McCain repeated what is an article of faith among many American evangelicals: “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

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mm441: The Zen of the commuter

July 16, 2008

ZEN_ProductShot_Front_wif_EarPhones

MUDGE’S Musings

So it’s already almost 9:30pmCDT as I begin these words, pretty late to start a week-night project. It’s only a little crazy that, for WordPress.com, it’s already Thursday, as they operate on GMT and the calendar flips over for them at 7:00pmCDT.

But, while not Thursday yet in my world, it’s pretty late.

Got some interesting political/current events stuff that, if I had some drive, I might be able to write about. But, after a day of writing (a thrilling technical manual) and leading a fireman’s life later in the day (you know, days of boredom followed by minutes of sheer terror) as we broadcast our CEO’s quarterly message to his high ranking troops, I’m gassed. Not to mention the two hours round-trip commute.

Actually, I think I will mention the commute.

I’ve been making the workday journey to the Heart of Corporate America for nearly seven years. I’m convinced that the only reason that I haven’t long since gone postal is audio books.

We broached the subject of audio books in the most detail in this post from last August.

I publicly admit that I indeed listen to books on tape (or, more recently, CD) almost every day.

I have a commute that can take more than an hour, especially the afternoon home-bound one, and I have been using books on tape to fill that mental vacuum caused by bumper-to-bumper traffic on a numbing 250 times per year route for more than a decade and a half, since an otherwise despised boss tipped me to their value in this application.

I formerly listened to FM broadcast radio, mainly our last classical station, but often some afternoon FM talk, in a Howard Stern vein (but not HS!). The classics are always soothing, but not always useful at distracting one from driving chores. Talk radio, at least in MUDGE’s neck of the woods, seems to consist of 10 minutes of snarky talk followed by 20 minutes of jangly commercials. Ugh.

Books on tape rescued me from the tyranny of the airwaves (this was before the availability of satellite radio, which might have changed my thinking had I not been locked down into b-o-t mode by the time Sirius and XM made the scene).

My criteria is rock solid: never, ever an abridgement. Ever.

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mm440: The real straight talker speaks out

July 15, 2008
dreamstime_5751059
© Joshua Wanyama | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

A bit lost in the top of the week media frenzy: the failure and resulting run on IndyMac Bank; serious troubles at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; extreme umbrage over the satirical The New Yorker cover; a certain presidential candidate delivered a compelling essay on national topic 1a, Iraq.

This pointless and criminally mismanaged war in Iraq was, for several agonizing years, national topic 1, until the not quite official recession took over honors as the new leading source of voter anxiety.

Meanwhile, Senator Obama has taken some heat from what one writer last week described as the “Republic of Portland,” the extreme left wing of his party, concerned about a candidacy that, once the primaries were completed, seemed to veer toward the center.

Time then to begin to flesh out a keystone promise, to “left” the ship, as it were: ending the U.S. war in Iraq.

My Plan for Iraq

Op-Ed Contributor | By BARACK OBAMA | Published: July 14, 2008

CHICAGO — The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

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mm439: Let’s choose ALL of our wars more wisely

July 14, 2008
dreamstime_4348944
© Mark Rasmussen | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

Today’s a day when I very well might wish I were a user of “recreational chemicals.”

Monday.

Reported to the office at 6:45am.

At the end of the day, saw a new doctor for yet another new indication.

Came home to old and new family and economic stresses.

Ugh.

Might be fun to escape, for even a little while.

But.

I’ve always tried to be a law abiding citizen. Regardless of the usefulness or the sensibleness of the law.

When the kids of my Boomer generation embraced the dope-smoking, LSD-tripping, free-love ’60s and early ’70s, burning flags and bras, I remained a pretty straight arrow.

Married my high school sweetheart. Never smoked anything stronger than tobacco, ever. And I couldn’t ever get used to inhaling.

Once in a while I drank too much; not often, though, the outcome was embarrassing.

But you don’t have to be a drug (ab)user (or perchance, the parent of one) to know a pointless war when you see it.

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mm438: Post Bush administration destination – jail?

July 13, 2008
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© Enruta | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

Those looking for the smoking guns on torture and the mishandled war on terrorism within the Bush administration seem to have found them.

Frank Rich has a must read column in today’s NYTimes, reviewing “The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer, to be published July 15.

thedarksidejanemayer

Seems like the book is going to be a must read, also.

nytimes

The Real-Life ‘24’ of Summer 2008

Op-Ed Columnist | By FRANK RICH | Published: July 13, 2008

WE know what a criminal White House looks like from “The Final Days,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s classic account of Richard Nixon’s unraveling. The cauldron of lies, paranoia and illegal surveillance boiled over, until it was finally every man for himself as desperate courtiers scrambled to save their reputations and, in a few patriotic instances, their country.

“The Final Days” was published in 1976, two years after Nixon abdicated in disgrace. With the Bush presidency, no journalist (or turncoat White House memoirist) is waiting for the corpse to be carted away. The latest and perhaps most chilling example arrives this week from Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, long a relentless journalist on the war-on-terror torture beat. Her book “The Dark Side” connects the dots of her own past reporting and that of her top-tier colleagues (including James Risen and Scott Shane of The New York Times) to portray a White House that, like its prototype, savaged its enemies within almost as ferociously as it did the Constitution….

In the name of defending against terrorism, the Bush administration has systematically violated the law, and the evidence is finally exposed to the light of day.

Nixon parallels take us only so far, however. “The Dark Side” is scarier than “The Final Days” because these final days aren’t over yet and because the stakes are much higher. Watergate was all about a paranoid president’s narcissistic determination to cling to power at any cost. In Ms. Mayer’s portrayal of the Bush White House, the president is a secondary, even passive, figure, and the motives invoked by Mr. Cheney to restore Nixon-style executive powers are theoretically selfless. Possessed by the ticking-bomb scenarios of television’s “24,” all they want to do is protect America from further terrorist strikes.

So what if they cut corners, the administration’s last defenders argue. While prissy lawyers insist on habeas corpus and court-issued wiretap warrants, the rest of us are being kept safe by the Cheney posse.

But are we safe? As Al Qaeda and the Taliban surge this summer, that single question is even more urgent than the moral and legal issues attending torture.

Thus the illustration at the top of this post. In fact, some top administration officials, past or present, have been warned publicly not to travel outside the U.S., due to international war crimes court exposure!

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mm437: Life’s a bitch, and then you fly

July 12, 2008
dreamstime_2244631
© Kathy Wynn | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’S Musings

Among the most popular posts here in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© are the occasions when we call attention to Patrick Smith, the airline pilot who writes the Ask the Pilot column for Salon.com.

In fact, one such column was especially popular with Salon’s lawyers, as this then newbie was called to account for exceeding the amount of quoted text allowed by their copyright. Oh, well, live and learn.

But that hasn’t stopped me from reading and appreciating Patrick Smith. His was the first writing to explain specifically why the air travel system in the U.S. is the frenetic mess that it is: more people flying in smaller and smaller aircraft. MSM picked up on the story only after his eye-opening analysis.

Since he’s back flying regularly for one of the big airlines (he keeps which one to himself), his weekly columns have become generally biweekly, but they’re always worth waiting for. He writes like a writer who happens to fly airplanes for a living, rather than the other way around.

This week, he tells of his travails dealing with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Yes, even pilots are subject to carry-on luggage search and body scanning.

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