Andrea Harner
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October 31, 2008

THE HIND LEGS AT 30 SECONDS ARE TO DIE FOR!!

* via BuzzFeed!

Brilliant theiving kitty!!!

* Click here for more!

Banksy show: If there's nothing else you do today, you MUST see this!!!

Great art show you will LOVE!*
TODAY IS LAST DAY!
Location: 89 7th Ave between W.4th & Bleecker

If you search online there are plenty of photos of the show but I encourage you NOT to do this. Just go. The surprise is worth it. This is what the front of the exhibit looks like. It takes place in a pet store:

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* It perfectly highlights my conflict: I feel such a kinship with animals yet I eat them.

October 28, 2008

Amy Sedaris on Vaginal Cleansing!!! She is awesomenation!!!!!

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October 24, 2008

NYU computer scientists use technology to identify “body signatures” of Obama, McCain, and Bush. The data shows McCain does not just vote with Bush 90% of the time, he also is closer to Bush when it comes to his “body signature”!

Very interesting:

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Cannibal cult mother who skinned son and made him eat his own flesh gets 9 years in jail.

ONLY 9 YEARS?????!!!!! WOULDN'T LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE BE A TAD MORE APPROPRIATE???!!!

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Chimp + White Tiger Cub = BFF. I'm crying.

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My paws are all over Huffington Post's new ANIMALS section!!! Thank you, thank you thank you!!!!

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October 23, 2008

Larry David's Waiting for Nov. 4th!...LOVE YOU LD!

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I can't take much more of this. Two weeks to go, and I'm at the end of my rope. I can't work. I can eat, but mostly standing up. I'm anxious all the time and taking it out on my ex-wife, which, ironically, I'm finding enjoyable. This is like waiting for the results of a biopsy. Actually, it's worse. Biopsies only take a few days, maybe a week at the most, and if the biopsy comes back positive, there's still a potential cure. With this, there's no cure. The result is final. Like death.

Five times a day I'll still say to someone, "I don't know what I'm going to do if McCain wins." Of course, the reality is I'm probably not going to do anything. What can I do? I'm not going to kill myself. If I didn't kill myself when I became impotent for two months in 1979, I'm certainly not going to do it if McCain and Palin are elected, even if it's by nefarious means. If Obama loses, it would be easier to live with it if it's due to racism rather than if it's stolen. If it's racism, I can say, "Okay, we lost, but at least it's a democracy. Sure, it's a democracy inhabited by a majority of disgusting, reprehensible turds, but at least it's a democracy." If he loses because it's stolen, that will be much worse. Call me crazy, but I'd rather live in a democratic racist country than a non-democratic non-racist one. (It's not exactly a Hobson's choice, but it's close, and I think Hobson would compliment me on how close I've actually come to giving him no choice. He'd love that!)

The one concession I've made to maintain some form of sanity is that I've taken to censoring my news, just like the old Soviet Union. The citizenry (me) only gets to read and listen to what I deem appropriate for its health and well-being. Sure, there are times when the system breaks down. Michele Bachmann got through my radar this week, right before bedtime. That's not supposed to happen. That was a lapse in security, and I've had to make some adjustments. The debates were particularly challenging for me to monitor. First I tried running in and out of the room so I would only hear my guy. This worked until I knocked over a tray of hors d'oeuvres. "Sit down or get out!" my host demanded. "Okay," I said, and took a seat, but I was more fidgety than a ten-year-old at temple. I just couldn't watch without saying anything, and my running commentary, which mostly consisted of "Shut up, you prick!" or "You're a fucking liar!!!" or "Go to hell, you cocksucker!" was way too distracting for the attendees, and finally I was asked to leave.

Assuming November 4th ever comes, my big decision won't be where I'll be watching the returns, but if I'll be watching. I believe I have big jinx potential and may have actually cost the Dems the last two elections. I know I've jinxed sporting events. When my teams are losing and I want them to make a comeback, all I have to do is leave the room. Works every time. So if I do watch, I'll do it alone. I can't subject other people to me in my current condition. I just don't like what I've turned into -- and frankly I wasn't that crazy about me even before the turn. This election is having the same effect on me as marijuana. All of my worst qualities have been exacerbated. I'm paranoid, obsessive, nervous, and totally mental. It's one long, intense, bad trip. I need to come down. Soon.

October 22, 2008

Hilarious Old School Finnish Disco Lesson!

* via BuzzFeed!

REPUBLICANS DISGUSTED: PALIN'S $150,000 SHOPPING SPREE WITH CAMPAIGN MONEY!!!!

OMG. You have to check out the front page of Huff Post right now for the slide show they've created of Palin's suits thanks to campaign and taxpayer money. Or it's at the bottom of this page.

I've attached my faves: 1) One of her many daughters carrying her Louis Vuitton bag - gosh, Palin's just a regular, middle-class, small-town girl with a real Louis Vuitton bag, and 2) Looking like her former jacked up self in the supermarket, prior to her vp nomination and windfall.

