Archive for October 2010

The Republican Undead

The Republican party has an uncanny ability to dupe the American public and rise from the dead on the votes of the Christian Right. Let’s look at the record:
The conservative revolution was declared dead when Clinton won in ’92. Two years later, Republicans took over Congress on a Christian Right voting surge.
Newt Gingrich’s self-styled revolutionaries overreached. When Clinton won reelection in a cakewalk and the Democrats surprised everyone to win the ’98 midterms, Gingrich resigned and the Christian Right said they were done with politics. Two years later, George W. Bush squeaked into the White House on the Christian Right vote.
In 2006 and again in 2008, voters rejected the Bush administration and the Republican congress for their incompetence and extremism. And, lo and behold, there’s a “new” force in America, poised to take over the House on Tuesday.
A cynical mix of rebranding, issue evasion, and stealth restored a seemingly moribund Republican party to power in each instance. In ’94, the new brand was the Contract With America, pitched to Perot voters and deliberately mute on hot button cultural issues. In 2000, the new brand was compassionate conservatism, sold to a politically tuned-out America through photo ops of Log Cabin Republicans and Latino schoolchildren. Today, it’s the Tea Party, just a bunch of constitution-loving regular folk concerned about spending, out to help the average American taxpayer.
The common element in each instance of Republican revival is the under-the-radar mobilization of the Christian Right. The Christian Right accounted for 40 percent of Bush’s total vote in 2000. In 1994, eighty-seven percent of all House seats picked up by the GOP occurred in states in which the Christian Right had significant influence within the Republican state party.
After a year of frenzied reporting about the awakening of the apolitical masses, there is finally ample evidence that these are the usual suspects. The eminent political scientist Alan Abramowitz parsed the numbers and concluded:
Same old same old. Only more so.
Yes many Americans are angry, frustrated, and scared about their economic future. But the true passion for Tea Party candidates is all with the sexual fundamentalists of the Christian Right. Sharron Angle suggests divorce is wicked. Joe Miller endorses a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Ken Buck suggests women are less qualified for political office and opposes common forms of birth control. Christine O’Donnell fears the weaker sex will weaken our military. Carl Paladino calls a sitting U.S. senator a “little girl.” A reactionary view of sex and a retrograde view of women fuels the fury of these candidates and their supporters.
The Christian Right/Tea Party and the GOP are banking on two things. One, that Democrats and change voters are demoralized. Two, that independents and moderates take their small-government rhetoric at face value. The con worked in the past when Democrats and Democratic leaning groups failed to turn out in large numbers to vote, when independent and moderate voters were dissatisfied but lacked knowledge of their real aims. For the Democrats to stave off disaster this Tuesday, turnout and straight talk are key.
Let’s keep Halloween on Halloween. When the Republican zombies come knocking on Tuesday, dressed up in their patriot costumes, don’t let them in the House.

This Blogger’s Books from
The Reconstruction of American Liberalism, 1865-1914
by Nancy Cohen

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Chess World of Karpov and Kasparov

Standing next to each other, side by side, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov made a last minute effort to sway the FIDE elections their way. One day before the vote, during the press conference in the Siberian town of Khanty-Mansyisk, they were trying to explain how they will change the chess world. Karpov was running for the FIDE presidency and Kasparov supported him. They still had a small chance to win. In the last six month they criscrossed the world, talking about the wonderful game of chess and what could be done to make it more popular. The next day, Sept. 29, the FIDE delegates re-elected Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who promptly announced that he defeated two world champions. What happened?
In 1982, during the chess olympiad in the Swiss city of Lucerne, Florencio Campomanes bribed his way to the FIDE presidency and the World Chess Federation lost its innocence. The Icelandic grandmaster, Fridrik Olafsson, who was up for re-election could only say:”I haven’t seen anything like it.” Campomanes, a great manipulator known for his ornate speeches, turned the FIDE elections into farce. Money changed hands, threats were made and the delegates always voted his way. There is no doubt, he did many good things for chess, but he also ran FIDE slowly into bankruptcy.
In the past, Kasparov and Karpov were not standing on the sidelines and they usually took opposite sides during the FIDE presidential elections. There was a paradox: Kasparov fought Campomanes most of the time, but in 1994 in Moscow he helped to get him re-elected. Karpov, in turn, introduced Ilyumzhinov to FIDE a year later. Ilyumzhinov replaced Campomanes, but made him an honorary FIDE president. Last month, Karpov tried to defeat the man he initially brought in, but couldn’t. Campo’s legacy was too entrenched and the Kremlin leaders, noticing Kasparov on Karpov’s side, threw their support behind Ilyumzhinov.
Watching Kasparov and Karpov fight together for a common goal was an unusual sight, not seen too often. Kasparov writes again about their rivalry in his book On Modern Chess, Part Four: Kasparov vs Karpov 1988-2009, recently published by Everyman Chess. During this period, the Grandmasters Association (GMA) was born and established itself with a high-level competition called the World Cup. Kasparov and his manager Andrew Page were interested in organizing it, but other grandmasters saw it as a conflict of interest and called me. I was appointed organizational director and later promoted to GMA’s executive director. The World Cup, a series of six Grand Prix tournaments, was a very important competition and had to happen. “The first time in history that a tournament championship of leading chess players on the planet had been held,” writes Kasparov. I signed contracts with six organizers within a few months and the World Cup was ready to go.
The centerpiece of Kasparov’s absorbing book is his last world championship match against Karpov in 1990. Split into two cities, New York and Lyon in France, the match produced many dramatic moments. The highlight was the 16th game with 102 moves, the longest win in the history of the world championships. It lasted four days.
During this game I made a trip to Boris Spassky’s house above Grenoble in the French Alps. When Boris picked me up at the Lyon airport, Kasparov just took a time-out. The adjourned position was tricky and even the best computers were unable to find a win for him. When we looked at it with Boris, we realized that the narrow path to victory lay in a mysterious square Kasparov’s rook had to trace. The next day I flew to Barcelona and Boris showed the magical square to the spectators during the adjournment long before Kasparov could perform it on the chessboard.
Kasparov – Karpov
Lyon, 1.- 4.12.1990
To win the game, Kasparov has to walk his king to the (red) square d8. He can only do it by having his rook moving around a magical square.
89.Ra7! (Drawing one side of the square.) 89…Bg4 90.Kd6 Bh3 91.Ra3! (The second side of the square is born. But why has the rook land on the square a3? It prevents the black knight from jumping to the square g3.) 91…Bg4 92.Re3! (The rook draws the third side of the square, preparing the white king’s journey to d8.) 92…Bf5 93.Kc7 Kf7 94.Kd8 (The king’s journey is over and white pushes the black king from the f-file.) 94…Bg4 95.Bb2! (Kasparov makes an important bishop move precisely in the moment when the black knight can’t move. It opens the road for the rook to come back to the square e7.) 95…Be6 (After 95…Nf4 96.Re7+ Kf8 97.Ba3 black loses one of his pieces.) 96.Bc3! Bf5 (96…Nf4? is met by 97.Rf3 and white wins.) 97.Re7+ (Returning where it all began, the rook finishes the square journey.) 97…Kf8 98.Be5 (The domination is complete: the knight at the edge has no moves. White can easily force the black king to the corner.)
98…Bd3 99.Ra7 Be4 100.Rc7 (Kasparov is looking for a free square on the 8th rank for his rook. It was possible to play directly 100.Bd6+ Kg8 101.Ke7 Ng7 102.Be5 and white wins.) 100…Bb1 (After 100…Bf5 101.Bd6+ Kg8 102.Ke7 wins.) 101.Bd6+ Kg8 102.Ke7 (After 102…Ng7 103.Rc8+! Kh7 104.Be5 Nf5+ 105.Kf8 black has no defense against 106.Rc7+.) Karpov resigned.
Kasparov ends his book with the 2008 rapid and blitz match in the Spanish port of Valencia. It is a symbolic place where modern chess began: around the year 1485, the lazy, slow piece next to the king turned into a beautiful, fast-running, mad queen. And it was the place of the last duel between Karpov and Kasparov, their swan song.

Maudsley Method Why the New Study on Eating Disorders Scares People

I’m baffled by the resistance to new science in eating disorders. This month a major study came out that offers hope and immediate practical use for millions of families but is the response joy and relief? Not enough. Evidence-based treatment like family-based Maudsley Therapy scares people.
We’re talking about a disabling, life-sucking, family-destroying illness for which there has been so little good news many psychologists and psychiatrists simply refuse to treat it. Wouldn’t good news be … good news? Not a miracle, or a cure, or a one-size fits all, but just good news. We really need it.
I understand resistance to change. Ironically, that can be a symptom of the illness. Since a good proportion, perhaps the majority, of therapists who specialize in eating disorder treatment are themselves former sufferers, maybe this is a field less likely to embrace new information. Conservatism is good, too, as it discourages wild ideas and less credible approaches.
I understand skepticism, too. After all it is that very history of specious theories and self-promoting experts that threatens credibility. The field has no professional standards or codes of conduct or licensing; it is divided between specialties with no one profession holding central responsibility. When it comes to eating disorder treatment there is not one single principle or scientific fact or protocol that is agreed upon between fields or within fields.
Pessimism, well, who can be blamed for that? The illness has been wreaking havoc on helpless patients, their families and deeply caring clinicians throughout history. Recoveries are generally partial if at all, and despite a surfeit of good intentions there’s no clear path to recovery. The data that exists — data gathered by scientists, not casual observers — is a few push-pins on a large empty map. So it frustrates me when someone does put a data point on that map and the response is largely a defense of the parts we don’t know. Somehow the empty parts of the map are more important, more valuable, more threatened by any change at all.
I would not want to live in or participate in a system that only allowed for the little we clearly know about eating disorders. That would be a thin gruel indeed. But when we do get information we need to give it more attention and let it be a starting point. The nihilism of “it won’t work for everyone” or “it wouldn’t have worked for me” is disheartening and seems to hold the field to a different standard than would be expected in cancer or infection.
Part of this fear of evidence-based practice is, I really believe, a lack of grounding in science. Many people are uncomfortable and uninformed about genetics, for example. The science of metabolism and nutrition are complex and rapidly changing. Psychiatry as a whole is undergoing a shift to more empirical and rigorous practice but faces resistance from within. Physicians cede case management to therapists, and therapists end up managing cases that require far more expertise than their training provides.
Another scary aspect is letting go of ideas that work for many people. If food is medicine, for example, how about individual will? If the illness is brain-based then what role does environment play? If the illness is based on external events then will patients get help for their real problems? These are good questions, but they need to be faced, not avoided.
Defending what currently exists in treatment as better than what has actually been studied isn’t science. It isn’t intellectual rigor or “fairness.” There is no reason to balance sense with nonsense just because so much of the latter is available. It is painful to reexamine cherished ideas and it is difficult to accept when good intentions have led to harm. New is not always better, surely, and with luck these new advances will soon give way to more. With the new information coming from psychology, neurology, brain imaging, metabolism and even immunology we could be on the wave of a truly optimistic era of better treatment and better outcomes. That is everyone’s goal, and it will take a balance of innovation and caution — not just caution.
Lives are at stake here. If there are improvements to be found and those offer a challenge to the status quo, that is a fair price to pay. Let’s set aside opinion-based practice and embrace evidence-based treatment where it exists.

