Thursday, December 10, 2009

Andrew Klavan: My Way Into and Out of the Left – by Jamie Glazov

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Andrew Klavan, the author of such internationally bestselling crime novels as True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. He has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award five times and has won twice. His last novel for adults, Empire of Lies, topped Amazon.com’s thriller list. His new novel series for young adults continues in February with The Long Way Home. Andrew is a contributing editor to City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute. His essays on politics, religion, movies and literature have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Washington Post, the LA Times, and elsewhere. As a screenwriter, he wrote the screenplays for 1990’s A Shock to the System, starring Michael Caine, and 2008’s One Missed Call. His Klavan on the Culture videos appear at PJTV.com. His website is AndrewKlavan.com.

FP: Andrew Klavan, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

I’d like to talk to you today about your journey into and out of the Left.

How did you at first become a member of the political faith? Tell us about the beginnings of your intellectual journey.

Klavan: Well, I was always a dissatisfied liberal. I just never knew there was anything else to be. I was born Jewish to a mother who worshipped FDR and a father who thought that any Republican victory prefigured the return of Adolf Hitler. That’s not an exaggeration: he thought Republicans were all just Hitler in disguise. So going from that family into the arts, where everyone mouths this elitist, pseudo-sophisticated left-wing bushwa without any real understanding of the underlying issues: leftism was simply the water I swam in. Conservatives were the bad guys. Everyone knew that.

FP: So how did your second thoughts begin? Tell us about your journey out of the Left.

Klavan: It was an experience that very much mirrored the pattern of the famous paradigm shift described in Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” Anomalies started to occur, things that didn’t fit into what I thought of as a “liberal” world view. The Bakke case, in which the Supreme Court supported affirmative action – that was a big one: I thought it was a clear sign that the left – my side – had signed on to racism. Feminism, political correctness, the disaster of welfare, the appeasement of the Soviet Union – I kept saying, “Well, that’s no good,” but I thought they were anomalies. I still didn’t realize there was an alternative philosophy that described the world more accurately. Then the Berlin Wall fell down – everything Reagan predicted – stupid Reagan, cowboy Reagan, dumb old movie actor Reagan – every single thing he said would happen, happened. And it finally began to dawn on me, “Oh, I get it: it’s not this and this and this that’s wrong. It’s ALL wrong.” And I started the long, difficult process of changing my mind.

Read it all here:

http://frontpagemag.com/2009/12/10/andrew-klavan-my-way-into-and-out-of-the-left-by-jamie-glazov/

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Muslim Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Soil - 9/11/2001 And 11/5/2009

"It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know -- no faith* justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice -- in this world, and the next."
- President Barack Obama at Fort Hood, November 10, 2009

* With the exception of Islam, Mr. President.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Once Upon A Time...





September 08, 2009, 4:00 a.m.

Once Upon a Time . . .
Whatever happened to the old Barack Obama?

By Victor Davis Hanson

Once upon a time, a fresh new politician, Barack Obama — black, young, eloquent, and hip — soared with rhetoric about hope and change. The people were mesmerized. What a contrast with the tongue-tied outgoing president, George W. Bush, and his unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!

Presidential Candidate Obama sensed their ecstasy, and so he made two great promises: 1. Whatever Bush was, he would not be, and 2. despite the right-wing slander about his former intimacy with Bill Ayers, the Reverend Wright, Father Pfleger, Rashid Khalidi, and all his other old Chicago radical friends, Obama would be a centrist, a cooler version of Bill Clinton. There were to be no more red/blue state divides. The most partisan politician in the Senate promised a new era of bipartisanship. He who had profited from identity politics would suddenly be beyond race.

The people were considering voting for this unknown, fresh, hope-and-change candidate — a decision made easier after the financial meltdown of mid-September 2008. They decided then that they wanted a new-frontier moderate, a JFK for the 21st century, who would put competence and style over ideology — and clean up the financial mess left by Wall Street and the greedy Republicans.

Obama also promised that he would craft a foreign policy from the bipartisan center, while making us liked abroad once more. During the campaign, to reassure the doubtful, he name-dropped at length Republicans with whom he would consult: old centrist pros like Dick Lugar and Bob Gates, as well as four-star generals.

But having been elected, President Obama sensed that, just maybe, the United States was part of the problem rather than the solution. So he shunned Israel and warmed up to Syria and the Palestinians. He cut off relations with Honduras. He ignored our ally Colombia while reaching out to Castro, Chavez, and Ortega. Putin’s Russia received more deference than did most of Russia’s old vassals in Eastern Europe. The British were snubbed in gratuitous fashion.

When hundreds of thousands of Iranian dissidents went out in the streets to protest their theocracy’s rigged voting, Obama voted present — or perhaps accepted beforehand that the reformers would fail. After all, dealing with a lunatic revolutionary Iranian government would showcase far better his own singular multicultural finesse.

Meanwhile, Obama went on an apology tour abroad. He inflated the accomplishments of the Islamic world, magnified his own country’s sins, and once again blamed Bush for America’s global unpopularity. In short, it was not intrinsic differences in ideology and objectives, but the prior president, that explained the tension with Europe, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

A common theme was that the new president, Barack Obama — suddenly referencing his family’s Muslim roots and his African lineage in a way that others dared not during the campaign — was as skeptical of America’s history as were its critics, who likewise doubted there was anything “exceptional” about American democracy.