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October 20, 2008

I am in love with this poor horse that got her head stuck in a tree. Mischief is chief!

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October 19, 2008

Powell noted that McCain has been a good friend for 25 years, but expressed disappointment in the "over the top" negative tone of the GOP campaign, as well as in McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the vice presidential nominee.

I'VE NEVER FELT MORE LOVE FOR COLIN POWELL THAN I DO RIGHT NOW!!!

Click HERE for videos!

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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell announced Sunday that he will break with his party and vote for Sen. Barack Obama. "He has both style and substance. I think he is a transformational figure," Powell said on NBC's Meet the Press.

"I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities -- and you have to take that into account -- as well as his substance -- he has both style and substance," Powell said. "He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."

Powell noted that McCain has been a good friend for 25 years, but expressed disappointment in the "over the top" negative tone of the GOP campaign, as well as in McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the vice presidential nominee.

"Now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president," Powell said. "And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

He also harshly criticized some of McCain's campaign tactics, such as the robocall campaign linking Obama to former 1960s radical Bill Ayers.

"Mr. McCain says that he's a washed up terrorist, but then why do we keep talking about him? And why do we have the robocalls going on around the country trying to suggest that because of this very, very limited relationship that Senator Obama has had with Mr. Ayers, somehow Mr. Obama is tainted. What they're trying to connect him to is some kind of terrorist feelings. And I think that's inappropriate. Now, I understand what politics is all about, I know how you can go after one another and that's good. But I think this goes too far, and I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for."

Powell also spoke passionately against the insinuations by some Republicans that Obama is a Muslim.

"Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian," he said. "But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, 'He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.' This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

Following the interview, Powell told reporters outside NBC's Washington studio that McCain "is essentially going to execute the Republican agenda, the orthodoxy of the Republican agenda with a new face and a maverick approach to it, and he'd be quite good at it, but I think we need more than that. I think we need a generational change. I think Senator Obama has captured the feelings of the young people of America and is reaching out in a more diverse, inclusive way across our society."

Powell charged that the Republican focus on William Ayers and Obama's religious affiliations were damaging America's image abroad.

"Those kinds of images going out on al Jazeera are killing us around the world," he said. "And we have got to say to the world, it doesn't make any difference who you are or what you are, if you're an American you're an American. And this business of, for example a congresswoman from Minnesota going around saying let's examine all congressmen to see who is pro America or not pro America, we have got to stop this kind of non-sense and pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and diversity. That really was driving me."

Powell continued, defending Obama against McCain's latest charge that the Democrat's policies are quasi-socialist:

We can't judge our people and hold our elections on that kind of basis. Yes, that kind of negativity troubled me. And the constant shifting of the argument, I was troubled a couple of weeks ago when in the middle of the crisis the campaign said 'we're going to go negative,' and they announced it. 'We're going to go negative and attack his character through Bill Ayers.' Now I guess the message this week is we're going to call him a socialist. Mr. Obama is now a socialist, because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have. Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who pay them, in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there's nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more or who should be paying les, and for us to say that makes you a socialist is an unfortunate characterization that I don't think is accurate.

Asked whether he still considers himself a Republican, Powell responded, "Yes."

Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama called Powell to thank him for his endorsement and express how honored he was to have it.

Obama "said he looked forward to taking advantage of his advice in the next two weeks and hopefully over the next four years," Gibbs said in an email to the traveling press. "They talked for ten minutes."

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, John McCain said he respectfully disagreed with Powell's decision, but "this doesn't come as a surprise."

In fact, aside from their shared history as Republican military men, Powell's endorsement is significant due to the fact that McCain has repeatedly singled him out for lavish praise. In a July New York Times interview, McCain described the former secretary of state and Joint Chiefs chairman as "a man who I admire as much as any man in the world, person in the world" when answering a question in which Powell was not brought up. Meanwhile, near the same time as that interview, McCain was reportedly considering Powell as a potential running mate.

McCain's high opinion of Powell as one of the "most credible, most respected" men in America is not merely an election-year spasm, either. When asked in 2001 if he would have chosen Powell for a Cabinet position had he succeeded in his first presidential run, McCain said "oh, yes." During two December 2000 appearances on NBC Nightly News, McCain described himself as "exuberant" over Powell's selection as secretary of state, which he predicted would secure "a beneficial effect on the conduct of American foreign policy." McCain added in another TV appearance that President Bush was "blessed" to have Powell working for him. In 2003, when Powell faced criticism from Newt Gingrich over his plan to travel to Syria, it was McCain who rose to the secretary's defense on MSNBC's Hardball, when he said: "I think it's appropriate that Colin Powell is going there."

Even at the end of Powell's somewhat frustrating tenure in George W. Bush's inner circle of policy advisers, McCain praised his overall performance, saying: "When he took the helm at the State Department nearly four years ago, I was confident that Secretary Powell would lead with honor and distinction ... I have not been disappointed." And in a CBS interview during this year's primary race, McCain suggested that one of President Bush's chief failures "was not to listen more to our military leadership, including people like General Colin Powell."