This Blogger’s Books from
Eating with Your Anorexic: How My Child Recovered Through Family-Based Treatment and Yours Can Too
by Laura Collins
Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too
by Jenni Schaefer, Thom Rutledge

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Tea Party Members VS Tea Party Wall Street Funders

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture I am a Fellow with CAF.
The Tea Party hates the Federal Reserve. You hear it over and over:
Tea Partiers support audit of Federal Reserve.
Tea Party could challenge Federal Reserve.
From Tea Party Advocates, Anger at the Federal Reserve.
Audit the Federal Reserve – Toledo TEA Party.
Tea Party Patriots | The Secret of Oz – Federal Reserve.
NH Tea Party: Federal Reserve Must Go
American Tea Party Constitutional Coalition: The Federal Reserve – A Scam!.
THIS is the member of Congress that the Tea Party’s funders are trying hardest to defeat:
Go figure.
In the following paragraph, please click the links. If you are a Tea Party supporter, PLEASE click the links:
Do you think the tea party is getting played? Any Tea Partier who votes for these guys is being played for a sucker. The 12 leading Tea Party Senate candidates have accepted over $4.6 million in campaign contributions from Wall Street for the upcoming election. (See the list.)
What will Tea Party members do when their politicians betray them?
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John Kerry Elect a New People

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is frustrated. He recently spoke to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and complained that we are in “a period of know-nothingism in the country, where truth and science and facts don’t weigh in. It’s all short-order, lowest common denominator, cheap-seat politics.” He’d really like to elect a new people.
Now, that last bit — cheap-seat politics — is the kicker. How truly awful it must be for the Senate’s richest man — wealthier than the Senate’s Rockefeller — to have to put up with those of us in the cheap seats. Brahmins from Boston have been complaining about democracy since Thomas Jefferson was elected. And that Andrew Jackson fellow — talk about the cheap seats running things! When he was elected, mobs of frontiersmen — wild and woolly — descended on Washington. They nearly crushed the Hero of New Orleans in the mob scene at the White House reception on Inauguration Day, 1829. Bostonian John Q. Adams had left the White House that morning, unwilling to witness the triumph of the cheap seats.
Kerry was most gracious in addressing the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, speaking in person to an audience that was not sitting in the cheap seats. The frosty aristocrat spends a lot of his time on the deck of his yacht — moored in Rhode Island to avoid the sky-high taxes that Kerry’s liberal friends impose on the cheap seat folks in Massachusetts.
Kerry was particularly incensed that his yeoman work on the Cap and Trade legislation had collapsed in the Senate. The House passed this unwisest of bills earlier this year. Many members of the House were forced to walk that plank by their leadership. Many of those who voted for Cap and Trade may not be returned next Tuesday. They will be especially vulnerable if their constituents mine coal, drill for oil, or manufacture anything at all.
Cap and Trade has been called an invitation to massive corruption by Britain’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Lawson. Now, someone who sits in the House of Lords can hardly be accused of squatting down in one of those cheap seats Kerry despises. Lord Lawson says if you really want to deal with carbon emissions, tax carbon emissions. And give tax credits to the poor so they can cope. That’s not my preferred option, but it’s not Kerry’s, either.
What Cap and Trade would do, of course, is nationalize all American enterprise. It would have the federal government control all decisions about what to produce, where to produce it, when to produce, where to market it, and how.
This is the reason why Europeans — those smarter folks Kerry likes more than he likes our “know-nothing” voters — teasingly call the Greens watermelons — green on the outside, red on the inside.
Are we against science and truth merely because we object to Kerry’s Cap and Trade legislation? Bjorn Lomborg, the famed “Skeptical Environmentalist,” has said Cap and Trade is the worst way to go about dealing with Global Warming.
Even if we imposed Cap and Trade, with all of its ability to straightjacket the already paralyzed economy, Lomborg says it would result in barely a 1-degree difference in Global Warming by the end of this century.
Now, Lomborg agrees with Kerry that global warming is occurring. He agrees that it is a problem. And he agrees that some or all of it is man-caused. But he has produced a new documentary called Cool It urging his fellow environmentalists to cool the rhetoric about global warming as an existential threat to the planet.
Lomborg’s thesis is subject to a lot of reasoned debate. You can tell Lomborg is liberal. One, he’s a Dane. Two, he calls the earth the planet. Only liberals call it the planet.
When John Kerry says we’ve abandoned science and truth, we can only ask: If the truth was so compelling, why do controversies on the matter continue to plague the scientific community?
The funniest part of Kerry’s anguished cry is his complaint that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are responsible for this rise in what he calls “know nothingism.” If you add all of Rush’s listeners — and they are legion — to all of Glenn Beck’s viewers, you still don’t come close to the tens of millions of voters who are expected to render a verdict on Kerry liberalism next week.
So why doesn’t Kerry start his own TV show or go on radio? Why do you think Al Franken escaped from his sinking Hot Air America gig and snuck into the Senate on a disputed vote? It’s a lot easier to bloviate in the Senate than to attract and hold an audience. The only reason Kerry and Franken are sitting in the Senate is because they are not the cheaper seats.
With his party braced for defeat in the midterm elections, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that a Republican machine — fueled by talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck — has undermined progress and misled the public into believing Democrats created the country’s current economic problems.
Kerry singled out attacks on an energy deal he was negotiating with Republicans, which fell apart amid criticism of an emissions-trading program. Some 20 Senate candidates are now opposing the proposed deal in their campaigns.
“It’s absurd. We’ve lost our minds,” said a clearly exasperated Kerry. “We’re in a period of know-nothingism in the country, where truth and science and facts don’t weigh in. It’s all short-order, lowest common denominator, cheap-seat politics.”

Polite Laughter on the Mall

Hundreds of thousands came. Theresa Floyd, a 19 year old student and poet, flew from California to try to make the world “marginally better”. Wassim Shazad, a 36 year old brick shithouse of a former-Marine drove four hours from North Carolina, to take aim at racial stereotypes of Muslims in America. For nearly everyone I spoke to, this was their first rally.
As rallies go, it was a little unrepresentative. It began, for instance, exactly on time, and just before the cameras went live, a little overture played over the sound system: Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You. Philadelphia funk ensemble The Roots kicked off for half an hour, followed by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, TV’s Mythbusters, who performed a series of experiments on the crowd.
People were encouraged to stomp together to create a miniature earthquake (it worked, a little), or to propagate a crowd wave to the back of the assembled masses which took 54 seconds to travel the length of the Mall outside Congress. One of the oddest experiments, and I fear we’ll have to watch the Discovery channel to find out the myth they were busting, involved getting everyone to make a range of sounds simultaneously, with noises ranging from ‘laughing like a mad scientist’ to cheek-popping, to polite laughter.
And then Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert took to the stage for a two hour show with a list of guests escalating from Ozzie Osbourne to R2D2. The proceedings ended with a serious bit, though, when Jon Stewart took a couple of swipes at the media. “We live in hard times, not end times. We can have animus and not be enemies. But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder.”
There was a ‘yes we can’ moment too. Americans, Stewart pointed out to one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon, “work together to get things done every damn day”. He used an unusual metaphor to explain what that cooperation looked like. The view on the jumbotron screens switched from the Mall to an overhead view of cars funneling from eight lanes to two. Although the people in their cars might be of different religions, political orientations, and intensities with which they love Oprah, Americans can somehow get along, letting each other in, and narrowing down in a civil, moderate and reasonable way. Yes, We Can.
Trouble is, as any game theorist will tell you, there’s not much about road-traffic cooperation that rises to the level of reasonableness. Once folk have agreed on some foundational things like where they’re going and what side of the road to drive on, the rest is just basic courtesy. It’s a stretch to call it ‘reasonable’.
Reasonableness is, however, genuinely under threat. The Tea Party understands the US Constitution as a divine document. In so doing, they pine for a pre-Enlightenment politics where God — not reason — is the ultimate arbiter of political life. To put it in Stewart’s terms, they’re arguing about which direction to drive and whether it’s bad to run over pedestrians. That’s a threat to the possibility of cooperation.
It took a lot of political work to make a world that could cradle the moderation everyone came to Washington to celebrate yesterday, yet there was palpable distaste for taking a political stand. In fact, the undercurrent wasn’t one of defending the politics of reasonableness so much as of mourning its impotence. For instance: Jon Stewart invited Kid Rock to sing “an amazing” song that was “so apropos to this situation”. The song was ‘Care’ and the lyrics went: “‘Cause I can’t stop the war/ Shed the homeless/ Feed the poor… /the least I can do/ Is care.” So although Americans get things done every damn day, it’s the small stuff. The bigger problems are just too, well, big.
But perhaps I’m asking too much. Perhaps the politics can and should come some other time, and not from Comedy Central. Two people who thought so were friends from Washington DC who held signs saying “Down with this sort of thing!” and “Careful now!”, a reference from a British TV comedy called Father Ted that confused a few rally-goers. They didn’t want their employers knowing they were at the rally, so let’s call them Bill and Kylie.
“Some people were disappointed that Stewart didn’t ask people to vote or that there wasn’t more politics. But Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert recognize that they’re entertainers,” said Bill. “And that’s pretty cool.” This wasn’t Bill and Kylie’s first rally — they’ve been to several this year, most recently the One Nation Working Together rally organized by the Democrats and large unions at the beginning of the month. And neither Bill nor Kylie are shy of politics. “I’m a socialist”, said Bill. “I’m getting there,” said Kylie.
I suspect that it’s through Bill and Kylie’s brand of political understanding, rather than Kid Rock’s, that change will happen. Yes, the punditocracy is bad, but pointing out its failure is hardly going to change it. Yes, civility is important, but that’s not the same as political engagement. Pining for ‘sanity’ during the rise of the Tea Party is like talking about who leaves the seat up when the house is on fire. What Comedy Central offered on the mall was laughter in the dark, but it was impotently polite laughter. Perhaps that’s what the Mythbusters wanted to understand.

