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January 2004

Big Weather

There was a big storm here last night just at the point we were ready to leave the Clarion South cocktail party. David, Nalo, Elizabeth and I waited in the doorway to the club watching the storm, while Heather, our ride, retrieved the car. I was almost struck by a falling sign knocked over by the wind. My guess was that the winds were 40-50 mph and it was raining 2-3 inches an hour. Heather had a hard time finding her way back to us because of all the rain and becsue she was somewhat rattled: Lightning struck the street directly in fornt of her car while she was driving. Here is a news story about the storm.

When I was looking for information about the storm I came across a web site about storms in Brisbane with spectacular pictures: the Brisbane Stormchasers Homepage. Many of them remind me of science fiction covers.

Clarion South

David has finished his week teaching Clarion South in Brisbane, Australia. Claire McKenna has posted pictures. Because this is the first such workshop in Australia, the students are a very strong group. There are several small press publishers, writers who have published extensively in Ausstralia, and even some who have already won awards. Nalo Hopkinson teaches next week. She arrived night before last. Nalo, Elizabeth and I went on a beach expedition yesterday while David went book shopping. Soon we will continue on to Sydney and Melbourne.

From the Other Side of the World

We are in Brisbane, Australia, now which is why I haven't written much here lately. If you'd like to read a bit about our adventures you can read our letters to Peter, who had to stay home and go to school.

But if you want to comment, PLEASE make comments over here rather than over there. The comments section over there is reserved for family communications.

Blogging & the Presidential Election

There's some neat blog-related stuff happening outside the headlines in the Democratic primary. The Dean campaign has a list of many blogs covering Iowa: Bloggerstorm: Live from Iowa.

From there I found an interesting interview with Zephyr Teachout on The Blogging of the President: 2004, which appears to be a blog committed to the idea of blogs influencing the presidential election, and which specializes in audio interviews.

Zephyr Teachout may dazzle you (as she does me) with her electrical charge, her theatrical pauses, her whimsical word play--her attempts to invent a better word than "citizen," for example, or to unpeel the phrase "common purpose." She may well impress you as the chief of Howard Dean's Internet operations, the queen of the Dean geek corps and all those improvised Web networking tools known as Dean Space. She may charm you with her own tale of a wiry, wired 32-year old farm girl from Norwich, Vermont who went to Yale as a track star, then Duke Law School, and had 32 jobs before she arrived at Dean headquarters. What transfixes me more is Zephyr Teachout's resolute, reckless idealism about Dean World.

Bloggerstorm also links to a Kos entry on a new blog from the Columbia Journalism Review: The Campaign Desk: Critique and analysis of 2004 campaign coverage fromÝColumbiaÝJournalismÝReview

And in the sidebar, there is a link to Write for Dean, a blog devoted to get people writing letters to the editor.

Whether you support Dean or not, these links are worth looking at for the new perspective on what a presidential election should be like.

Al Gore Tells It Like It Is

From the NYT:

Former Vice President Al Gore said yesterday that the Bush administration was "wholly owned by the coal, oil, utility and mining industries" and that President Bush was a "moral coward" for not standing up to his campaign contributors when their interests conflicted with those of the public.

Mr. Gore's speech in New York, billed as an attack on Mr. Bush's environmental record, proved to be a far broader critique.

The former vice president used environmental issues to highlight what he called moral failures and deceptions by the Bush administration.

"While President Bush likes to project an image of strength and courage, the real truth is that in the presence of his large financial contributors he is a moral coward, so weak that he seldom if ever says 'no' to anything, no matter what the public interest might mandate," Mr. Gore said to a standing ovation.

This seems to me precisely correct. Pretty much every time I see a bad decision by the Bush administration, if I look up whether the favored companies contributed to Bush 2000 or the RNC, they nearly always have. has the full text on its webiste: Al Gore Speaks on Global Warming and the Environment

Meanwhile (NYT):

The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie, called Mr. Gore's remarks "political hate speech" . . .