The praise has not only run in one direction, as Powell described McCain the "toughest man I've ever met" last year. But in the end, what sounded like a compliment could have been the beginning of the end. During this summer's conflict between Russia and Georgia, Powell criticized McCain for being, in essence, too mindlessly tough. When asked by CNN's what McCain meant when he said "We are all Georgians now," Powell demurred. "One candidate said that, and I'll let the candidate explain it for himself."

When pressed for further opinion, Powell distanced himself from McCain's staunchly pro-Georgian line. "The fact of the matter is that you have to be very careful in a situation like this not just to leap to one side or the other until you take a good analysis of the whole situation," Powell said, tamping down the rush to herald the rise of a new Soviet threat.

"The Russian Federation is not going to become the Soviet Union again. That movie failed at the box office. But they do have interests. And we have to think carefully about their interests."

October 17, 2008

Shani Ankori was a beautiful bride!

I have been SO BAD about blogging photos. I apologize but school has kept me so busy!! This morning Jonah said the state of my blog makes him sad so I had to post at least one photo! Here's a teaser for so so much more to come when school calms down a bit: me and Shani at her and David Fenkel's awesome wedding!

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A Chinese zoo has given an orphaned monkey a guard dog after it kept getting bullied by other apes.

"Whenever the baby monkey gets bullied, [the dog] dashes up and drives the others away," said one zookeeper.

"And the baby monkey is also very smart. Each time he smells danger, he runs to jump on the dog's back and holds on tight."

* Thanks to a reader named Andrea for sending me this via NY Post: Wierd & True!

October 16, 2008

Spiteful McCain was an angry and deceptive old man last night!
Drunk pumpkins are funny!

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October 14, 2008

Best man ruins or awesomefies wedding??!!

* via BuzzFeed!

He is a law school graduate, but his admission to the Illinois bar was blocked in the 1970s after a psychiatric finding of “moderately severe character defect manifested by well-documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character.”

This personality defective guy who has proudly seeded vicious rumors about Obama makes my skin crawl and stomach hurl. Enjoy getting upset!

The Man Behind the Whispers About Obama
By JIM RUTENBERG
Published: October 12, 2008

The most persistent falsehood about Senator Barack Obama’s background first hit in 2004 just two weeks after the Democratic convention speech that helped set him on the path to his presidential candidacy: “Obama is a Muslim who has concealed his religion.”

That statement, contained in a press release, spun a complex tale about the ancestry of Mr. Obama, who is Christian.

The press release was picked up by a conservative Web site, FreeRepublic.com, and spread steadily as others elaborated on its claims over the years in e-mail messages, Web sites and books. It continues to drive other false rumors about Mr. Obama’s background.

Just last Friday, a woman told Senator John McCain at a town-hall-style meeting, “I have read about him,” and “he’s an Arab.” Mr. McCain corrected her.

Until this month, the man who is widely credited with starting the cyberwhisper campaign that still dogs Mr. Obama was a secondary character in news reports, with deep explorations of his background largely confined to liberal blogs.

But an appearance in a documentary-style program on the Fox News Channel watched by three million people last week thrust the man, Andy Martin, and his past into the foreground. The program allowed Mr. Martin to assert falsely and without challenge that Mr. Obama had once trained to overthrow the government.

An examination of legal documents and election filings, along with interviews with his acquaintances, revealed Mr. Martin, 62, to be a man with a history of scintillating if not always factual claims. He has left a trail of animosity — some of it provoked by anti-Jewish comments — among political leaders, lawyers and judges in three states over more than 30 years.

He is a law school graduate, but his admission to the Illinois bar was blocked in the 1970s after a psychiatric finding of “moderately severe character defect manifested by well-documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character.”

Though he is not a lawyer, Mr. Martin went on to become a prodigious filer of lawsuits, and he made unsuccessful attempts to win public office for both parties in three states, as well as for president at least twice, in 1988 and 2000. Based in Chicago, he now identifies himself as a writer who focuses on his anti-Obama Web site and press releases.

Mr. Martin, in a series of interviews, did not dispute his influence in Obama rumors.

“Everybody uses my research as a takeoff point,” Mr. Martin said, adding, however, that some take his writings “and exaggerate them to suit their own fantasies.”

As for his background, he said: “I’m a colorful person. There’s always somebody who has a legitimate cause in their mind to be angry with me.”

When questions were raised last week about Mr. Martin’s appearance and claims on “Hannity’s America” on Fox News, the program’s producer said Mr. Martin was clearly expressing his opinion and not necessarily fact.

It was not Mr. Martin's first turn on national television. The CBS News program "48 Hours" in 1993 devoted an hourlong program, "See You in Court; Civil War, Anthony Martin Clogs Legal System with Frivolous Lawsuits," to what it called his prolific filings. (Mr. Martin has also been known as Anthony Martin-Trigona.) He has filed so many lawsuits that a judge barred him from doing so in any federal court without preliminary approval.