The Problem is Not Jon Stewart

In a fit of self-importance–or perhaps it is despair–the media has pounced on Jon Stewart for stepping out of the studio and into the public square. Some veil their criticism as concern for Stewart’s career. Others savage him for crossing the line between news and entertainment.
Like some rendition of Brigadoon, one has to wonder what world these critics are living in. Twenty years ago–give or take a decade–Ted Koppel interviewed Rush Limbaugh on Nightline. In response to Koppel questioning whether he–like Steward today–was crossing a sacred line, El Rushbo retorted, Ted, let’s remember, you and I, we’re in the entertainment business now.
Religion. Politics. News. Entertainment. If the line was blurred for Rush a few decades ago, it is now gone. When Glenn Beck stood on the Washington Mall in August and pronounced the next Great Awakening, he was bringing all four together, with himself firmly placed at the epicenter. Those who suggest that Jon Stewart crossed a line should open their eyes and behold the new world.
No one questions whether Glenn Beck is in the business of entertainment. Or politics. Or news. Nor should one question the same for Sarah Palin. Beck and Palin stand at the cutting edge of a democracy that is being subsumed into popular culture, and they understand well the seamless flow between news and entertainment, religion and politics. Beck has been in the ratings game for longer than Sarah. She spins one-liners with the best of them–her riff, How’s that hopey, changey thing workin’ out for ya? is viscous and humorous at the same time–but Beck has a trained ear for when one argument has run its course and it is time to develop new material.
The ones who don’t learn and adapt are the ardent followers. Whether in the guise of Reagan Democrats of the 1980s, the Perot voters of the 1990s or the Tea Party acolytes today, disaffected American voters are easily seduced by politicians who channel their anger and provide succor through promises of lower taxes and easy fixes. The rhetoric of false prophets and entertainers alike can lure them into the public square, ready to point fingers at all the sources of their pain.
But they never want to look into the mirror.
Check the record. With promises of cutting waste, fraud and abuse, and pointing the finger at welfare cheats, Ronald Reagan offered the promise of cutting taxes and reducing the size of the federal government. The Reagan administration succeeded in cutting taxes, but never introduced a budget to Congress that reduced spending. Despite all of the familiar arguments about the revenue growth that ensued, the greatest legacy of the Reagan years was the political lesson that tax cuts buy votes, while there is no meaningful constituency for cutting budgets beyond old school Republican bankers sipping a single malt at the New York Athletic Club.
In the three decades since the Gipper recast the rules of the game, the Republican Party has become the party of tax cuts and the Democrats the party of spending increases as the key argument to their constituencies. But neither party feels any obligation to take the painful steps necessary if they are to pay for the promises that they aim to deliver.
To suggest that Republicans have abandoned their brand is not an idle claim. Since 1980, Republicans have controlled the White House for 20 of 30 years. During that time, Republicans have routinely cut taxes, while never once proposing a budget that would pay for them. The Congressional Budget Office recently observed that the Medicare Part D program passed by George W. Bush will add more to the federal deficit over the next decade than the combined cost of the stimulus, healthcare and TARP legislation–to say nothing of the wars and tax cuts–yet the power of brand still leaves Republicans as the party of fiscal conservatism.
The past three decades offer ample evidence that there are no pure players in this debate. Not the Republican Party that lost its fiscal bona fides decades ago. Not the Democrat Party that in pursuit Wall Street largesse became the handmaiden of accelerating financial deregulation that culminated in financial chaos. And certainly not the American Family, those of all faiths and political persuasions who bought into the silly shibboleths of the new economy, and chose to lever up rather than hunker down as they faced stagnating real incomes.
Yet Tea Party acolytes remain enthralled by those who are selling them a bill of goods to build their own ratings, their electoral prospects or their speaker fees–with little regard for whether they are leading America further down a path of cynicism, and contributing to the further dysfunction of a political system that seems incapable of addressing the real and deepening problems that we face. The plaintive cry “Don’t let the Government get its hands on my Medicare,” might be apocryphal, but it highlights the vacuousness of a political movement that is built on deliberate denial by Americans of their own responsibility for the straits in which we find ourselves. As Pogo said, We have met the enemy, and he is us.
Today, as the economy lies in tatters in the wake of financial crimes and misdemeanors from Wall Street to Main Street, Americans remain reluctant to confront and admit their own complicity in the mess. It was tens of millions of average Americans who violated every rule they were supposed to have learned in kindergarten about living within their means and not borrowing too much. Today, these same Americans who bought too much house and borrowed against too many cards, now want to point the finger at the politicians and decry their profligacy.
The anger and fear that Americans feel as they gather to protest the unfairness of the world should be tempered by their own complicity in buying the same bill of goods, year after year. The truth is that we did not hold our politicians accountable because we did not want to have to choose between consumption and savings. We wanted more now and more in the future.
And compounding that anger and that fear must be a healthy dose of shame for what we have wrought. But rather than facing up to our own culpability, we have become even more determined to lash out at the other that must have created this mess.
After all, it can’t be our fault, because we are Americans. We are the noble citizens of the greatest nation in history. Our ethical conduct and fiscal prudence is beyond reproach. We know this to be the true because Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and a raft of other politicians and pundits tell us so.
And we are too happy to believe them, because to do otherwise, and to accept some measure of responsibility for the world of our making would too hard. And for that, we should feel undying shame.

The 10 Reasons to Vote

The party that controls the House of Representatives or the Senate determines the policies and direction of America. When you vote for a candidate on November 2, you are also voting for an entire party. Check the positions you agree with and see which party most reflects your values and then vote accordingly. Each of the 10 Issues reflect actual statements, positions and votes held and taken by the vast majority of Congressmen and Senators in each party over the past two years in The United States Congress.
Which America Do You Want?
I. Jobs
Republicans believe that cutting taxes for large and small businesses and further reducing investment taxes on capital gains and dividends will spur job growth
Democrats want to try to create jobs by limiting the outsourcing of jobs to other countries and by creating and investing in new industries such as clean tech/alternative energy like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, algae fuels.
II. Gays in The Military
Republicans will keep Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Democrats will end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
III. Oil Spills
Republicans want to keep the $75 million limit on what oil companies have to pay — taxpayers to pay the rest. Senate Republicans have blocked the investigation of BP and the BP oil spill.
Democrats will make oil companies pay for all oil spill damage and want to investigate what went wrong with the BP oil spill.
IV. Climate Change
Republicans oppose climate change legislation because they believe that global warming/climate change is not a significant issue and, even if it is, that it is not man made
Democrats want to limit “greenhouse gases” because they believe that global warming/climate change is a significant issue and is significantly man made
V. The “Bush Tax Cuts” and The National Debt
Republicans will make the Bush Tax Cuts permanent for people making less than $250,000 per year only if the tax cuts for wealthier individuals making over $250,000 is also made permanent. Tax cuts for those who make over $250,000 per year will cost $700 Billion over the next ten years. They want to cut the national debt.
Democrats will make Middle Class tax cuts permanent for people making less than $250,000 per year but do not want to extend tax cuts for those making over $250,000. They want to cut the national debt.
VI. Energy Independence/Alternative Energy for America
Republicans will rely on oil as our chief source of energy, continue or increase the subsidies to oil companies, expand drilling for oil in The United States and primarily rely on building nuclear energy plants as “alternative energy” for America’s energy needs
Democrats want to get off of oil as our chief source of energy, stop or reduce our subsidies to oil companies and move as fast as possible to develop renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and algae
VII. Campaign Finance
Republicans oppose limits on how much individuals, corporations, special interests and their lobbyists can spend to get elected, oppose Public Financing and oppose requiring corporations to disclose their financing of political television and radio ads
Democrats attempted to limit how much individuals, corporations, special interests and lobbyists spend on elections and also attempted to require that corporations disclose their financing of political television and radio ads. All such efforts were filibustered or defeated in the Senate by the Republicans. With a strong majority, enough to overcome a Republican filibuster, Democrats will pass much if not all of the above legislation as well as Public Financing of campaigns
VIII. Health Care
Republicans will repeal the recently passed health care reform legislation
Democrats will keep the recently passed health care legislation which includes reforms to add insurance coverage for approximately 30 million, allow young people to stay on their parents’ policy until they are 26 and end insurance companies rights to terminate coverage when one gets sick or loses their job.
IX. Wall Street
Republicans believe in “Laissez Faire”, that corporations are “people” and generally want banks and corporations to have less regulation and be left alone. Some “Tea Party” Republican candidates do not believe in any Federal regulation of businesses, including the requirement that restaurants serve African Americans.
Democrats believe that the kinds of investment activity that lead to the recent Wall Street crisis, including the need to bail out AIG and the bankruptcy of many firms should be more tightly regulated to prevent a re-occurrence.
X. Abortion
Republicans will attempt to overturn “Roe v. Wade” and make abortions illegal in states that don’t want them
Democrats believe that a woman’s right to choose an abortion is hers and hers alone, and that the current law (“Roe v. Wade”) allowing abortion in all states should be continued
And, on a Civics 101 Note . . .
The House:
If Republicans gain a majority in the House of Representatives, John Boehner will likely become Speaker of The House of Representatives and Republicans holding the above views and positions will become Chairmen and Chairwomen of every Committee and Sub-Committee, including, for example, Joe Barton as Chairman of the House Energy Committee. John Boehner has a 7% rating on environmental issues from The League of Conservation Voters. Joe Barton has a 7% rating.
If Democrats retain the majority in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi will likely remain Speaker of The House of Representatives and Democrats holding the above views and positions will remain Chairmen and Chairwomen of every Committee and Sub-Committee, including, for example, Henry Waxman, as Chairman of the House Energy Committee. Nancy Pelosi has a 100% rating on environmental issues from The League of Conservation Voters. Henry Waxman also has a 100% rating.
The Senate:
If Republicans gain a majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell will become Majority Leader and Republicans holding the above views and positions will become Chairmen and Chairwomen of every Committee and Sub-Committee, including, for example, James Inhofe as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee. Mitch McConnell has a 0% rating on environmental issues from The League of Conservation Voters. James Inhofe is considered America’s highest ranking “Global Warming Denier” and has a 5% rating.
If Democrats retain the majority in The Senate, Harry Reid will likely remain Majority Leader and Democrats holding the above views and positions will remain Chairmen and Chairwomen of every Committee and Sub-Committee, including, for example, Barbara Boxer, as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee. Harry Reid has a 100% rating on environmental issues from The League of Conservation Voters. Barbara Boxer also has a 100% rating.
The Sane and Simple Way to Vote
I agree with the Republican Party position ____ times
I agree with the Democratic Party position ____ times
Either way . . . VOTE on November 2!!

The Real Center of American Politics A Reflection on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

The true center of American politics isn’t found where most of us agree. We fiercely disagree. That’s not a problem. Democracy assumes disagreement.
The true center is about how we resolve those disagreements. Most of us believe we should work them out respectfully.
We don’t believe in winning political arguments through bullying, name-calling, lying, intimidating, or using violence.
In other words, the political center isn’t about what we decide; it’s about how we decide. A central tenet of American democracy is a commitment vigorous debate, done honestly and civilly.
That’s why some of what we’ve been witnessing recently is troubling.
Consider the foot-stomping incident in Kentucky by Rand Paul supporters, just outside a Senate debate. Or Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller’s security detail handcuffing a reporter from a liberal-leaning website.
Consider last year’s congressional town hall meetings where members of Congress were shouted down, a Tampa town hall meeting turned violent, and gunshots were fired at Democratic campaign headquarters in Arizona.
Consider the outright lies about “death panels,” “government takeovers,” and the president’s nationality.
Consider Rep. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” outburst against the President on the House floor.
And the vitriol emanating at all hours from rage radio, yell television, and Fox News — against immigrants, intellectuals, “coastal elites,” gays, and the President.
We’re better than this.
This is not respectful disagreement. It’s thuggery. It has no legitimate role in a democracy. And most Americans are fed up with it.
Sadly, we needed two comedians to remind us.
Robert Reich is the author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future, now in bookstores. This post originally appeared at

This Blogger’s Books from
Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future
by Robert B. Reich
Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America
by Robert B. Reich

