Archive for September 2011

StraussKahn Speed Bumps on the Palace Road

In my last post, I said that if Dominique Strauss-Kahn decides to throw his hat (or whatever else he may be in the mood to toss) into the “I-wanna-be-president” ring, no one could stop him. While I’m not changing that rant (nobody respects a rant-changer!), DSK nonetheless will have to (successfully) negotiate several speed bumps on the road to the presidential palace.
Bump One: His chilly reception from Martine Aubry, the current leader of his political party, the Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste here in the land of adjective-after-the-noun), and the Party’s chosen one for the top job.
Bump Two: Every other political opponent. Particularly Marine Le Pen, the National Front candidate, who will doubtless make much political hay of the apparent fact that all the male members of the Socialist tribe knew of behind-closed-doors escapades of “the great seducer” and chose to keep their little lips sealed.
Bump Three: The outraged French. That portion of, as they say here, “le grand public” who think that Strauss-Kahn deserved to stay in Rikers Island, and that, accordingly, his occupation of the lyse Palace would be a large and unsightly pimple on the international face of France.
Bump Four: The outraged politicians who are not running for office Read more

Whos Got the Helicopters

Review of In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir. By Dick Cheney with Liz Cheney. Threshold Editions. 565 pp Read more

Why Hillary Clinton Must Run

Dear Secretary Clinton…
It’s time for you to announce that you’ll be running against Barack Obama in next year’s Democratic presidential primaries. Your party and your country need you now more than ever.
Yes, we all know how rare it is to take on a sitting president from your own party. But this is no normal election year and the circumstances are dire and the stakes too high. By next November if there isn’t significant improvement in the economy and appreciably reduced unemployment, President Obama will likely lose to a Republican Read more

HuffPost Review Im Glad My Mother is Alive

Based on a true story, I’m Glad My Mother is Alive is a film about unrequited mother-love gone haywire – and the price of bad parenting.
It lives and breathes in the performances of Vincent Rottiers and Maxime Renard, both of whom play Thomas Jouvet, as a young man and as an adolescent. Director Claude Miller moves back and forth in time, telling Thomas’ story, giving us pieces of the puzzle of his life, as he tries – seemingly fruitlessly – to gain his mother’s attention and affection.
His mother, Julie (Sophie Cattani), is a waitress who appears both unsuited to parenthood and uninterested in it. She lives in a single room with Thomas and his younger brother Patrick – who are taken away from her when Thomas is 4 and Patrick is 2, because she has left them alone while she goes to work. Eventually, she gives them up for adoption, figuring out that she’s simply not equipped to take care of two kids.
They are adopted by a loving couple, Yves and Annie Jouvet Read more

Foraging for Morels

As a Minnesotan, Morels are prized. Having been defeated this year in my home state and Iowa, left with only 1 mushroom to share between many, Washington was a chance for revenge. We went out with author and forager Langdon Cook — into the Eastern Cascades, many miles up the mountains and to a “burn zone.” These much coveted spots are the birthing place of mountains of morels.
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A Family A Nation

In the decade since 9/11, the country has in many ways reacted the way a single family would have if their beloved home had been attacked and destroyed and members of their family brutally killed, the family’s nerves and fortunes stretched to never-before-considered breaking points.
And each day since had been a struggle to compensate for the horrendous loss of psychological and physical security, a painful attempt to cope in their forever altered world.
The combination of post traumatic stress and subsequent mourning, along with the efforts to rebuild all that was physically and emotionally lost, had left the family deeply disturbed, its waking days desperate and prone to rage, its sleep drenched with horrific images both real and imagined, and both states defined by a deep, relentless ache for what was.
And impacted by that event, the family’s awareness is now enhanced by the certainty that their future — like their past — is similarly vulnerable and so are therefore absolutely justified in investing much of their time and attention toward preventing any future assault.
The family’s righteous anger and fear becomes the foundation of its discourse with other equally angry and fearful families; distrust and wariness becomes the basis of relationships with strangers and is even inserted into previously established relationships with friends. The attitudes they had once enjoyed, ones in which wisdom, mercy and trust were mainstays, had now become quaint relics and summarily discarded.
And since that day it seemed so many of the family’s actions have been solely defined by what it lost a decade ago with little attempt made to move the family away from the darkness that permeates its behavior, the family having become almost comfortable in this perpetual state of discomfort Read more

Jobs Debate Months Too Late

It’s about time.
Throughout the long health care debate and the nerve-wracking confrontation over the debt ceiling, the voters’ concern has never wavered. It was always focused on one issue — jobs. Now, finally, Washington is beginning to pay attention.
Politicians should have learned an important rule of politics by now: if the economy is bad, nothing else matters Read more