He prepared to run as a Democrat for Congress in Connecticut, where paperwork for one of his campaign committees listed as one purpose “to exterminate Jew power.” He ran as a Republican for the Florida State Senate and the United States Senate in Illinois. When running for president in 1999, he aired a television advertisement in New Hampshire that accused George W. Bush of using cocaine.

In the 1990s, Mr. Martin was jailed in a case in Florida involving a physical altercation.

His newfound prominence, and the persistence of his line of political attack — updated regularly on his Web site and through press releases — amazes those from his past.

“Well, that’s just a bookend for me,” said Tom Slade, a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, whom Mr. Martin sued for refusing to support him. Mr. Slade said Mr. Martin was driven like “a run-over dog, but he’s fearless.”

Given Mr. Obama’s unusual background, which was the focus of his first book, it was perhaps bound to become fodder for some opposed to his candidacy.

Mr. Obama was raised mostly by his white mother, an atheist, and his grandparents, who were Protestant, in Hawaii. He hardly knew his father, a Kenyan from a Muslim family who variously considered himself atheist or agnostic, Mr. Obama wrote. For a few childhood years, Mr. Obama lived in Indonesia with a stepfather he described as loosely following a liberal Islam.

Theories about Mr. Obama’s background have taken on a life of their own. But independent analysts seeking the origins of the cyberspace attacks wind up at Mr. Martin’s first press release, posted on the Free Republic Web site in August 2004.

Its general outlines have turned up in a host of works that have expounded falsely on Mr. Obama’s heritage or supposed attempts to conceal it, including “Obama Nation,” the widely discredited best seller about Mr. Obama by Jerome R. Corsi. Mr. Corsi opens the book with a quote from Mr. Martin.

“What he’s generating gets picked up in other places,” said Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., who has investigated the e-mail campaign’s circulation and origins, “and it’s an example of how the Internet has given power to sources we would have never taken seriously at another point in time.”

Ms. Allen said Mr. Martin’s original work found amplification in 2006, when a man named Ted Sampley wrote an article painting Mr. Obama as a secret practitioner of Islam. Quoting liberally from Mr. Martin, the article circulated on the Internet, and its contents eventually found their way into various e-mail messages, particularly an added claim that Mr. Obama had attended “Jakarta’s Muslim Wahhabi schools. Wahhabism is the radical teaching that created the Muslim terrorists who are now waging jihad on the rest of the world.”

Mr. Obama for two years attended a Catholic school in Indonesia, where he was taught about the Bible, he wrote in “Dreams From My Father,” and for two years went to an Indonesian public school open to all religions, where he was taught about the Koran.

Mr. Sampley, coincidentally, is a Vietnam veteran and longtime opponent of Mr. McCain and Senator John Kerry, both of whom he accused of ignoring his claims that American prisoners were left behind in Vietnam. He previously portrayed Mr. McCain as a “Manchurian candidate.” Speaking of Mr. Martin’s influence on his Obama writings, Mr. Sampley said, “I keyed off of his work.”

Mr. Martin’s depictions of Mr. Obama as a secret Muslim have found resonance among some Jewish voters who have received e-mail messages containing various versions of his initial theory, often by new authors and with new twists.

In his original press release, Mr. Martin wrote that he was personally “a strong supporter of the Muslim community.” But, he wrote of Mr. Obama, “it may well be that his concealment is meant to endanger Israel.” He added, “His Muslim religion would obviously raise serious questions in many Jewish circles.”

Yet in various court papers, Mr. Martin had impugned Jews.

A motion he filed in a 1983 bankruptcy case called the judge “a crooked, slimy Jew who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race.”

In another motion, filed in 1983, Mr. Martin wrote, “I am able to understand how the Holocaust took place, and with every passing day feel less and less sorry that it did.”

In an interview, Mr. Martin denied some statements against Jews attributed to him in court papers, blaming malicious judges for inserting them.

But in his “48 Hours” interview in 1993, he affirmed a different anti-Semitic part of the affidavit that included the line about the Holocaust, saying, “The record speaks for itself.”

When asked Friday about an assertion in his court papers that “Jews, historically and in daily living, act through clans and in wolf pack syndrome,” he said, “That one sort of rings a bell.”

He said he was not anti-Semitic. “I was trying to show that everybody in the bankruptcy court was Jewish and I was not Jewish,” he said, “and I was being victimized by religious bias.”

In discussing the denial of his admission to the Illinois bar, Mr. Martin said the psychiatric exam listing him as having a “moderately severe personality defect” was spitefully written by an evaluator he had clashed with.

Mr. Martin, who says he is from a well-off banking and farming family, is clearly pleased with his newfound attention. But, he said, others have added to his work in “scary” ways.

“They Google ‘Islam’ and ‘Obama’ and my stuff comes up and they take that and kind of use that — like a Christmas tree, and they decorate it,” he said. For instance, he said, he did not necessarily ascribe to a widely circulated e-mail message from the Israeli right-wing activist Ruth Matar, which includes the false assertion, “If Obama were elected, he would be the first Arab-American president.”