Since I'm sure that Gillespie is perfectly aware of the identity major industry contributors to both the RNC and Bush 2000. So, is he saying that Gore's claim -- "A recent review of contributions to the Bush campaign from utility industry executives, lawyers and lobbyists showed that 15 individuals were Bush Pioneers -- those who raised at least $100,000 for the Bush campaign." -- is untrue? Or merely that it is hateful of him to have made the claim publically?

Or perhaps political hate speech is just Newspeak for dissent. Gillespe's been using that phrase for a while.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

I wanted to talk a little more about the perniciousness of negative campaigning in the Democratic primary. Have a look at, a production of Mike Krempasky, a blogger currently or formerly affliated with the conservative Leadership Institute.

Come on, campaign trail warriors. Keep your eyes on the prize and stop hacking at each other. The conservatives are eating it up.

New Spin on the Anger Issue

MEANWHILE IN PRIMARYLAND, Gephart intoduces a choice new bit of spin: He suggests that Dean's mythical anger is an act. Which is to say, that he's claiming Dean isn't really all that angry after all (we knew that, right?), but that this is a bad thing.

Dick Gephardt accused Howard Dean of "manufactured anger and false conviction" in a hotly contested Democratic presidential campaign that turned sharply negative Wednesday.

So is Gephardt stepping foward to be the real Angry Man? Or is that Bush, still smouldering at having been compared to a Nazi? Or is nobody angry and everybody just pretending? Do they all go out and knock back a few beers when the cameramen leave? Or is Lieberman the real Angry Man, still mad at Gore?

Or alternatively, is Gephart condescending to Dean supporters? Is he suggesting that we've somehow been hoodwinked into anger at the Bush administration for any number of bad policies? Is he suggesting that I'm all upset about what Bush is proposing to do to the Clean Air Act because I've been corrupted by Dean faking anger?

Hello. The goal is to defeat Bush. Yes?

This is an ill-considered piece of spin that should die now. Nothing good will come of it, except perhaps an understanding that Dean is not as angry as the press and some candidates would have us believe.

A FURTHER THOUGHT: "Anger" in the Dean-bashing context, is somehow a stand-in for power, as in Dean saying:

"This election is about power," he says -- "we're going to change this country because we're all going to take the power back!"

-- which is why Gephart is trying to contextualize it.

Liberation in Iraq

I suspect his is the shape of things to come in Iraq (WP):

Women in Iraq Decry Decision To Curb Rights: Council Backs Islamic Law on Families

For the past four decades, Iraqi women have enjoyed some of the most modern legal protections in the Muslim world, under a civil code that prohibits marriage below the age of 18, arbitrary divorce and male favoritism in child custody and property inheritance disputes.

Saddam Hussein's dictatorship did not touch those rights. But the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council has voted to wipe them out, ordering in late December that family laws shall be "canceled" and such issues placed under the jurisdiction of strict Islamic legal doctrine known as sharia.

So, who was it that the US "liberated"?

Mr. Bremmer, perhaps they need a constitution after all. And it had better be one that includes the ERA (which the US never managed to pass).

UPDATE: As JeremyT points out in the comments, see also Baghdad Burning for a much more detailed discussion.

Leftover Roast Beef?

So I have about a third of a leftover roast in the fridge (grass-fed, freerange, of course), and I've got a bad headache so I am not as inspired cooking-wise as usual. What do I do?

Easy. Go to Search for leftover roast beef under Books, and their search engine comes up with an abundance of suggestions for what to do with leftover roast beef.

I am perfectly aware that the cookbook writers might take exception to this violation of their book contract, literary rights, etc. But they can always pull their books from Amazon's prgram if they want (like I did). And hey, I might even like their cooking. Though, more likely, I would get the gist of what's being suggested in multiple cookbooks and make up my own recipe.

Perhaps the Coldest Day of My Life

I have a lot go do, but I'm so tired that I'm having trouble thinking. I thought I'd blog for a while to try to jumpstart my cerebral cortex, which seems to be napping.