9 Halloween Healthy Tips

Halloween (or Hallowe’en), an annual holiday observed on October 31, has its roots in the Celtic of Samhain and the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, wearing costumes, costume parties, carving jack-o’-lanterns, ghost tours, bonfires, apple bobbing, haunted houses, ghost stories, watching horror films, and eating candy. AND … not just a little candy. Copious amounts of candy that wreak havoc on your metabolism and s-l-o-w … it d-o-w-n.
Halloween, and its platters full of candy, is also the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season. For many that means that the season within which the healthy living goes out the window with the ghosts and goblins and seven extra pounds are summarily delivered to thy stomach, thighs and hips is upon us!
As your Weight Loss Success Coach, I’d like to take this moment to ask you … is that what you really want? To be out of control, spiraling downward, padding your body with an extra layer of adipose tissue (a.k.a. fat)? Do you want to start 2011 off with a thud or a self-loving svelte smile? If you choose the latter, then you’ve come to the right place. Here follows … The Our Lady of Weight Loss Halloween Survival Guide.
9 Halloween Healthy Tips
What NOT to DO.
Tip #1: Do NOT buy your favorite candy. For goodness sake, folks. Why in Our Lady of Weight Loss’s name would you stock your Halloween bowl with your favorite candy and have to say ‘no’ to it every single time you hand a piece to your trick or treaters?
Tip #2: Do NOT buy until the very last minute. If temptation enters the house too early, you just may give into it. Wait till the very last minute — no, the last second — before the kids are knocking on your door to buy the goodies, and then hand them out fast!
Tip #3: Do NOT buy any candy at all! OMG, I know that’s a hard ‘candy’ to swallow. Still, if candy is a ‘red light’ food, a ‘trigger’ food for you; something that is going to send you spinning out of control — causing you to take a 10 year detour from your healthy eating/living plan, you might consider skipping the candy all together! (suggestions of what to buy, see Tip #4)
What TO DO.
Tip #4: THINK outside the candy box. Instead of doing the candy thing, there are other fun options such as Halloween stickers, fake tattoos, stick on ‘gems,’ crayons, pencils, erasers, or how about rubber spiders!!! What kid wouldn’t appreciate a spider?
Tip # 5: Go HEALTHY. How about individual boxes of raisins, or little bags of pumpkin seeds? I’m betting that there are plenty of individually wrapped healthy choices in your supermarket. Search with a healthy eye!
Tip # 6: FRUIT First. On a personal note, if you absolutely must indulge in a piece or two (not the entire bowl) of candy, then eat a luscious piece of vibrant fruit and drink a big glass of water before you get yourself into deep and dark chocolate trouble. You will be full and sated, have fed your brain so that it can make better choices; and therefore, you are much more likely to eat less candy.
Tip # 7: GIVE it Away. The minute — no the second — Halloween is over, purge, baby, purge. If you can’t bring yourself to toss it, then give it away. Just get rid of it!
Tip # 8: Get HIP to Thyself. If you start bargaining with yourself (I’ll eat the candy and skip dinner), or if you start telling yourself that you’ll go back on your healthy living plan tomorrow, you may be in trouble. Remember, tomorrow never comes. There’s only today!
Tip # 9: WRAP It Up. If you find that all of these tips have failed and that you are relentlessly putting your hand in the bowl and unwrapping piece after piece of candy, at the very least save the wrappers!
Yes, you heard me right! Save the wrappers so that you can see how much you actually are eating (a sobering experience that may stop you mid-stream) and at the end of the holiday, we can make a fun post-Halloween collage! (Instructions coming post Halloween).
For more Holiday inspiration and motivation, be sure to check out The Holiday Diet: How to make it through the Holiday Season unscathed and Wake Up Thinner, Happier and more Energized.
Spread the word … NOT the icing!
For more wellness and weight loss wisdom,
visit: Janice at

This Blogger’s Books from
All Is Forgiven, Move On: Our Lady of Weight Loss’s 101 Fat-Burning Steps on Your Journey to Sveltesville
by Janice Taylor
Our Lady of Weight Loss: Miraculous and Motivational Musings from the Patron Saint of Permanent Fat Removal
by Janice Taylor

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David Gregory Doesnt Tolerate Softball Answers

Last week, Meet the Press anchor David Gregory hosted a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on the subject of “college completion and the American future.” According to reports, during the audience Q&A, a spectator accused Gregory of letting politicians deflect his questions and ignore important issues such as “the need for taxes,” among others. The man told Gregory that “during the election season, you’re letting politicians get away with softball answers and you’re not really forcing the conversations.” At this point, Gregory replied, “I don’t know which program you’re watching because every week–I’m not going to get in a debate with you–I ask about taxes, I ask about how you pay for taxes.”
If you’ve been watching “Meet the Press” in recent months, you’d know that Gregory is right. Of all the anchors of the Sunday morning talk shows, Gregory is the most relentless and aggressive when it comes to interviewing public officials. He doesn’t back down when his interviewees try to weasel out of answering his heard-hitting questions. Gregory pays attention to the answers – and non-answers – returned to him, making sure that he follows up or rephrases his question when necessary. His counterparts don’t stick to the subject nearly as much.
On the subject of tax cuts, for instance, on October 10, Gregory asked Chicago Senate candidates Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias the following:
After Kirk broadened the question to discuss the state of the U.S. economy, Gregory brought the topic back to specifics about tax cuts when he asked “But the question, but the question, Mr. Giannoulias, should tax cuts be paid for?” This is just one example of the tenacity that Gregory brings to his interviews, making sure that the discussion stays focused on the issues at hand. He simply won’t allow his interviewees to use their time on “Press” to hit their talking points and to avoid accidentally taking an unpopular stance with their backs to the wall. And he muscles representatives from both sides.
Most recently, Gregory pushed Michael Steele when speaking with him last week about campaign spending; he did the same when talking to David Axelrod about unemployment in September; and didn’t back down when White House official Carol Browner was briefing him about the BP oil spill in August.
Also in August, Gregory spoke to Sen. Mitch McConnell about the common perception that Obama is a Muslim. This is where that conversation went:
It’s clear to anyone who has actually been paying attention to the Sunday talk shows that David Gregory is innocent of the charges lobbed against him at that panel last week. Although there may be some TV reporters who do gloss over a topic and allow their interview subjects to get away with non-answers, Gregory is surely not one of them. Before making such allegations – that probably stem from preconceived notions of reporter bias or unreliability that has little to do with Gregory – people should do their homework first. Not everyone is an enemy these days.

Guantanamo Bays youngest militant Omar Khadr jailed

Guantanamo Bays youngest militant Omar Khadr jailed

A US military tribunal has sentenced a self-confessed Islamist militant to 40 years in jail on charges that include murdering a US soldier and conspiring to commit terrorist acts.
Canadian Omar Khadr, now 24, pleaded guilty to the charges at the Guantanamo Bay tribunal last week.
However, Khadr's plea deal limited his sentence to eight years.
Caught in 2002 at the age of 15, he is the fifth Guantanamo inmate to be convicted at the military tribunals.
A seven-member military panel deliberated for nearly nine hours over a two-day period before reaching its decision on Sunday.
Khadr admitted five war crimes charges. Under his plea deal, the native of Toronto is expected to be sent home to Canada after serving one year at Guantanamo Bay.
The widow of the US soldier who Khadr admitted killing with a grenade in Afghanistan cheered as the jury's decision was read out in the courtroom.


Candy or Toys A Halloween Dilemma

A friend called me last week in a panic. Since her daughter was born three years ago, she has called with various eating-related questions: Is it okay to let my three-year-old have a lollipop? What do I do if she won’t eat green vegetables? How can I get her to eat something besides chicken nuggets? The question this week: Should I give out candy for Halloween this year or take an entirely different route — forget the candy and give away a small toy instead?
My friend has struggled with eating issues all of her life. She remembers Halloween as a particularly difficult time. Her parents would only allow one piece and take the rest. She’d give her parents a portion of her candy and hide her stash under her bed. After school, she’d binge on it. Even today, having candy hanging around the house prior to trick-or-treating triggers some of her old food issues. Also, she is mindful of the fact that food is often used to soothe and comfort ourselves. She hopes to communicate to her daughter that there are other “treats” besides food and candy.
Beyond her own struggles with candy, she did the math. If her child went around the entire neighborhood, she could potentially walk home with over 70 pieces of candy. Any parent can sympathize. How do you help your kids decide what to do with the vast amount of candy they collect? She wondered if a toy would be a refreshing change. Or would her home be dubbed as the house to avoid due to their lackluster treats?
She had nothing to worry about, according to a Yale University study. In this study, 284 children between three and 14 years old were given the option between edible items (lollipops, fruit-flavored chewy candies, fruit-flavored crunchy wafers, and sweet and tart hard candies) and non-edible items (stretch pumpkin men, large glow-in-the-dark insects, Halloween-themed stickers and pencils). Half the children chose the toys.
In the end, we decided to do an unofficial experiment to put her mind at rest and find an answer to apply to future Halloweens. In one bowl, we placed lollipops. In another bowl, we put twisty Halloween straws. The kids could choose for themselves out of either bowl. Only fifteen kids out of 65 chose the lollipop. The kids appeared ecstatic about the straws. They thoughtfully choose the color they wanted and held them up to show their parents. Instead of being disappointed, there appeared to be a novelty effect. Obviously, there were a lot of variables that were unaccounted for in this “research,” but it did show that kids may define the notion of “treat” much more broadly than many of us do.
Some candy is fine. Halloween comes around only once a year. But if you spend a lot of time trying to resist the Halloween candy that you bought for trick-or-treaters, or if you feel that kids are inundated with too much candy, feel free to try another spooky surprise — a ghost pencil, spider rings, stickers, a yo-yo, or gum. Rest assured that you won’t be ruining the day.
Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. She is the author of “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food,” “Eating Mindfully,” “Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful,” and “Mindful Eating 101.” Her books have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal; O, the Oprah Magazine; Natural Health; Self Magazine; and on the Dr. Oz Show. Visit Albers online at

This Blogger’s Books from
Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food
by Susan Albers
Eat, Drink and Be Mindful: How to End Your Struggle with Mindless Eating and Start Savoring Food with Intention and Joy
by Susan Albers

Sanity Rally and ColdWar Public Diplomacy

All of a sudden, I felt back in Central Europe during the Cold War.
But this was Washington, D.C., on October 30, 2010.
At the Rally to Restore Sanity in the imperial capital yesterday, the mood reminded me of my postings as a U.S. Foreign Service public diplomacy officer in Prague (1983-1985) and Krakow (1986-1990).
In Prague, working with the Jazz Section, I used the small garden of my “official” residence near the Vltava river (with its then ever-present swans) as a venue for Jazz concerts. Most of the Czechs attending these events were “dissidents” — a hard word to define, but meaning persons (mostly young) who looked beyond the narrow, parochial views of a dinosaur communist regime. Humor and irony were an essential part of their politics. Living in an Orwellian society in many ways absurb, they used as sanity tools gentle you-know-what-I-mean winks, and, above all, music. The last thing on their minds was violence.
Our last jazz “concert” took place in a tram. The Section somehow got hold of a city tram and off we were — about thirty of us — in the tram, riding around downtown Prague, in the heart of communist-controlled Central Europe, for some two hours, with jazz music blasting from a tape recorder, drinking Soviet (if I remember its provenance correctly) champagne. A great American jazz group, the Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble, happened to be in zlata Praha at the time, and took part in the on-rail festivities. Talk about a magical mystery tour!
In Krakow, home of one of Europe’s oldest universities, I established close contact with the Piwnica pod Baranami, a cabaret full of wit and energy. Its stellar cellar performances on late-night occasions were highlighted by the singing of Anna Szaapak, with whom it was impossible not to fall in love. After the cabaret returned from the United States on a tour, a reception was held in its honor at the American Consulate in Krakow. The leader of the group, the unforgettable Piotr Skrzynecki, brought a goat to the party.
I can see Piotr at the rally yesterday. He doubtless would have brought his goat with him.
Skrzynecki image from

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How to stop yourself from losing it with your child