He said he had at least come to “accept” Mr. Obama’s word that he had found Jesus Christ. His intent, he said, was only to educate.

October 10, 2008

McCain calls us "his fellow prisoners"

Tell me it wouldn't be scary as shit for this guy to be our president. As a commenter wrote, "grampa needs a nap, you guys".

* via BuzzFeed.

October 9, 2008

I want this pooch to give me a tongue bath

* via BuzzFeed!

Palin's Kind of Patriotism by Thomas Friedman

Palin's thinking is so dumb and dangerous...and depressing to think she's not alone.

Criticizing Sarah Palin is truly shooting fish in a barrel. But given the huge attention she is getting, you can’t just ignore what she has to say. And there was one thing she said in the debate with Joe Biden that really sticks in my craw. It was when she turned to Biden and declared: “You said recently that higher taxes or asking for higher taxes or paying higher taxes is patriotic. In the middle class of America, which is where Todd and I have been all of our lives, that’s not patriotic.”

What an awful statement. Palin defended the government’s $700 billion rescue plan. She defended the surge in Iraq, where her own son is now serving. She defended sending more troops to Afghanistan. And yet, at the same time, she declared that Americans who pay their fair share of taxes to support all those government-led endeavors should not be considered patriotic.

I only wish she had been asked: “Governor Palin, if paying taxes is not considered patriotic in your neighborhood, who is going to pay for the body armor that will protect your son in Iraq? Who is going to pay for the bailout you endorsed? If it isn’t from tax revenues, there are only two ways to pay for those big projects — printing more money or borrowing more money. Do you think borrowing money from China is more patriotic than raising it in taxes from Americans?” That is not putting America first. That is selling America first.

Sorry, I grew up in a very middle-class family in a very middle-class suburb of Minneapolis, and my parents taught me that paying taxes, while certainly no fun, was how we paid for the police and the Army, our public universities and local schools, scientific research and Medicare for the elderly. No one said it better than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

I can understand someone saying that the government has no business bailing out the financial system, but I can’t understand someone arguing that we should do that but not pay for it with taxes. I can understand someone saying we have no business in Iraq, but I can’t understand someone who advocates staying in Iraq until “victory” declaring that paying taxes to fund that is not patriotic.

How in the world can conservative commentators write with a straight face that this woman should be vice president of the United States? Do these people understand what serious trouble our country is in right now?

We are in the middle of an economic perfect storm, and we don’t know how much worse it’s going to get. People all over the world are hoarding cash, and no bank feels that it can fully trust anyone it is doing business with anywhere in the world. Did you notice that the government of Iceland just seized the country’s second-largest bank and today is begging Russia for a $5 billion loan to stave off “national bankruptcy.” What does that say? It tells you that financial globalization has gone so much farther and faster than regulatory institutions could govern it. Our crisis could bankrupt Iceland! Who knew?

And we have not yet even felt the full economic brunt here. I fear we may be at that moment just before the tsunami hits — when the birds take flight and the insects stop chirping because their acute senses can feel what is coming before humans can. At this moment, only good governance can save us. I am not sure that this crisis will end without every government in every major economy guaranteeing the creditworthiness of every financial institution it regulates. That may be the only way to get lending going again. Organizing something that big and complex will take some really smart governance and seasoned leadership.

Whether or not I agree with John McCain, he is of presidential timber. But putting the country in the position where a total novice like Sarah Palin could be asked to steer us through possibly the most serious economic crisis of our lives is flat out reckless. It is the opposite of conservative.

And please don’t tell me she will hire smart advisers. What happens when her two smartest advisers disagree?

And please also don’t tell me she is an “energy expert.” She is an energy expert exactly the same way the king of Saudi Arabia is an energy expert — by accident of residence. Palin happens to be governor of the Saudi Arabia of America — Alaska — and the only energy expertise she has is the same as the king of Saudi Arabia’s. It’s about how the windfall profits from the oil in their respective kingdoms should be divided between the oil companies and the people.

At least the king of Saudi Arabia, in advocating “drill baby drill,” is serving his country’s interests — by prolonging America’s dependence on oil. My problem with Palin is that she is also serving his country’s interests — by prolonging America’s dependence on oil. That’s not patriotic. Patriotic is offering a plan to build our economy — not by tax cuts or punching more holes in the ground, but by empowering more Americans to work in productive and innovative jobs. If Palin has that kind of a plan, I haven’t heard it.

* via NY Times.

October 6, 2008

Let's not forget McCain's wise words...

“Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”

I agree: the McCain plan would do for health care what deregulation has done for banking. And I’m terrified.

* Via Paul Krugman's column today.

Several recent nonpartisan studies estimate that under the McCain plan around 20 million Americans currently covered by their employers would lose their health insurance.