With Mental Health Drugs Greater Risk Means More Marketing

“Television has done much for psychiatry,” Alfred Hitchcock remarked, “by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.” Hitch did not live long enough to become acquainted with the dizzying number of commercials for psychiatric medications that promise relief from suffering, performance enhancement and healthy outcomes. These ads always conclude with a plea to “ask your doctor about adding drug X to your regimen” followed by a breakneck telling of side effects and warnings called the “Fair Balance”, required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But just how fair and balanced is this type of advertising?
From 1962 to 1997, drug advertising was restricted to print advertisements Read more

The Power of a Bilingual Brain

I’ve been an English language learner since I was 6-years-old, first in my native Argentina and then as a young adult in the United States. I studied the language in an academic environment, thus my almost perfect fluency. “Almost” being the operative word here.
A few years ago when I began my career as a writer and public speaker, I decided to publicly acknowledge that I am prepositionally challenged Read more

Labor day in NFL means a lot less labor

After 20 years around the business of professional football I am still not desensitized to the cold reality of Labor Day weekend every year. At a time where we celebrate labor in this country, the NFL’s labor force is drastically reduced as teams pare their rosters for the opening of the season. Prior to this weekend, there were approximately 2800 players in the NFL; now there are approximately 1900, as a third of the workforce has been scrubbed.
The truth is that most teams know the vast majority of the final roster before training camp even starts. Sure, there are a few players that turn heads and force a change to the depth chart, but teams know who is going to be there and who is just serving as training camp fodder.
Usually the release of players is handled by one of the team’s pro personnel directors Read more

A Rick Perry Presidency Get Ready For 500 plusgallon Gasoline Part One

Governor Perry of Texas has loudly proclaimed that his ten-gallon hat is in the ring, running for President of the United States. What does that entail and should he succeed what can we expect? Certainly, a high degree of restraint to government spending in spite of the current economic downturn and a significant modification in myriad government programs. But most worrisome for those of us who don’t live in Texas and are not engaged in the oil business, is the prospect of staggeringly higher gasoline prices. By what right do I make this prediction? Then let me review the extraordinary impact other highly elected officials from Texas have had on the escalation, public perception, and formation of oil prices to the massive detriment of the nations economy, its national security, and to the detriment of its environmental well being Read more

Finding a Spiritual Teacher The Wisdom of Discernment

As the new school year begins, we are reminded that the most effective way to learn anything is to study with teachers and mentors who have already mastered it. Meditation and spiritual practice is certainly no exception. Over the years we have been fortunate to study closely with hundreds of the world’s most respected and realized teachers from a variety of wisdom traditions and mind-science research backgrounds. Their diversity of styles, depth of wisdom, kindness and examples of wisdom and compassion in action have profoundly inspired our lives, work, how we live, teach and conduct ourselves as teachers.
In training the mind through meditation and contemplative disciplines, a helpful analogy is to regard the mind-brain-body as a remarkable musical instrument that is capable of generating the sweetest of music, yet all too often is poorly maintained, left untuned and plagued with chaotic and noisy sounds Read more

Getting help into Somalia

This week, the United Nations announced that famine conditions are worsening in Somalia. The UN’s Somalia Food Security Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) said that acute malnutrition and the rate of crude mortality have surpassed famine thresholds in the country’s Bay region.
The country is at the epicentre of the current drought affecting East Africa; with four million affected by the crisis – and an estimated 3.7 million in need of immediate, life-saving help. The expectation is that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate over the coming months; and that lower-than-expected rains in some areas will mean the emergency will continue well into next year.
Getting aid into conflict-affected Somalia is difficult, but not impossible Read more

5 Tips for College Students With ADHD

I once was a college student with ADHD. I remember going to the library with my friends, and I would marvel at how they could sit and study for hours at a time. And they could sit still! No fidgeting, no bouncing of the leg. I would wonder to myself (as I meandered among the rows of books in the library), why can’t I do that?
College students face a slew of new challenges at the start of school: Where will they live? How will they get from point A to point B? How will they study? How will they cope with missing their family and friends back home? For the college student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), these concerns are magnified Read more

What the Buddha Might Say to Rick Perry

You may try but you can never run away from yourself. Swami Brahmananda
While we were living in England we had our own TV series and interviewed the British minister Jonathan Aitken, who had just been released from prison. He was an arrogant, egotistical man who, like many politicians in America, think they can get away with most everything. But Aitken became a changed man in prison — it softened him Read more