Resolving your past can make you a better parent
Join Dr. Lisa Firestone for the Nov. 16 webinar “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children”
When it comes to parenting, perfection is an unrealistic goal. As much as we would all like to be emotionally attuned and sensitive to our children 100 percent of the time, even the best parents are prone to losing control and overreacting in times of stress. Many of us have witnessed or experienced the scene of a stressed out dad losing it with his child when she starts throwing a fit over a candy bar in the supermarket. Or we’ve seen the mom dragging her reluctant child into a quiet corner of a restaurant to scold him over his poor manners. In these scenarios, parents can feel like the victims of their children. They may feel judged by onlookers or trapped by their public surroundings, and what do they do? They snap! They say things they wouldn’t normally say, act ways of which they don’t approve and wind up hurting themselves and their child in the process.
Despite having the best intentions, every parent can recall a time when their frustration levels went through the roof, and their emotional responses to their children were not appropriate to the situation. Whether triggered by a large tantrum in the supermarket or a small act of defiance while getting dressed in the morning, any time we lose it, both the child and the parent are left feeling terrible. By understanding what sets off these overreactions to our children and why we feel so intensely in certain situations, we are better able to alter our behavior and improve our relationships with our children. The more we limit our own impulsive outbursts and repair the negative interactions that hurt our children, the better chance we give our kids at growing into emotionally healthy adults.
To reach this goal, we must recognize that what happened to us as children effects the way we think, feel and act as adults. This is especially true when it comes to parenting because nothing triggers feelings from our childhood more than our own children. Since our offspring resemble us in physical and emotional ways, it is easy to see them as emblems of our child selves. This over-identification leads to our reenacting incidents from our childhoods with our own children, especially the incidents that were traumatizing to us. At those times, we lose it and suddenly find ourselves treating our children as our parents treated us.
For instance, a friend of mine recently told me the story of how stressed she used to feel before taking a flight with her two young children. Though forcing a 4-year-old and 6-year-old to sit still and keep their voices down for hours at a time is no one’s favorite activity, by the time the fasten seatbelt light went off, my typically patient friend would already have come unglued. During the flight she’d find herself saying things like, “What is the matter with you? Why can’t you act like a grown up?” or “Next time, I’m not going to take you with me anywhere. Do you understand me?” At the end of the flight, instead of feeling excited to arrive at the destination and share the vacation with her two kids, my friend would feel guilty and beat, and spend days feeling like she was a terrible mother.
It wasn’t until my friend took a flight with her mother that memories of her own childhood travel experiences started to come to the surface. Every year between the ages of 4 and 14, my friend’s parents insisted she and her two siblings pile in a cramped car and drive with them across country to visit family. During these drives, tensions would build, backseat rivalries would come to a head and tempers from the front seat would flair. My friend quickly recognized that the way she was losing it with her children while in flight was exactly the way her parents had lost it with her on these road trips. She even noticed some of the things she told her children were exactly the same words that had come from her father or mother. As a mother, my friend had inadvertently taken on her parents’ stress and their reactions while traveling with kids. This insight alone helped my friend to separate from this engrained attitude, and with a few deep breaths and a sense of humor, she was able to actually enjoy coloring with her kids, telling them stories and calming them down during a flight.
Many of our intense reactions to our children are triggered by feelings from our own childhoods. We can start to separate the past from the present by looking for a pattern in the times we have lost control with our kids. As we pinpoint the source of our overreactions and trace them back to feelings or memories from when we were growing up, we can better understand ourselves and make sense of our own interactions with our children. As we become less likely to project our past onto our children, we begin to see them clearly for who they truly are, and in the process, we become better parents.
In a poll of 200 people that I recently conducted during a webinar, 100 percent of respondents said they could remember a time when their parents “lost it” with them. Yet, it isn’t always easy to recall all of the ways we were hurt as children. Many of the things that affected us when we were young do not become explicit memories that we can easily identify. On the contrary, most of our childhood pain remains in implicit memories, which exist as feelings and are just beyond our full-conscious awareness. An example of an implicit memory in action is riding a bike: you just hop on it and know how to ride without having to consciously think about it. An explicit memory, on the other hand, is the memory of someone teaching you to ride a bike. Implicit memories can make us feel a certain way without the sense that we are remembering. When we lose control with our children, unresolved childhood trauma that has been buried rises to the surface without our being fully aware of where the intensity of our reaction is coming from.
When we “blow up,” our intense outburst is due to the fact that the higher functions of our brain are “off line.” The emotional centers of on our brain are firing out of control, and the brain’s most important functions in regard to child-rearing are suddenly shut off, leaving us in a dangerously unintegrated or disconnected state. We no longer have the ability to feel empathy, regulate our emotions and think before we act. We don’t have access to key emotional radars like intuition and morality. Because it is impossible to attune to our children when we are in this state, we often say and do things that we later regret. To put a stop to these emotional encounters, which are a source of trauma for both the parent and child, it is critical to learn what to do when these outbursts occur.
The first thing to do when we find ourselves getting inappropriately irritated or angry with our child is to press the pause button, that is to put the interaction on hold and, if possible, take a break from engaging with him/her and take time to calm ourselves down. Doing something rhythmical like taking a series of deep breaths, or physical like going for a walk around the neighborhood, can help us relax and get the higher functions of our brain back online.
By pressing the pause button, we not only stop ourselves from inflicting greater emotional damage in the heat of the moment, but we also give ourselves an opportunity to reflect about what may have triggered our emotional reactions in the first place. We should ask ourselves: Why did that specific thing bother me so much? Does this remind me of anything from my childhood? It is important to think back and try to allow our implicit memories to surface in order to make them explicit. We can then reconnect with ourselves and once again feel compassion for our children and ourselves.
After calming down, it is important to repair the damage done by our explosive interaction with our children by apologizing for our behavior and addressing the situation directly. Many parents feel embarrassed after losing their temper and acting out with their children, so they want to avoid discussing the incident. There are parents whose rage is so intense that during the outburst, when the higher functions of their brains are completely shut off, the parents are so disassociated from themselves that afterward they are unable to remember exactly what occurred. Nonetheless, if we don’t offer our children an explanation and an apology for our bad behavior, we leave them feeling responsible and confused, wondering what they did to make us so angry at them, and often turning against themselves.
Much of the damage caused by a parental outburst can be undone if the parent makes the effort to repair it. We can start the reparative conversation by telling our child that we are truly sorry, and then go on to make sure that our apology is specific and addresses our irrational behavior. We can encourage our child to talk about the feelings and thoughts he/she had during the interaction. We will be helping our child form a coherent narrative, because talking the situation through and making sense of it enables him/her to have an integrated memory of the experience. As our child speaks, we should make an effort to maintain a compassionate attitude toward both our child and ourselves, that is, to listen without defending ourselves or blaming him/her.
We can also share any insight we may have had into our own childhood with our child. This will allow him/her to know us as a real and vulnerable person, and it will also permit us to repair our own sense of self. Following these types of outbursts, parents are often plagued by guilt and self-recrimination, but by tracing our anger to its real source, we can have compassion for ourselves. During their conversation, both child and parent are being repaired as they make sense of a senseless situation. It can be the start of a dtente that would put an end to such traumatic incidents in the future.
It is impossible to be fully attuned to our children at all times so don’t be hard on yourself. On the contrary, research suggests that the “best” parents are only attuned to their child 30 percent of the time. However, by recognizing the patterns and triggers that cause us to lose our temper and by learning how to deal with those emotions in a healthier manner, we teach our children by our example to do the same. And when events that trigger us occur, and we find ourselves losing control, we can remember to follow these steps: press the pause button, calm ourselves down, then repair by talking through the incident with our children. We may never be perfect parents, but we can be better.
To read more from Dr. Lisa Firestone on parenting visit – Alive to Parenting
Join Dr. Lisa Firestone for the Nov. 16 webinar “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children”

This Blogger’s Books from
Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships
by Robert W. Firestone, Lisa A. Firestone, Joyce Catlett
Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: A Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free from Imagined Limitations
by Robert W. Firestone, Lisa Firestone, Joyce Catlett, Pat Love

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Happy Halloween 10 Sights from New Orleans

Happy Halloween from New Orleans, a city so nestled in the spirit world a Day of the Dead is practically redundant. From Saturday Night’s Halloween Parade which gets bigger every year, to today’s trick or treaters the city is alive in Halloween imagery. Here are 10 photos I like, all by Jeff “Happy Anniversary” Beninato.
Cat and Candle
1 of 11
10 Best Halloween Celebrations In The U.S. (PHOTOS)
7 Awesome Ferris Wheels Worth Visiting (PHOTOS)
10 Best Budget Airlines In The World (PHOTOS)
8 Awesome Treehouse Hotels (PHOTOS)
6 Halloween Alternatives Around The World (PHOTOS)
5 Foodie Resorts For Family Travel (PHOTOS)
Cat and Candle
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StewartColbert Love Train Rally Like Tapioca Pudding Something Missing

I love the Ojays. I love the Fall. I like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I like tapioca pudding. The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear? No so much.
Now that’s not to say that The Rally didn’t prove something. In fact it proved a number of things. First, it proved that over 200,000 people were stirred up enough to stand cheek to jowl on a chilly Saturday in October on the National Mall in Washington D.C. because they needed something.
It proved that what seems like funny schtick on TV doesn’t translate well to a live performance. It proved Stephen Colbert is the tail to Jon Stewart’s dog. It proved that Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens, can still sing and so can Ozzie Osborne, if they had let them. John Legend and Kid Rock can too. Sheryl Crowe has had better days. And Tony Bennett? Well, he’s Tony Bennett.
It proved that allot of people, and I mean allot, are frustrated and looking for a ‘voice’ to lead them and a place to express it. Too bad this wasn’t it. Or if this WAS it, it’s too bad it was so bland. So much like tapioca pudding. I like it, but I can’t remember the last time I had it or when I’ll have it again.
I don’t think you can diminish the accomplishment or discount what Saturday almost meant. Standing in the crowd for over four hours, so long that my feet actually bled (a Glenn Beck moment?), the anticipation was palpable at the beginning. And so was the sense of deflation at the end. Not a totally flat balloon, but one of those left over at the party, sort of just flopping on the end of the string. I stood there waiting for ‘it’. You know, that moment you’ll never forget, that ‘aha’ moment, that call to action..and then Jon Stewart stirred the crowd with a rousing plea.
‘In fact let’s leave the Mall cleaner than we found it! Let’s pick up the trash!’
A noble sentiment to be sure, in fact I think my wife teared up at that moment. But not exactly what I came for. There is nothing new about an appeal to the Silent Majority and that’s exactly what this was. Except this one happens to be Democratic. Oh, I know Stewart proclaimed this to be a ‘non-political’ rally aimed at restoring civil discourse and bi-partisanship. Sort of the Rodney King of rally’s, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’ Restoring the Golden Rule to Politics. Now there’s a campaign slogan for you.
More tapioca please.
Maybe this should be called ‘The Rally That Almost Made A Point, but Missed A Great Opporltunity and/or Fear’. In many ways it mirrored Stewart’s interview with President Obama earlier in the week. More lament than interview. ‘We believed in you and you let us down. You said you could change things and you haven’t. We are disappointed in you. Gee whiz.’ Same thing at The Rally. ‘Those bad guys at the all news networks keep lying and yelling and saying nasty things. Bad, bad guys. Stop it.’
Who wants thirds?
How special would it have been if Stewart or Colbert had urged the crowd to action, to take to the streets, to surround the Capitol or the Supreme Court buildings and not let anyone in or out until something, ANYTHING, gets done. Imagine what 250,000 people all marching for the same cause, all headed in the same direction could accomplish. Imagine.
Of course that takes leadership, that takes vision, that takes courage. Maybe that takes more than two comedians, one funny the other not so, can deliver. Maybe I expected too much. Maybe I expected a marashino cherry on my tapioca. Maybe that’ll come on Tuesday.