Health Care Destruction By Paul Krugman:

Sarah Palin ended her debate performance last Thursday with a slightly garbled quote from Ronald Reagan about how, if we aren’t vigilant, we’ll end up “telling our children and our children’s children” about the days when America was free. It was a revealing choice.

You see, when Reagan said this he wasn’t warning about Soviet aggression. He was warning against legislation that would guarantee health care for older Americans — the program now known as Medicare.

Conservative Republicans still hate Medicare, and would kill it if they could — in fact, they tried to gut it during the Clinton years (that’s what the 1995 shutdown of the government was all about). But so far they haven’t been able to pull that off.

So John McCain wants to destroy the health insurance of nonelderly Americans instead.

Most Americans under 65 currently get health insurance through their employers. That’s largely because the tax code favors such insurance: your employer’s contribution to insurance premiums isn’t considered taxable income, as long as the employer’s health plan follows certain rules. In particular, the same plan has to be available to all employees, regardless of the size of their paycheck or the state of their health.

This system does a fairly effective job of protecting those it reaches, but it leaves many Americans out in the cold. Workers whose employers don’t offer coverage are forced to seek individual health insurance, often in vain. For one thing, insurance companies offering “nongroup” coverage generally refuse to cover anyone with a pre-existing medical condition. And individual insurance is very expensive, because insurers spend large sums weeding out “high-risk” applicants — that is, anyone who seems likely to actually need the insurance.

So what should be done? Barack Obama offers incremental reform: regulation of insurers to prevent discrimination against the less healthy, subsidies to help lower-income families buy insurance, and public insurance plans that compete with the private sector. His plan falls short of universal coverage, but it would sharply reduce the number of uninsured.

Mr. McCain, on the other hand, wants to blow up the current system, by eliminating the tax break for employer-provided insurance. And he doesn’t offer a workable alternative.

Without the tax break, many employers would drop their current health plans. Several recent nonpartisan studies estimate that under the McCain plan around 20 million Americans currently covered by their employers would lose their health insurance.

As compensation, the McCain plan would give people a tax credit — $2,500 for an individual, $5,000 for a family — that could be used to buy health insurance in the individual market. At the same time, Mr. McCain would deregulate insurance, leaving insurance companies free to deny coverage to those with health problems — and his proposal for a “high-risk pool” for hard cases would provide little help.

So what would happen?

The good news, such as it is, is that more people would buy individual insurance. Indeed, the total number of uninsured Americans might decline marginally under the McCain plan — although many more Americans would be without insurance than under the Obama plan.

But the people gaining insurance would be those who need it least: relatively healthy Americans with high incomes. Why? Because insurance companies want to cover only healthy people, and even among the healthy only those able to pay a lot in addition to their tax credit would be able to afford coverage (remember, it’s a $5,000 credit, but the average family policy actually costs more than $12,000).

Meanwhile, the people losing insurance would be those who need it most: lower-income workers who wouldn’t be able to afford individual insurance even with the tax credit, and Americans with health problems whom insurance companies won’t cover.

And in the process of comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted, the McCain plan would also lead to a huge, expensive increase in bureaucracy: insurers selling individual health plans spend 29 percent of the premiums they receive on administration, largely because they employ so many people to screen applicants. This compares with costs of 12 percent for group plans and just 3 percent for Medicare.

In short, the McCain plan makes no sense at all, unless you have faith that the magic of the marketplace can solve all problems. And Mr. McCain does: a much-quoted article published under his name declares that “Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”

I agree: the McCain plan would do for health care what deregulation has done for banking. And I’m terrified.

October 2, 2008

I was channel surfing on Monday following the stock market’s nearly 800-point collapse, when a commentator on CNBC caught my attention.He was being asked to give advice to viewers as to what were the best positions to be in to ride out the market storm.
Without missing a beat, he answered: “Cash and fetal.”

I’m in both — because I know an unprecedented moment when I see one. I’ve been frightened for my country only a few times in my life: In 1962, when, even as a boy of 9, I followed the tension of the Cuban missile crisis; in 1963, with the assassination of J.F.K.; on Sept. 11, 2001; and on Monday, when the House Republicans brought down the bipartisan rescue package.

But this moment is the scariest of all for me because the previous three were all driven by real or potential attacks on the U.S. system by outsiders. This time, we are doing it to ourselves. This time, it’s our own failure to regulate our own financial system and to legislate the proper remedy that is doing us in.

I’ve always believed that America’s government was a unique political system — one designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots. I was wrong. No system can be smart enough to survive this level of incompetence and recklessness by the people charged to run it.

This is dangerous. We have House members, many of whom I suspect can’t balance their own checkbooks, rejecting a complex rescue package because some voters, whom I fear also don’t understand, swamped them with phone calls. I appreciate the popular anger against Wall Street, but you can’t deal with this crisis this way.

This is a credit crisis. It’s all about confidence. What you can’t see is how bank A will no longer lend to good company B or mortgage company C. Because no one is sure the other guy’s assets and collateral are worth anything, which is why the government needs to come in and put a floor under them. Otherwise, the system will be choked of credit, like a body being choked of oxygen and turning blue.