How Constraints Force Us to Be More Creative

If I asked you to draw a person from planet aardvark, would you be more creative if (a) I gave you no examples, or (b) gave you a few examples of what aardvarkians look like?
Research suggests you’d be more creative if I didn’t allow your mind to roam free. When people are given the task of imagining alien creatures, most use specific instances (e.g. their grandmother) as their starting point. This effect is especially pronounced when creatures are described as being intelligent and capable of space travel Read more

Float Like A Butterfly Sting Like Ali

President Obama could learn a lot from The Greatest!
Thousands of people — liberals, independents, and now even some conservatives — are calling for this president to get tough. Americans who understand the problems in this country want him to take off the gloves and fulfill his promises.
The president is giving yet another speech on Thursday, this one about jobs and job creation. Without even hearing the speech, or knowing what the jobs program will be, many Republicans are already saying… Hell no!
With such intransigence how can the president get any responsible policies passed?
Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer for the Washington Post, cited in his recent article, “On jobs, time to be bold,” the need for Obama’s jobs plan to be unrealistic and unreasonable; even unimaginable Read more

91111 Have We Become a Nation of Whiners

Forgive me for being underwhelmed by the president’s jobs speech this week, but I’ve got other things on my mind. It’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and I’m watching every TV special I can. Besides, if the prez has waited this long to focus on job creation, how important can it be?
For those Americans who lost a loved one ten years ago, 9/11 will forever be a day of unspeakable grief. For those Americans, like me, whose loved one survived the attacks, 9/11 is a date for profound gratitude.
But I worry that 9/11 has already become a triviality, consigned to one square on the calendar and the dustbin of history Read more

A Final Summer Reading Assignment for the President

Labor Day weekend means two things for a student in the United States: summer is over and school starts Tuesday. While this holiday weekend allows for one last trip to the beach and a final barbecue with loved ones, a sense of anxiety seems to loom in the air and in between each crack of that Maryland Blue Crab. Forgotten summer reading books have yet to be read and that coveted North Face backpack still needs to be purchased. Although this is the first fall in 18 years that I will not be hitting the books, I still possess that same anticipation I felt entering my first year of college when I realized that I had a lot to learn with only four years to do so Read more

Obama Poll Watch August 2011

Another Dismal August
For President Obama, August is indeed the cruelest month.
In 2009, the president ended his “honeymoon” period with the public, with the largest one-month drop in his job approval poll numbers he has ever experienced. In 2010, Obama hit an all-time low for monthly approval numbers. This would be followed, within the next two months, by his lowest daily approval average and his highest daily disapproval average.
This August, President Obama set new all-time lows in approval and all-time highs in disapproval, across the board.
August just isn’t a very good month for Obama. There’s simply no other way to state how dismal Obama’s poll numbers were last month Read more

Its Construction Stupid Its Home Building Stupid

In Thursday’s address to Congress, I want President Barack Obama to emphasize that fixing the home-building and construction industries is necessary to jump-start our lame economy. That is because, in my recollection, home building and construction have led us out of every recession since the 1960s, when I financed land acquisition, development and construction of tract homes.
“It’s the economy, stupid.” That was Senator Bill Clinton’s mantra in 1992, when he was vying for the presidency. His opponent, the incumbent George H. W Read more

The Root Cause of All Corporate Performance

Could it really be that simple?
That’s the second question I asked Tom FitzGerald, resident expert in corporate transformation. Tom’s one of those guys you’d love to hang out with, just for the opportunity to tap into his gray matter over a couple of Guinness Extra Stouts at a local pub.
His personal elevator speech is simple: “By education, a physicist. By birth, Irish. By instinct and experience, a business catalyst.”
His advice.. Read more

A Forest Firefighter on the Central Texas Fires

People in Texas often ask how I, an Austin native, came to work as a wildland firefighter on an elite, Type-1 Hotshot crew based on the Pike National Forest in Colorado. But when I lived in Colorado, no one asked me that question. That’s because historically, while there have rarely been large-scale forest fires in Texas, in the American West forest fires are an annual summertime occurrence. And so the profession of forest firefighting is as familiar in the West as “structural” firefighting is everywhere else.
But the current extreme drought plaguing Central Texas, which has brought a record number of 100-degree days this year, has created conditions that have allowed for unprecedented forest fires that have burned over 300 homes and continue to rage here in Central Texas Read more

Will Prop 8 End Californias Democracy

Foes of marriage equality will make a ludicrous argument before the California Supreme Court on Tuesday, Sept. 6. They will assert that anyone who has the money to put an initiative on the ballot in California and then sufficient funds to advertise its way to passage, whether relying on facts or fear, has special “standing” before the law.
This hearing is not about Prop 8, but about the role of special interests and the wealthy in our democracy Read more