I haven't had a good night's sleep since some time last weekend. A baby (toddler, now?) with a bad cough and two infected ears is very high maintainence during the night. I nebulizied Elizabeth twice during the night. (For the uninitiated, a nebulizer makes a medicated fog that one must induce the child to breathe. It doesn't smell good, so some coersion is involved. A nebulizer treatment takes about 15 - 20 minute.) Also, because her ears are stopped up, she wants to nurse for as long as an hour at a time, because it makes her ears feel better. I know of other women who can sleep while nursing but I'm not one of them. When detached before she's ready, she throws a tantrum involving a lot of kicking and flinging her head around. Not good.

Since Elizabeth is sick and uncomfortable she hasn't been to her morning program all week and mostly doesn't nap. It snowed this morning and is ferociously cold. High temperature for today: 9 degrees Farenheit. It's going down to 2 below zero tonight. School is closed, so Peter is home, too.
At least it's sunny out, so the weather looks good. The winds are up to 23 mph with gusts to 30. This may be the coldest day I've ever experienced, though it's hard to tell since I feel like I've been hit over the head because of the sleep deprivation.


A woman named "Robin" from John Kerry's New Hampshire campaign has been rummaging through files at Vermont's Secretary of StateÅfs Office in recent days, sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT.

I do wonder how "sources" know she's from the Kerry campaign, though it certainly sounds plausible. Robin, if you're real, here's what I'd like to know: Isn't the goal to defeat Bush in 2004?

IN FURTHER CONSPIRACY NEWS, Magnus Linklater theorizes about the farmed salmon scare: Thunderer: Answer this: who benefits from the salmon scare? and a week and a half ago expressed complacency about Mad Cow.

Double-Ear Infections & a Plane Ticket

Elizabeth's been sick with a cold since Saturday. I took her to the doctor two days ago and she had no secondary infections. After a particularly bad night last night, I took her back to the doctor this morning: "raging" double ear infections. Our tickets to Australia are for Sunday. Wish me luck.

I surprised the pediatrician by telling her about the breastmilk eardrops I administered to Elizabeth at 2:30AM: After an hour-and-a-half of trying everything else, what finally worked to get Elizabeth to go back to sleep was breastmilk eardrops, though it was really hard to get them in, since she didn't want me to touch anywhere near her ears. I don't think the pediatrician had ever heard of anyone doing that before.

Needless to say, Elizabeth is on antibiotics now. I requested extra-tasty ones since the only other time she was on antibiotics, most of each dose ended up on her clothes.

Peter's After-School Drink

Here is the recipe for Peter's afternoon "milk shake" that he usually drinks when he comes home from school, which is actually a banana-blueberry yogurt smoothie. I need to write it down anyway for Annie & Geoff, who will be caring for Peter while we're away in Australia, so I thought I'd share it.

3 peeled bananas
1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
1/4 cup of other frozen fruit (papaya, raspberry, or mixed fruit)
3/4 cup pomegranate or blueberry juice
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons aloe juice or gel (optional)
1 teaspoon liquid calcium (optional)
2 teaspoons acidophilous liquid (optional)

Blend on a high setting until smooth. He drinks a couple of child-sized cups of it through a straw. I drink the rest.

Prions & the Future

There's a fascinating article on Mad Cow in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Mad cow danger may even be bigger: Research suggests sick animals may not show symptoms

Below the drumbeat of reassurances from government and the cattle industry that the meat supply remains safe despite this one case of mad cow disease, a small universe of scientists working on a family of related illnesses is finding disturbing evidence to the contrary. . . .

Researchers began by taking brains of hamsters infected with scrapie and injecting that tissue into mice. Then, they killed the mice at various points and tested for presence of the infectious agents -- called prions -- in the brains of mice. They didn't find any.

But researchers took the next step, injecting tissues from these apparently prion-free mice into another set of healthy mice and hamsters. That's when the outcome turned frightening: the newly infected creatures developed TSEs [transmissible spongiform encephalopathies] and died.

What does it mean? The mice from the earlier part of the experiment were not free of the disease after all. They were silent carriers of a sort, not showing any signs of the illness but able to infect others.