Well, you say, “I don’t own any stocks — let those greedy monsters on Wall Street suffer.” You may not own any stocks, but your pension fund owned some Lehman Brothers commercial paper and your regional bank held subprime mortgage bonds, which is why you were able refinance your house two years ago. And your local airport was insured by A.I.G., and your local municipality sold municipal bonds on Wall Street to finance your street’s new sewer system, and your local car company depended on the credit markets to finance your auto loan — and now that the credit market has dried up, Wachovia bank went bust and your neighbor lost her secretarial job there.

We’re all connected. As others have pointed out, you can’t save Main Street and punish Wall Street anymore than you can be in a rowboat with someone you hate and think that the leak in the bottom of the boat at his end is not going to sink you, too. The world really is flat. We’re all connected. “Decoupling” is pure fantasy.

I totally understand the resentment against Wall Street titans bringing home $60 million bonuses. But when the credit system is imperiled, as it is now, you have to focus on saving the system, even if it means bailing out people who don’t deserve it. Otherwise, you’re saying: I’m going to hold my breath until that Wall Street fat cat turns blue. But he’s not going to turn blue; you are, or we all are. We have to get this right.

My rabbi told this story at Rosh Hashana services on Tuesday: A frail 80-year-old mother is celebrating her birthday and her three sons each give her a present. Harry gives her a new house. Harvey gives her a new car and driver. And Bernie gives her a huge parrot that can recite the entire Torah. A week later, she calls her three sons together and says: “Harry, thanks for the nice house, but I only live in one room. Harvey, thanks for the nice car, but I can’t stand the driver. Bernie, thanks for giving your mother something she could really enjoy. That chicken was delicious.”

Message to Congress: Don’t get cute. Don’t give us something we don’t need. Don’t give us something designed to solve your political problems. Yes, Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke need to accept strict oversights and the taxpayer must be guaranteed a share in the upside profits from all rescued banks. But other than that, give them the capital and the flexibility to put out this fire.

I always said to myself: Our government is so broken that it can only work in response to a huge crisis. But now we’ve had a huge crisis, and the system still doesn’t seem to work. Our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, have gotten so out of practice of working together that even in the face of this system-threatening meltdown they could not agree on a rescue package, as if they lived on Mars and were just visiting us for the week, with no stake in the outcome.

The story cannot end here. If it does, assume the fetal position.

* Via Rescue the Rescue By Thomas Friedman.

Paul Newman taught me how to peel a cucumber...
My eating habits were so bad for many years that I didn’t actually know the intricacies of making a salad. So when the man who has made $250 million for charity with Newman’s Own dressings and sauces asked me to help him make a salad in 1986, while I was writing a profile of him for The Times Magazine, I mangled my cucumber so thoroughly that he snatched it away and showed me how to do it.

At a moment when America feels angry and betrayed, when our leaders have forfeited our trust and jeopardized our future, we lost an American icon who stood for traits that have been in short supply in the Bush administration: shrewdness, humility, decency, generosity, class.

When I asked W. in 1999 if he identified with any literary heroes, he said no, but he was drawn to Paul Newman’s defiance in “Cool Hand Luke.”

The Texan cast himself as an anti-hero and rebel. But as president, he knew how to strut only in photo-ops, not when actual calamities loomed or hit.

Newman was a rare liberal who loved the label; he made it onto Nixon’s enemies list for supporting Eugene McCarthy’s anti-Vietnam run. In 1997, I called him when he began writing a bit for The Nation (where he was an investor). He ranted about right-wingers “popping out of rat holes” but also faulted the Clintons.

“Everything is about what’s winnable, not about the morality of the issues,” he told me. In politics, as in racing cars, he said: “You can do anything if you are prepared to deal with the consequences.”

I was nervous the first time I met the star, because he’d been a teenage crush — along with William F. Buckley Jr. (I loved Buckley’s sesquipedalian dexterity — a lost art in the anti-intellectual conservative set of W. and Sarah Palin.)

We met at a restaurant on the Upper East Side, where he proceeded to interview me.

Newman: “What do you know about nuclear disarmament?”

Dowd: “Ummm.”

Newman: “How can you justify The Times’s editorial position on the moratorium?”

Dowd: “Ummm.”

He was deeply uncomfortable at getting adulation for playacting, acknowledging that “there’s something very corrupting about being an actor. It places a terrible premium on appearance.”

With a Butch Cassidy grin, he told me that he pictured his epitaph being: “Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown.”

He did not want to talk about his movies; he wanted to talk throw-weights. He liked Bach and Budweiser and playing goofy practical jokes. (Once, when we were driving, he began high-speed bumping the car in front of us, driven by his friend.) He was bored by fashion and embarrassed by women who brazenly flirted with him or asked him to take off his sunglasses to show his blue eyes.

Once, when he was handing out punch at a Westport charity event, a dowager asked him to stir her drink with his finger.