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Choose a Direction

We can contine to rebuild America; or, we can slide into permanent peonage, hostages to greed.
“Vision without action is a pipedream,” a neighbor’s bumper declares. Is the American people’s vision of a more just society … just a pipedream? I say, “No!” We MADE that happen. Is our massive 2008 electoral rejection of Republi-Corp’s nightmare … a pipedream? NO. The sovereign people DID that. Have Americans struggled and died for centuries to govern ourselves … for a pipedream? Surely not! But right now, what stands between us and ruthlessly authoritarian ideologues is simple. Votes. And lots of ’em.
Tyranny is shameless. This weekend, stealth wealth is lavishing awesome resources on anything and everything money can buy. If we are worthy of governing ourselves, we will not be suckered. We’ll rally voters to elect people who will act on behalf of us all, not just privileged elites.
The results of this nation’s most precious jewel — the right, privilege and obligation to vote bad guys out of office — makes the status quo crazy. Yes, crazy! On Tuesday, as we teeter on the brink of a disasterous Congress, the classically disenfranchised may very well tip the scales.
Citizens denied the right to vote is still no abstraction. Living memory is rich with pale and dark skinned Americans alike, struggling to make this fundamental right colorblind. Women among our elders were born when NO woman could vote. My mother was 11 when women finally won the right to vote.
Appallingly, the most under-served of us are still the easiest targets for anti-democratic voter suppression. No matter how corrupt and corrupting, we are witnessing outrageous reactionaries who have no qualms whatsoever about doing whatever it takes to seize Congress. They are intent on bullying us into their reactionary agenda.
“NO COMPROMISE!” howls John Boehner*, itching to run the U.S. House for the benefit of big business. Across the Capitol building is the equally disgraceful Mitch McConnell. His own proud pigheadedness has relentlessly clogged the wheels of the U.S. Senate these past 2 years. Legislative Republicans insist on “NO COMPROMISE!” That’s not a strategy. That’s a deathwish in a democracy and it’s been official Republic-Corp policy since President Obama took office.
These Repugnants are not even embarassed about what they’ll do to us if we let them. Two quick picks from their wheelbarrow full of genuine (for once) Republican weapons of mass destruction:
George Bush’s only regret (!) is that he didn’t destroy Social Security. Republi-Corp hasn’t given up. Wouldn’t it have been lovely to have the Social Security Trust Fund invested in Wall Street. The transfer of wealth to the already rich plutocrats would have paled in comparison to this travesty, which is precisely what Republi-Corp has in mind for us. The Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration figures current Republican proposals will slash up to 58% of real people’s benefits at a time when private pension plans are woefully underfunded. You can thank Wall Street* for that as well.
Serious proposals come from Republicans to rescind the people’s hard won right to elect our Senators directly. Presumably you and I are too ignorant and inept to choose our Senators, so electors would (again!) stand between us and those crucial Senate seats.
Brownshirts beating up women also seems to be part of the agenda.
Fight back! We DO have voice and we DO have the vote.
Voice: Stop making nice about the radical fringes’ craziness infecting our political system. Tell it like it is. They’re poison. And after the election? Do NOT “get over it.” Get on with it.
Vote: Do what people have fought and died to do since before 1776. VOTE! Doesn’t matter how great a candidate is if we fail to exercise this precious right. Even if the candidate isn’t so great, default to Republi-Corp is a really, really bad idea. Encourage — and enable — everyone you touch to vote, too. Just Do It!
I share President Obama’s vision that a more just society is not a pipedream. Will we wimp out on our duly elected President who’s championing us in the face of virulent, vindictive opposition? The clock’s ticking. Forward or back? You choose.
*– Frank Rich reports in today’s New York Times that John Boehner “is the largest House recipient of Wall Street money this year.” They probably just like easy-going personality.

Sarah Palin Release the Tapes

This morning on Fox News Sunday Sarah Palinechoed Andrew Breitbart’s discredited BigJournalism site in making serious accusations against CBS affiliate reports in Alaska.
Sarah Palin has made serious accusations of journalistic malfeasance. Either Palin accurately described the tapes, or she did not. America’s news consumers need to know the truth about these serious accusations. The public in Alaska needs to know the truth so they are fully and correctly informed before they cast their ballots Tuesday. Palin has a responsibility to release the full, unedited tapes publicly and to all media.

Exhaust the Limits New Book Speaks to One Mans Successful Mission to Help Humanity

Although our lives have turned out different, I learned in my friend Charles “Chic” Dambach’s exciting new book, Exhaust the Limits, that we have much in our personal and professional lives in common. I first met Chic through Paul Stevers, the Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist who funds orphans, peacebuilding, and counter strategies to terrorism.
Chic Dambach, President and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding.
Chic struck me as a tremendous thought leader and global citizen so I immediately wrote about him (story). In interviewing Chic, I learned much about him – but nothing compared to what I leaned in his riveting and soon to be narrative. Apprentice House of Loyola University Maryland is the publisher, and Amazon, Barnes & Noble and some book stores will carry it starting November 15. Advance signed copies are available at the website
We both hail from Ohio – and we both moved away from the Midwest to the East Coast after a host of foreign experiences internationalized us so that Washington D.C. – and New York – became our global centers.
I have devoted the last twelve years to orphan care through Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) which resonates with Chic more than I realized. I learn in his autobiography his father was an orphan who actually had to run away as his orphanage had been so abysmal.
Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and Peter Yarrow with the book’s author, Chic Dambach.
Chic and I are also both fans of Peter, Paul and Mary. More than that, our mutual friendship with Peter Yarrow has impacted our saving the world. Chic worked with Peter’s organization, Operation Respect, and Peter sits of the Global Advisory Board of my orphan project, OIWW.
Years ago I co-founded an organization to counter the Fundamentalist Mindset and offered support to those addicted to it (story). Chic and I see this mindset as an integral barrier to peacebuilding. Chic knows this mindset well because, as he writes, he was caught up in it for a time:
My parents were particularly involved in civil rights and protesting the Vietnam War. Chic describes his presence on the Mall of Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech which affected Chic profoundly. “This dream became my mission,” Chic writes.
My brother took this picture of George McGovern as he ran for president in Ohio, 1972.
Although I was only twelve, I worked very hard to elect George McGovern president in 1972. Chic actually met McGovern on several occasions and was a strong supporter as a result. As Chic writes, “McGovern was right. The war (in Vietnam) was wrong.”
Chic and I share many of the same heroes: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Tillich, Martin Buber, and Albert Camus. Chic also knows well many people I have met only briefly but greatly admire: Bill Clinton, Carol Bellamy, and Harris Wofford to name a few. Chic has dealt with so many people I admire but have never met: Hubert Humphrey, Sargent Shriver, Jimmy Carter are among many examples. He even had dinner with Fidel Castro in Havana as part of a U.S. Olympic Committee delegation.
Our commonalities continue through Colombia. Although I was in Bogot through the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA), Chic was there with the Peace Corps. We both stayed with middle-class Colombian families through the auspices of CEUCA, now defunct.
Chic writes:
My first exposure to poverty outside of Appalachia was in Bogot and it profoundly changed my life, leading me soon to relocate to Haiti, for example. Chic witnessed almost identical conditions in Colombia, which he describes so well:
On my first trip a chilling rain filled gullies with yellow-brown clay saturated water and it carried trash and sewage alike downstream to an unknown destination. There were no schools for the children; no one could read nor write, and unemployment exceeded 70%.
They survived by begging and stealing and I came to view both professions as noble. When your family is starving you do what you must to survive. To me it was Hugo’s Les Misrables come to life. For the first time in my sheltered and protected life, I came face to face with reality for the billions of people who miss meals regularly because they have no food.
I felt troubled and inept, and I’ve never been fully comfortable since that experience. Why was I born into affluence when so many people are born into so little? Where is the justice?
One interesting episode Chic relates is his experience administering arts for a time. He discovered Turfism, the blight of the non-profit community. He writes:
Any effort to promote broader allocation of NEA resources into “community” rather than “elite” institutions met with serious resistance from our local colleagues with the American Symphony League, American Association of Museums, Opera America, etc. All federal funding for the arts, they contended, should go to institutions judged (by them) to be the very best in the nation.
I discovered Turfism when I tried to work with my alma mater as a student to add Japanese language to the curriculum. The foreign language pie was only so large, and the French, German, and Chinese language/culture professors sabotaged my attempts to cut another slice.
Chic and I share as many differences as we do similarities. The biggest difference is that he was a star athlete and even trained in Olympic canoeing. He has retained a life-long appreciation for sports. I know next to nothings about athletics, although I rowed crew in school.
Another story that runs through Chic’s excellent book is the challenge s his son Kai has had with his health. A father myself, I realize nothing hurts a partner more than standing by helplessly as your child is hurting. Chic and his son have triumphed over serious illness, with the support of his wonderful wide and second son, and this medical miracle has colored Chic’s sense of life.
Chic’s work coordinating Peace Corps returnees back into the field following the genocide in Rwanda is perhaps the most riveting part of Chic’s book. I recently met an orphan given refugee status in America years ago who watched his Hutu mother and Tutsi father killed in front of him as a child – the atrocities there remain indescribable.
The enormous impact Chic made in settling disputes between Eritrea and Ethiopia is equally riveting, although, as most Americans, my own ignorance on events in that part of Africa dampen my understanding and appreciation of what appears to have been Chic’s Herculean efforts.
Chic has a vision that is particularly 20/20. He writes:
At the time, the entire U.S. foreign affair budget was barely 1% of the federal budget. That included every penny for embassies, the U.N., development assistance, educational exchanges, and arms control. Furthermore, the U.S. Government contributions to social, political, and economic development was the smallest, not the largest, among all developed nations. This, of course, ran absolutely counter to the public perception. Most Americans believe foreign aid alone consumes 15-25% of the federal budget and that the U.S. alone carries the burden of foreign aid. It is a myth.
Chic writes eloquently on the theme of extremism:
They hate us because — from their perspective — we have humiliated them, occupied their land, and exploited their resources. Now, U.S. planes without pilots fire explosives into their homes with impunity. U.S. military bases in Arab countries are insulting. We would react much the same way if Arab military bases were to be built in Kansas and Georgia. How, then, can enlarging our military presence and dropping bombs on Muslim populations overcome extremists. A few more anti-terrorism strategists need to read Three Cups of Tea if we ever hope to turn the tide.
This is a struggle between extremist elements and moderates — regardless of theology, geography, or ethnicity. When we resort to the tactics of the extremists, we are no better, and we will lose. I fear we have come close. This crisis calls for a new and different strategy, one based on building up vulnerable societies and winning allies rather than killing perceived potential adversaries and destroying their homes and their societies.
Fortunately top U.S. policy makers seem to be learning these lessons, we are behaving better, but much of the damage has been done. With support from philanthropist Paul Stevers, the Alliance for PeaceBuilding is developing a new “Peace through Moderation” project to support citizen-based initiatives to help overcome extremist movements that lead to violence. I am convinced we can do more to reduce extremism and the threat of terrorism with a few million dollars than our military can with tens of billions.
Chic has dedicated his life to conflict resolution. He writes:
Throughout history, ethnic groups, religious sects, tribes and nation states have wantonly resorted to violence — open warfare — to assert and impose their will. When my children study world history they study the story of war and few people anywhere believe it will ever change. But that is what we are doing. We are changing it. It is too early to prove we can change the course of history, but that is our aspiration and there is reason to believe we are on the right path.
He sees the importance of the individual on the world stage:
The concept of citizen diplomacy emerged in the United States following World War II with tremendously important exchange programs like Sister Cities, AFS, the Experiment in International Living, and of course the marvelous Fulbright Scholars Program. Rotary International and other civic organizations add a vital dimension to the mix. My favorite, the Peace Corps, was created in the Cold War climate to build friendships and mutual understanding in remote parts of the world. All of this helped tear down walls and build bridges as a foundation for a more peaceful world.
CARE, Catholic Relief Services, WorldVision, Mercy Corps, and many other relief and development agencies have incorporated conflict resolution into their services because social and economic development initiatives depend on it. This is new.
As I prepare to move my life to Haiti, to participate in the construction of a New Haiti and use the Internet to continue my work with orphans around the world, I find great strength in Chic’s words:
Private citizens are leading the way, but the U.N. and many national governments are also part of the cause. Together, we are designing and building a pathway to peace. I wish it could be a super highway, but a walking path will do for now. It’s up to you to complete the task. It can happen in your lifetime. You will make it happen.
I am thankful for the quiet determination that thought leader and global citizen Charles “Chic” Dambach has brought to our world. Literally tens of thousands of lives have been saved around the globe through his brave efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed Chic’s book Exhaust the Limits and highly recommend it. The story of one man who makes a difference inspires us all.
Buy the brilliant book by Charles F. ‘Chic’ Dambach, “Exhaust the Limits” — the life and times of a global peacemaker — on-line here.
See Also by Jim Luce:
Meet the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s Thought Leader Chic Dambach
Jim Luce on Africa
Jim Luce on Extremism
Jim Luce on Haiti
Jim Luce on Peace & Conflict Resolution
Jim Luce on Social Responsibility
The Luce Index on Thought Leaders and Global Leaders
99 – Peter Yarrow
98 – Bill Clinton
98 – Martin Luther King
98 – Paul Stevers
96 – Albert Camus
96 – Jimmy Carter
92 – Charles “Chic” Dambach
91 – George McGovern