This could have dramatic implications for the real world. What if, for example, some humans carry mad cow disease or another TSE, but aren't affected by it? Perhaps they could still pass it on through blood transfusions or transplants. In the words of researchers: "Subclinical human carriers might pose a serious risk for contamination of surgical instruments, tissue transplants and blood products," according to a 2002 report on the mice-hamster experiments in Montana.

Read the whole thing. There's lots of interesting stuff in the article, which is the first piece of journalism on Mad Cow I've found that goes significantly beyond what I was able to dig up on the Internet.

The phrase evolution in action comes to mind when I think about the government and industry response to the crisis. Unfortunately, we are not on the sidelines of this Darwinian project.

(Via Environmental Health News..)

More on Farm-Raised Salmon

Having a further look at the Environmental Working Group's salmon site, I found another one of those passages that is counter-intuitive to the naive consumer of food:

Bought versus caught
Both the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have set health-based standards or guidance levels for PCBs in fish. EPAÅfs health guidance for PCBs, revised in 1999, applies to recreationally-caught fish (EPA 1999). Commercially-sold fish such as farmed salmon must instead comply with FDAÅfs 1984 PCB standard (FR 1984), which allows 500 times more PCB exposure than EPAÅfs current health-based guidance.

FDAÅfs standard, called a Ågtolerance,Åh legalizes the sale of salmon with PCB levels as high as 2 parts per million, a concentration that would trigger a strict warning to eat none of the fish were they caught in the wild and regulated by states that follow EPAÅfs guidance.

By comparing the PCB levels in our retail fish samples with the health standards published by the EPA, we found that, if caught recreationally, consumption of the seven most contaminated farmed salmon we bought and tested would be restricted to no more than one meal a month. But because farmed salmon are bought, not caught, consumption is not restricted in any way. [italics mine]

This looks like another case of Industrial Food getting the regulations it wants as a result of lobbying. But nearly 90% of farm-raised salmon is imported (from Canada, 44%; from Chile, 36%).

I wonder what the history of regulatory discrepancy is.

MEANWHILE, New Scientist reports: Cosmetic chemicals found in breast tumours

Preservative chemicals found in samples of breast tumours probably came from underarm deodorants, UK scientists have claimed.

Their analysis of 20 breast tumours found high concentrations of para-hydroxybenzoic acids (parabens) in 18 samples. Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancers. The preservatives are used in many cosmetics and some foods to increase their shelf-life.

"From this research it is not possible to say whether parabens actually caused these tumours, but they may certainly be associated with the overall rise in breast cancer cases," says Philip Harvey, an editor of the Journal of Applied Toxicology, which published the research.

Hecklers & Sweaters

Kos is good this morning on the idiocy of recent media coverage:

We're at war. People are dying. That war was sold with lies. North Korea has nukes. The entire country created a measly 1,000 jobs in December. Blue- AND white-collar Jobs are being exported at alarming rates. We're facing record deficits and a runaway debt. The dollar is sinking. Our civil liberties are being stripped away. Millions lack basic health insurance.

But wait -- stop the frickin' presses! -- Wesley Clark wore a sweater!

Uh oh -- stop the frickin' presses! -- a Republican heckled a Democratic presidential candidate.

Is this what the press has to offer?

Farm-Raised Salmon

There is a lot going on about contaminats in farm-raised salmon recently. I was trying to sort out whether it was one news story, two, or three. I think it's three. There was an artice in the new Science magazine (sub only, which I can't get at) entitled, "TOXICOLOGY: Salmon Survey Stokes Debate About Farmed Fish," having to do, I gather, with farm raised salmon contaminated by their feed -- low-grade "junk" fish, I gather (Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the mad cow situation to me.); there is the problem with the application of poisonous anti-fungal chemicals to Scottish salmon; and then there is the Environmental Working Group's testing of farm-raised salmon from last July, showing that farm-raised salmon is high in PCBs.

I wonder why all this is new information. Why hasn't all this been tested for decades?

I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I got to get Elizabeth to bed and have to get some sleep myself. (Last night was a bad baby night. Elizabeth has a cough.)