“I’d be glad to,” Newman replied, “but I just took it out of a cyanide bottle.”

He recalled how utterly flummoxed he was the time a stunning call girl approached him on Fifth Avenue and offered to dispense with her fee.

“You want to send her off with something classy and stylish, the way Cary Grant would, or Clint Eastwood,” he said. “You think, how would Hombre handle this? And when this woman came up to me — the guy who played Hud — what comes through? Laurel and Hardy. Both of them.”

He said he was not like his sultry, flamboyant characters: “You don’t always have Tennessee Williams around to write glorious lines for you.”

He and his wife were reputed to have one of the happiest marriages in Hollywood, but the outspoken Joanne Woodward admitted that it took a lot of therapy to cope with the fact that, even though she got an Oscar first, he was able to stay a leading man for four decades. She told a magazine that she was always “uncomfortable and even angry” that “Paul was so much bigger than I was ... Because he was living my fantasy” to be a star.

She would not talk to me for The Times’s profile that her husband did to promote “The Color of Money” — even just on the topic of his role as the director of five movies that she had starred in. She said she did interviews only solo or jointly with him — not about him. That byzantine deal reflected the rivalry that threaded through their romance.

He said that he appreciated her, as he looked around his elegant Fifth Avenue apartment, observing dryly: “If anyone had ever told me 20 years ago I’d be sitting in a room with peach walls, I would have told them to take a nap in a urinal.”

* Via Cool Hand Paul By Maureen Dowd.

Psychoanalytic Therapy Wins Backing By Benedict Carey, NY Times Health

freud190.jpg

Intensive psychoanalytic therapy, the “talking cure” rooted in the ideas of Freud, has all but disappeared in the age of drug treatments and managed care.

But now researchers are reporting that the therapy can be effective against some chronic mental problems, including anxiety and borderline personality disorder.

In a review of 23 studies of such treatment involving 1,053 patients, the researchers concluded that the therapy, given as often as three times a week, in many cases for more than a year, relieved symptoms of those problems significantly more than did some shorter-term therapies.

The authors, writing in Wednesday’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, strongly urged scientists to undertake more testing of psychodynamic therapy, as it is known, before it is lost altogether as a historical curiosity.

The review is the first such evaluation of psychoanalysis to appear in a major medical journal, and the studies on which the new paper was based are not widely known among doctors.

The field has resisted scientific scrutiny for years, arguing that the process of treatment is highly individualized and so does not easily lend itself to such study. It is based on Freud’s idea that symptoms are rooted in underlying, often longstanding psychological conflicts that can be discovered in part through close examination of the patient-therapist relationship.

Experts cautioned that the evidence cited in the new research was still too meager to claim clear superiority for psychoanalytic therapy over different treatments, like cognitive behavior therapy, a shorter-term approach. The studies that the authors reviewed are simply not strong enough, these experts said.

“But this review certainly does seem to contradict the notion that cognitive or other short-term therapies are better than any others,” said Bruce E. Wampold, chairman of the department of counseling psychology at the University of Wisconsin. “When it’s done well, psychodynamic therapy appears to be just as effective as any other for some patients, and this strikes me as a turning point” for such intensive therapy.

The researchers, Falk Leichsenring of the University of Giessen and Sven Rabung of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, both in Germany, reviewed only those studies in which the therapy had been frequent — more than once a week in many cases — and had lasted at least a year or, alternatively, had been 50 sessions long. Further, the studies had to have followed patients closely, using strict definitions of improvement.

The investigators examined studies that tracked patients with a variety of mental problems, among them severe depression, anorexia nervosa and borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by a fear of abandonment and dark squalls of despair and neediness.

Psychodynamic therapy, Dr. Leichsenring wrote in an e-mail message, “showed significant, large and stable treatment effects which even significantly increased between the end of treatment and follow-up assessment.”

The review found no correlation between patients’ improvement and the length of treatment. But improve they did, and psychiatrists said it was clear that patients with severe, chronic emotional problems benefited from the steady, frequent, close attention that psychoanalysts provide.

“If you define borderline personality broadly as an inability to regulate emotions, it characterizes a lot of people who show up in clinics, whether their given diagnosis is depression, pediatric bipolar or substance abuse,” said Dr. Andrew J. Gerber, a psychiatrist at Columbia. For some of those patients, Dr. Gerber said, “this paper suggests that you’ve got to get into longer-term therapy to make improvements last.”

Some psychoanalysts were more surprised by where the paper appeared than by its results: most review papers in major medical journals have hundreds of studies to draw on, or certainly far more than 23. The new review is encouraging, they said, but also a reminder of how much more study needs to be done.

Dr. Barbara L. Milrod, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, who like Dr. Gerber is a clinical practitioner of psychodynamic therapy, said further research was crucial as a matter of survival for a valuable treatment.

“Let’s be real,” Dr. Milrod said. “Major medical centers have been shutting down psychodynamic training programs because there isn’t an adequate evidence base.”

* Original articlehere

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