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Daddys Girl Versus Sarahs Boy Alaskans Who Are Alaska Patriots Should Vote for Lisa Alaskans Who Are National Patriots Should Vote Her Down

As every aging mousekeeter knows, on the Mickey Mouse Club one day a week was Anything Can Happen Day. Insofar as the contest between Joe Miller, Lisa Murkowski, and Scott McAdams for election to the United States Senate is concerned, this Tuesday is Anything Can Happen Day in Alaska. Because two days out the outcome of the election remains a muddle.
On August 24th Tea Party avatar Joe Miller beat Lisa Murkowski, Alaska’s incumbent Republican Senator, fair and square in the Republican primary election. Four days before the election Lisa publicly promised the members of the Soldotna and Kenai Chambers of Commerce that she would abide by that result. But when she lost she said her word was no good and on September 17th announced that she would compete in the general election as a write-in candidate.
Since then, if Joe Miller had had the discipline to stay on message – the message being “Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi don’t care that the country is bankrupt, but I do” – today he would be polling way over 40 percent and he would have the general election in the bag no matter what Lisa did. But Joe could not stay on message.
By September Joe was spending political capital trying to convince voters that he did not want to destroy social security, even though he previously had said that he wanted to “privatize” it, which is the same thing. The issue has lingered, and Joe has had to put his father, Rex, on the radio to vouch that Rex knows his boy and the boy isn’t going to pull the social security safety net out from under mom and dad. Then it turned out that when he had owned farm land in Kansas, Joe had been on the dole for $7,000 worth of farm subsides and in Alaska his children had been on the dole for government-funded health care, both the kind of programs that Joe has vowed to put a stop to when he becomes a Senator. And then it turned out that when he had been a magistrate Joe had hired and laid off and hired and laid off his wife from a job as his assistant in order to facilitate her ability to collect unemployment insurance, a program Joe has said that Congress has no constitutional authority to help the states fund.
Even with all that, on September 21st Rasmussen Reports had Joe polling at 42 percent, high enough to have easily won the election.
But like waves crashing onto the beach, week after week the blunders – all self-inflicted – continued.
While on a trip to Washington, D.C., to rattle his fund-raising cup along K Street, Joe posted a tweet (which he later blamed on a campaign volunteer) in which he told his fans that as long as he was in town he was going to go house-hunting and pick out some furniture for his new office. Then he volunteered that he thought it would be a terrific idea to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which requires Senators to be selected in elections like the one in which he is participating rather than by state legislatures.
All that took its toll and by mid-October Joe was polling at 35 percent, rather than at the 42 percent he had been.
Then stupidity morphed into self-immolation.
On October 17 after a “Meet Joe and Ask Him a Question” event at an Anchorage junior high school two off-duty soldiers from Fort Richardson who were members of the security team that Joe travels with “arrested” and then handcuffed Tony Hopfinger, the editor of Alaska Dispatch, Alaska’s version of Huffington Post, because Tony had the temerity to ask Joe why he had left his job as a part time attorney for the Fairbanks Northstar Borough. Joe later claimed that Tony had been trespassing at a private event and had refused to leave when asked in order to get himself arrested as a “publicity stunt;” all of which, since I was there, I can vouch was prevaricating nonsense.
Tony Hopfinger’s hand-cuffing became a national news story that got Tony in the New York Times and required Joe to go on CNN to try to spin the incident away.
Then after having spent two months keeping speculation about the circumstances about which Tony Hopfinger had asked him an ongoing story in the Alaska news cycle, a week before the election Joe lost the lawsuit that Alaska Dispatch and other Alaska news organizations had filed to obtain Joe’s employment records from the Fairbanks North Star Borough. When the records were released they revealed that in 2008 when his co-workers were at lunch Joe used their computers for partisan political purposes in order to cheat on a poll the Alaska Republican Party was conducting, and then, when he got caught, he lied to his supervisor about having done so.
My feel for it around Anchorage is that the release of the employment records, which if Joe had voluntarily released them two months ago now would be stale news, has done Joe serious damage. The Cadet Honor Code to which Joe was subject when he attended West Point is pretty simple. What it says is: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” If Joe had done at West Point what he did at the North Star Borough he would have been expelled. But Joe doesn’t think that the same mendacious behavior disqualifies him from serving in the United States Senate? That’s enough to make even a conservative Republican wonder.
Only the election results can tell us how many conservative Republicans who were going to vote for Joe Miller, not because they are right-of-wing-nut Tea Baggers, but because Joe was their party’s fairly elected nominee, now are taking a second look at Joe and don’t like what they see. But what can be said for certain is that Joe’s failure to stay on message – a dereliction for which he has no one but himself to blame – has provided Lisa Murkowski an opportunity to win the general election that she did not have at the time she announced her write-in candidacy.
The two most recent and most credible polls, one by Mark Hellenthal the other by David Dittman, both journeyman Alaska pollsters, show that Joe Miller is now polling at 29.1 percent and 27 percent respectively. My hunch is that those numbers are low because they are 4 to 5 percentage points below Joe’s hard core right-of-Republican base, which Mark Hellenthal and David Dittman both underestimated in the polling they conducted prior to the Republican primary election.
To see how Joe’s base is feeling, last Thursday night I attended a Joe Miller pep rally at the Anchorage convention center that Janine Turner, a D list actress who fifteen years ago starred in the television series Northern Exposure hosted, and Sarah Palin headlined. It was an ice rain drizzling evening, so the weather suppressed the crowd. But the 300 to 400 American flag-waving, Sarah-worshiping attendees were there to back their boy. And when Sarah took the stage her infectious “Alaska don’t you love your freedom!” bonhomie and her take-no-prisoners trashing of Lisa Murkowski without mentioning her by name had the crowd stomping and clapping. So if over the next two days Sarah continues to help Joe reinvigorate his (and her) base, Joe still has a chance to finish with 34 or 35 percent of the vote. Which is enough to win.
Which brings me to the undecided Democratic and center-left independent voters who, if David Dittman’s numbers are correct, may decide the election.
According to Dittman, at present the vote spread is: Joe Miller, 27 percent; Lisa Murkowski, 37 percent, Scott McAdams, 23 percent, undecided voters 13 percent.
Who are the undecided voters?
Some are conservative Republicans and center-right independents who Joe Miller has persuaded to take a second look at Joe Miller. If on Tuesday they decide that they can’t vote for Joe, they’ve never liked Lisa, and they are not going to vote for Scott McAdams, the Democratic candidate who has spent the past two months positioning himself as the Hubert Humphrey of the Northland, which doesn’t wash with voters who are not members of the activist Democratic base, and which is why most of the polls have put McAdams exactly where David Dittman now has him.
Many other undecided voters are Democrats and center-left independents who (like me) are caught between two rotten choices. Vote for Scott McAdams who can’t win. Or vote for Lisa Murkowski in order to try to save Alaska from Joe Miller, knowing when we do so that we are helping to send back into the Senate Republican caucus a woman who, because Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Minority Leader, told her to, voted against the confirmations of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as Justices of the United States Supreme Court, and, because Mitch McConnell told her to, joined almost every Republican filibuster of almost every legislative initiative that Barack Obama sent to Congress during the first two years of his presidency.
After giving that “I’m damned if I do, I’m damned if don’t” conundrum considerable thought, the way I come out on it is that undecided Democratic and center-left independent voters have to decide whether they are Alaska patriots or national patriots.
For an Alaska patriot the decision is easy. He or she should vote for Lisa Murkowski. Because an Alaska patriot would be a dumbbell to give up the seat on the Senate Committee on Appropriations that Alaska has held since 1973 and the seat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that Alaska has held since statehood (when it was called the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs). Lisa holds both seats, and if she is reelected she will continue to hold them.
But if an undecided Democratic or center-left independent voter is a national patriot, then that voter should vote for Scott McAdams, knowing when he or she does so that casting that vote may help elect Joe Miller. Because having Joe Miller in the Senate is a better result for the nation than reelecting the same old Lisa.
The 2010 presidential election begins on Wednesday. Last week Mitch McConnell told the National Journal that over the next two years “the single most important thing [I and the other members of the Senate Republican caucus] want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Not do what’s right for the nation. Do what they can to ensure that the President of the United States fails.
I have decided that I am a national patriot. So if that is Lisa’s agenda, then I am voting for Scott McAdams. Because having Joe Miller wearing a dunce cap on his head banging around the Senate with Jims DeMint and Inhofe and Tom Coburn (and potentially with Sharon Angle) is a better result for Barack Obama and the nation than reelecting Lisa who, with her veneer of moderation and seemingly thoughtful sensibility, will cast the same votes of national (as opposed to Alaska) importance that Joe Miller will cast.
So if Lisa wants my vote, there is only one way she is going to get it. And that is if she convinces me that from here on out her tenure in the Senate is going to be different than it has been for the past eight years.
Unfortunately, in her Why Alaskans Should Vote for Me essay that the Anchorage Daily News published this morning Lisa used her column inches to pitch her candidacy to Alaska patriots, rather than to national patriots to whom, in passing, she simply self-servingly vouched that she is “not afraid to reach across the aisle when it’s in the best interest of our state.” You can read it for yourself at
What that signals to me is that Lisa still doesn’t get it, even though for the past two weeks, including again just yesterday morning, I and others have repeatedly explained to Lisa’s campaign managers what her problem is with undecided Democratic and center-left independent voters who consider themselves national, as opposed to Alaska, patriots and who are willing to consider voting for Lisa if she will give them a reason to do so. Because the question is not whether Lisa now is prepared “to reach across the aisle when it’s in the best interest of our state,” it’s whether Lisa now is prepared to reach across the aisle when it’s in the best interest of our nation.
So Lisa blew it in the Anchorage Daily News. And she now has less than two days left to convince undecided Democratic and center-left independent voters who are national patriots that if we help send her back to the Senate, henceforth there will be a new Lisa who, while she may rejoin the Senate Republican caucus, will stop voting however Mitch McConnell tells her to.
Speaking only for myself, two days out is way too late in the game simply for rhetorical assurance. If Lisa wants my vote I need a proof of life. To that end, a reasonable first step in the proper direction would be for Lisa to publicly announce that, however the election turns out, when she returns to the Senate for the lame duck session, she will break with Mitch McConnell and give Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic Majority Leader, the sixtieth vote he needs, and which Lisa refused to give him in September, to end the Republican filibuster against the Disclosure Act, whose enactment will moderate Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the decision of the Roberts United States Supreme Court that has allowed multinational corporations and crank billionaires like the Koch brothers to buy the 2010 congressional elections without disclosing to the Federal Election Commission (and the public) that they are doing so.
I have no expectation that Lisa will provide that proof of life. So my guess is that on Tuesday I will vote for Scott McAdams. Joe Miller winning will be a disaster for Alaska. But for Barack Obama and the nation, Joe’s arrival in the Senate will be a gift from the benevolent god in which I do not believe. So I will be happy to have helped out.