(Thanks to Mary Kay Kare for poking me to get going on the salmon subject.)

Donate to the DNC

Over at Eshaton, it's Donate to the DNC Day:

I haven't been pushing this much for awhile, but it really is important to make sure the DNC has a few bucks on their pocket. This year isn't just about a presidential campaign. The DNC is really going to be coordinating the "national campaign," particularly in the run-up to the convention before the individual races begin to heat him. They're the backbone of the party, so let's stiffen it a bit.

You can donate here - I suggest a small sustainer donation. Have them pull $20 off your credit card every month. Let's see if we can get 25 more sustainer donations today. A modest goal.

And, hey, you've already donated enough so that Terry Mac owes me a phone call...

A lot of folks gave Atrios a hard time in the comments, but regardless of the quality of the organization, the DNC needs a lot of money if Bush is to be defeated.

Also, in the comments Atrios makes a really interesting point:

I'm all for giving to individual candidates, but it isn't enough. There needs to be a national party and the DNC is it.

People too often confuse the DNC with the House democrats, or the Senate democrats, or the DLC, or whatever. it isn't one organization.

You want them to be more effective? They need more money. they don't have squat.

Kos has raised $38K or so. I've raised $15K. If both of us bring that up to $100K by the convention we'll be playing with the big boys, fundraising wise. Then maybe they'll listen.

Let's help Atrios and Kos become major fundraising players! Contribute to the DNC, but do it through their contributor pages, so they get credit for having raised the cash.

Donate to the Democratic National Committee via Atrios!

Donate to the Democratic National Committee via Daily Kos!

Put these links in your sidebars people!

To those inelligible to donate: There is no legal prohibition to your linking to a web page where those eligible can donate.

Britney's Baby

It was below zero this morning when I got up. Now it's about six degrees. Nonetheless, our roofing men showed up about 8 AM to shingle the roof. I was astonished, and I still am. Ithink it's too cold out even for our very hearty bunny rabbit (who is currently inhabiting our shower, rather than the deck, his usual territory). But they seem quite cheerful up there on the roof.

Meanwhile, I've been outside a couple of times and we went to the grocery store. I can tell the difference between the temperature now and when I first got up. When I inhaled outside at below-zero temperatures, ice crystals formed on the inside of my nose, a most uncomfortable feeling. At least it's sunny. For some reason our cable Internet was out early this morning, so I only just got to poking around.

I've been waiting for the right to react to the Britney Spears mini-marriage as a threat to the institution, and the right has not let me down. Here is John Derbyshire in the NRO:

BritneyÅfs Wedding

After the news of Britney Spears's 55-hour marriage to her childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander, I got an e-mail from one of my many homosexual correspondents (you'd be surprised), one with whom I had previously had some friendly exchanges about same-sex marriage. The gist of it was: "This is the institution you are trying to save?"

I take his point. I don't say I feel any better-disposed towards homosexual marriage than I was pre-Britney, but there is no denying the guy has a debating point. If a couple of likkered-up glitterati airheads can stumble into a wedding chapel, tie the knot, then go home, sleep off the liquor, decide that, while an amusing lark, it hadn't really been such a good idea after all, and cancel the whole thing, why should a sober and responsible homosexual couple be denied access to that same chapel for that same purpose, which they intend to take with all the gravity proper to it?

[then a bunch of the usual rhetoric until we get to the good part. -- Ed.]

An awful suspicion forms in my mind. The empty lewdness of the stage act; the bottomless nothingness in Britney's eyes and words; all that emptiness and nothingness and purposelessness; the trashing of our culture's most hallowed ceremony... for what? Can it be...? Yes! I only hope I can get the word out before they track me down.

Listen: Britney Spears is an instrument of Satan. The poor girl has sold her soul, or had it stolen from her. That travesty of a marriage was not for nothing -- it was a union in evil ! Its issue will be the Antichrist, and the world will be his dominion. These are the Last Times. You have been warned.

At first reading, I thought he was kidding. Looking more closely, I'm not so sure. The Antichrist, huh? Really?