Americas Anger at the Great Financial Bailout and the Press Continuing Inability To Understand Why

Just last week two of America’s leading newspapers, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal presented opinion pieces discussing why Americans remain bitter about the federal bailouts.
The WSJ’s contributor Matthew Winkler’s “Time for Bailout Transparency” 10.28.08 lamented that the public outrsage is centered on the governments lack of transparency given the government’s refusal to date to disclose all facts attendent to the bail out. Information such as how public funds were disbursed, who made the decisions, how it was allocated, which firms borrowed from the Federal Reserve and accessed the Federal Reserve discount window. All interesting, well and good. And could even be embarrassing to the likes of J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo who are suing to have recent rulings mandating transparency reversed.
Just a few days before Ross Douthat expounded in the New York Times with “The Great Bailout Backlash” 10.25.10, declaring “Nothing this election season, no program or party or politician is less popular than the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008 (TARP).” He then went on to quote one Matthew Yglesias of the Center of American Progress, that the Wall Street rescue package is “one of the most unfairly maligned policy initiatives of all all time.” Douthat then continues to put us at further ease, stating “As it stands the government may actually end up turning a modest profit on the money injected into Wall Street’s failing banks.”
There is much in each Op-ed piece about necessity of TARP, without which the nation would have slid into depression and far greater unemployment. And that is understood by most Americans. What they can’t abide was the patent unfairness of it all. The financial engineers that very nearly sank the ship of state were permitted to reward themselves munificently while the public bailout brigade that did the bailing were left holding their rusted buckets, and even then, if they didn’t bow humbly and comply to the financial engineers’ admonitions, even those rusty buckets along with their homes were taken from them. This while the financial engineers could take shore leave from their saved ship and tear up the town.
What galls most Americans is the manner in which Wall Street rewarded itself after it was the public that took the risk of bailing them out. While millions of Americans were losing their homes and their jobs Wall Street was setting aside humongous bonus pools such as Goldman Sachs’s $23 billion in 2009. Earlier this month we learned that Wall Street would achieve a record in 2010, setting aside some $144 billion as compensation (“Wall Street Pay: A Record $144 Billion”, WSJ 10.11.10).
Had the companies been permitted to fail. or had they been administered under some form of managed bankruptcy the bonuses of the “failed” companies would never have been paid out, or if they had, the bankruptcy courts would have recaptured them as ‘fraudulent transfers’. Only a vigilant government initiative to ‘clawback’ these dubious payouts would have abated the public’s feeling that they were being taken for a ride and gamed by well connected insiders.
Sadly, our government, probably under pressure from Wall Street lobbyistsand the meek of heart did practically nothing. Yes, they did delegate that stalwart fighter for all things fair and equitable, Ken Feinberg, as the Administration’s ‘Pay Czar’ who came away soft pedaling the outrageous bonuses as “ill-advised.” and left matters at that (please see”The Administration’s “PayCzar” Soft Pedaling Ban Bonuses as “Ill Advised.” What Is This Man Talking About?” 07.25.10).
The issue may have come to an end for the Administration but American’s are still seething. Yes, more openess will be helpful but that is not the core issue. The Wall Street perpetrators were rewarded while Main Street and the rest of America paid the price. Is this the new American Way??

For Some Shy Dogs Every Night Is As Scary As Halloween

This is how a stranger might appear to a dog who is being greeted inappropriately.
Have you ever known a dog who is great with people most of the time but who sometimes backs off and growls when strangers rush up to him on walks? This may seem odd at first, but once you see it from the dog’s perspective, it all makes sense.
The problem here is that people don’t know how to politely greet your dog. All would be well if humans heeded the two golden rules: never pet a dog without owner permission, and always let the dog make first contact. Instead, well-wishers approach too quickly, crowd too closely or loom over like a thunderstorm ready to dump its load. Under this pressure, some dogs will freeze or shrink, pretending it’s all a bad dream. Others take action, usually a reflex bark or low-level growl. A few successes here, and the message is loud and clear: when strangers approach, growl and bark to keep them away. Pretty soon, your sweet, slightly insecure dog has turned into a mass of defensive rumbling.
Many humans can’t understand why Fido would be afraid of them when they’re obviously making friendly human gestures. Turn the tables around and the picture becomes clear. Say you’re afraid of spiders and your friend shoves her pet tarantula in your face. If she simultaneously reassures you, “She’s a friendly tarantula. See her amicable expression?” or, “She can’t cause harm, she’s just an innocent baby,” would you suddenly feel safe?
No. In fact, the only way you could get used to the spider is if you greeted it at your own pace. That means it would have to be on a table or in some locations where you could control your distance from it. Then, when you were ready, you could gradually approach for a closer look and even to touch it. The same goes for dogs. Not all dogs are outgoing or used to meeting many types of strangers, especially if they were already shy when you adopted them or have received minimal supervised socialization with many types of humans. If you walk into a dog’s personal space or even stand and reach out to touch him he may feel threatened or be unsure of your intentions. If, however, you stand straight up or crouch down on one knee while looking slightly away, then he can approach and sniff you at his own rate. Once he’s relaxed, then you can calmly pet him under the chin and neck or on the side of the front half of his body. Offering treats that the shy Fido can choose to take out of your hand while you’re looking away from him will speed the friendship process and will teach Fido to associate unfamiliar people with good things.

Often people manage to get through the initial greeting with Fido okay, but then they make a quick or inappropriate move that scares him into snapping or running away. This is still similar to the situation with the giant spider. Even when you’re finally comfortable enough to examine and touch the tarantula, if it suddenly moves its mouthparts or waves one of its legs in the air, you might jump away out of fright. To you, these movements may conjure images of the tarantula leaping at you and taking a bite, whereas to the tarantula the movements may just be a subconscious change in position or even a signal that it’s your friend. So the trick to ensuring that you don’t frighten Fido even after the initial greeting is to gradually get him used to you in different positions. Avoid leaning over him, reaching over his head or grabbing and hugging him in a way that makes him feel confined. Instead move slowly and smoothly in order to give him a chance to back away. Most importantly, always be aware of the signals he’s sending you with his body language. Is he tense and fearful with eyes darting back and forth, or his gaze looking away while he’s cringing submissively? Or is he yawning, flickering his tongue in and out of the front of his mouth, or panting with his lips drawn way back to the sides? These are signs of conflict or anxiety. In all of these cases make sure you give him his space.
If his pupils are hugely dilated or constricted and he’s suddenly stiff and completely motionless or giving you a hard stare, it’s a little late because he’s probably about to bite. But if you still have time, you can calmly avert your gaze and back away out of reach.
The body language you’d like to see when greeting a dog is one that says this whole business is ho-hum. The dog should remain relaxed, and his gaze should be steady and soft. His tail should either wag or hang loosely down. If humans would let dogs approach them at their own pace and even make treats magically appear on the ground around them without pressuring the dog to allow being petted, they would experience many good dog greetings and help Fido experience good greetings, too.
For more information on dog body language, fear, and how to greet correctly while making the pet more comfortable, read and see the photos and video clips in chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the free Low Stress Handling and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats (Abridged Online Version); read the article “Seven Tips for Preventing Dog Bites in Animal Care Professionals and Dog Lovers “; and watch the video “Why Dogs Bite.”
This is a revised excerpt from “How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves” by Sophia Yin ( 2004, 2010 TFH Publications).

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A Home for Maya Angelou in Harlem

I remember when I first understood the power of Maya Angelou. She had come to speak at Florida State University, where I was in graduate school. I walked out of the English department (where she hadn’t generated much interest) and my jaw dropped to see the line of people winding across campus — and I mean all the way across campus — to get a chance to hear Angelou speak.
That moment sums up Maya Angelou for me. She’s a hugely popular poet of the people at a time when poetry is not hugely popular, and, though she teaches, she is not a poet of academia (where most poetry resides these days). She is very proudly who she is. Critics who accuse her of writing “Hallmark card” poetry are missing the point: Angelou has no desire to be a T. S. Eliot. Besides, it’s foolish to accuse someone of writing “Hallmark card” poetry when she is actually writing poetry for Hallmark cards.
She seems to be addressing her critics directly in this excerpt from her poem, “Still I Rise”:
In a 1965 letter that Malcolm X wrote to Angelou, he seemed to hit on her philosophy of writing: “Your analysis of our peoples [sic] tendency to talk over the head of the masses in a language that is too far above and beyond them is certainly true. You can communicate because you have plenty of [soul] and you always keep your feet firmly rooted on the ground[.]”
Angelou has certainly done that. And she also speaks about poetry in a way that everyone can understand. In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, she described a writer’s mission:
It is suitable, then, that the iconic poet’s work will be archived at a public place, and not in a university somewhere. The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem purchased the Angelou archive this past week after two years of negotiations. The collection includes 343 boxes, and the Library estimates that it could take up to two years to organize all of the material.
We know that the collection includes drafts that show how Angelou fought through the editing process in writing her celebrated autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and the 1993 inaugural poem she wrote for Bill Clinton entitled “On the Pulse of the Morning.”
In addition to memorializing her literary career, the archive could shed some light on the great African-American leaders of the 20th century, as it includes letters addressed to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and some correspondence. Speaking of the two leaders, Angelou told the AP:
Both those men were good men, strong and courageous, but they were men. I hope that in my papers people will find evidence that some of the people they would like to sit on pedestals were just like them, and so each of us has the possibility of being effective in changing our world, even if it’s just the world around us.
Angelou has certainly done her world a great service. If you’re interested, you can read more of her poems here.