MEANWHILE, I noted in the grocery store that The Weekly Wold News reports that Batboy led US troops to Saddam. You never know.

Bertolt Brecht's FBI Files

As the right attempts to define fascism out of the vocabulary that can be used to discuss US politics, or at least the doings of Republicans, I found myself thinking about Bertolt Brecht and his influence on Germany's literary response to fascism. And so I happened across the FBI's Freedom of Information Act site and had a look at Brecht's FBI files.

When the FBI read Brecht, their critical response was that Brecht ought to be in jail.

Will refer the facts in [Brecht's] case to the United States Attorney in Los Angeles for an opinion as to whether the Subject may be proceeded against with a view to obtaining his internment as an enemy alien.

There are nearly 400 pages, so I've not read them all, only skimmed through the first 40 odd. Fascinating stuff, though. And very relevant to recent discussions.

There is also a list of available files: See also Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein, and Pablo Picasso.

Let me get this straight: The US government is depriving airline passengers not even in US air space of freedom of assembly?

In nine days, I get onto a 22 hour flight to Australia with Elizabeth but without David. I was already concerned about the the general length of the flights in both directions and how I was going to cope with Elizabeth on the plane. I was also worried about possibly being hassled for breastfeeding, either by passengers or the flight crew. It's never happened to me, but if it were to happen, this would be the worst possible circumstance. And I was also worried about the possibility of body cavity searches for women passengers by overzealous air marshalls concerned about possible cuntbombers.

But THIS, this makes me furious:

Australia's Qantas May Ban Bathroom Lines

Australia's Qantas Airways said Wednesday that U.S. authorities are now banning passengers from gathering near restrooms and other places on flights to America - an order the Australian government thinks might be impractical.

Commercial flights across the Pacific Ocean from Australia to the United States' west coast are among the world's longest.

``The U.S. Transport Security Administration are now requiring that passengers on flights to the U.S. are not to congregate in groups in any areas of the aircraft, especially around the lavatories,'' a Qantas spokeswoman said.

Australia's Transport Minister John Anderson, who is also deputy prime minister, described the ban as ``a little bit hard to handle.''

Qantas said passengers were being told about the new rules.

(Via Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio.)

Let me get this straight: The US government is depriving airline passengers not even in US air space of freedom of assembly TO GO TO THE BATHROOM?

I ask in all seriousness, if we are now living under fascism.

[more later]

From Gwyneth Jones

Gwyneth Jones sends this announcement:

Happy New Year, and here's my latest website announcement, in case you have any idle moments.

The Midnight Lamp website is at last complete, with many additional features. If you'd like to check it out, here's the address:

Also, for those who can't get hold of the books, I'm offering some direct sales. Damn sight cheaper than, anyway:

Leaders Lead

Arianna Huffington is good in the "electability" issue:

I swear, if I hear one more Democratic honcho say that Howard Dean is not electable, I'm going to do something crazy (maybe that's what happened to Britney in Vegas this weekend).

The contention is nothing short of idiotic.

Consider the source. The folks besmirching the good doctor's Election Day viability are the very people who have driven the Democratic Party into irrelevance; who spearheaded the party's resounding 2002 mid-term defeats; and who kinda, sorta, but not really disagreed with President Bush as he led us down the path of preemptive war with Iraq, irresponsible tax cuts and an unprecedented deficit.

Dean is electable precisely because he's making a decisive break with the spinelessness and pussyfooting that have become the hallmark of the Democratic Party.

When some attempt to use "electability" as an issue to drag their poll numbers up or Dean's down, what the hell is it supposed to mean, anyway? We are, after all, talking about a potential Democratic nominee for President, not the Green Party nominee. This issue boils down to attempts to sway suggestible voters, as nearly as I can tell -- an attempt that's backfiring badly, since Dean is leading his Democratic competition in the polls.

Huffington's longer-term point -- that leaders are supposed to lead, not follow polling data -- is crucial for this election and, to me at least, explains Dean's grassroots support. He listens, but does not follow to where the pollsters say the herd is going.