During the campaign, Nominee Obama talked of fiscal sobriety. He damned the Bush deficits. And he warned voters that his comprehensive agenda might have to wait a bit while we put our financial house in order. From time to time, Obama brought old Paul Volcker out of the closet and proclaimed him a key adviser — the subtext being that Obama, too, was an inflation fighter, a budget balancer, and a fiscal hawk of the first order. The likes of Warren Buffett assured us that all this fiscal seriousness was authentic. So the people were relieved and found another reason to vote for the moderate — only to be shocked when he submitted a budget nearly $2 trillion in the red, with plans to add $9 trillion more to the soaring national debt.

In the spring and summer of 2008, when gas soared and right-wingers started chanting “Drill, baby, drill,” Barack Obama replied to his rival, John McCain, that all America’s energy cards would be on the table — oil, gas, nuclear, and new sources of petroleum in tar and shale. The wavering voters were once more relieved, and encouraged that their would-be president was an American nationalist who wanted to use our own energy as we transitioned to wind and solar.

But then gas prices dropped. Obama was elected — and there would be no new offshore drilling after all, no promise to use clean coal, and little if anything planned about nuclear power. Instead, Americans got one Van Jones, some sort of environmental “czar,” who had a long history of ritually trashing the American economy, American agriculture, and American coal producers — while derogating George W. Bush as a “crack-head” oilman as addicted to petroleum as an addict is to cocaine. (Presumably Mr. Jones does not fly to his many conferences on carbon-spewing jets and is not picked up by gasoline-burning taxis.)

“Distortions!” Candidate Obama screamed, when charged with wanting a Canadian-style health-care system. All he wanted to do, Obama swore, was lower our costs and insure the uninsured. But then President Obama somehow demanded that a 1,000-page blueprint of a proposed government takeover of the nation’s health care be voted on before August recess — as if even one more month of treating patients the way we have for the last 100 years simply would be too much.

Once upon a time, Candidate Obama also assured skeptical voters that he would show us how to transcend race. He was no Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, who used skin color and white guilt for careerist purposes. The Reverend Wright, “typical white person,” Michelle Obama’s “downright mean country,” and the Pennsylvania “clingers” remark were mere aberrations of the exhausting campaign, hyped by the shameless right wing.

But soon the people got the attorney general of the United States calling them racial cowards and dismissing voter-intimidation suits against club-wielding Black Panthers who had swarmed voting booths. Cambridge police were relegated to Neanderthal profilers who stereotyped the innocent, such as Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. Environment czar Van Jones warned of white conspiracies to pollute the ghetto and bragged that blacks, unlike whites, did not go on public-school shooting sprees. The nation’s most powerful politicians, like House Ways and Means chairman Charlie Rangel and New York governor David Paterson, for some strange reason, were suddenly victims of racial bias, which alone explained their travails. All this was not supposed to happen in the age of Obama.

Bush trampled on the Constitution, Candidate Obama alleged. Without a major terrorist attack against the homeland in seven years, the voters had the luxury to consider those charges. They seemed to agree that Bush and Cheney were nearly as much a threat to our freedoms as was Osama bin Laden.

But soon President Obama read the classified intelligence briefings. Suddenly military tribunals, renditions, the PATRIOT Act, Predator assassinations, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not just Bush conspiracies after all, but serious, necessary tools of American overseas contingency operations to thwart real man-caused disasters. The media, Hollywood, and the intelligentsia agreed, and thus Code Pink, Michael Moore, and a screaming Al Gore either quieted down or dropped out the news.

No lobbyists, Obama thundered during the campaign — not one! — would serve in his administration. Impending legislation would appear on government web sites for the people’s perusal. White House logs would be available from Day One to enlighten the voters about who did and did not enter the people’s house.

Cabinet nominees and officials would be beyond ethical reproach. Speaker Pelosi would “drain the swamp,” end the “culture of corruption,” and ensure the “the most ethical Congress ever.” There would be no more plants at news conference; no staged questions from administration hacks; no serial presidential addresses hogging the airways at prime time; no constant press conferences of a media-hungry president; no direct talks to school kids on state television screens.

Barack Obama, you see, had felt the pulse of the people. He was an old-pro community organizer, a street-savvy politician who had encouraged dissent and vocal protest.

But then President Obama appointed lobbyists. For months he forgot all about the White House logs and websites. His cabinet nominees had strange habits, such as not paying their taxes despite advocating higher rates for everyone else. Obama’s face was everywhere; he held more press conferences in eight months than did Bush in eight years. Questions and questioners were on occasion planted or staged.

The community organizing and protests of others now became regrettable, even unpatriotic. Criticism of the establishment was the work of brownshirts, mobs, Nazis, and the selfish, who had no moral or religious concern about the health of others and were envious of the success of their president. Insurance companies wanted even more astronomical profits. Doctors were greedy and took out tonsils needlessly for profit. Surgeons rushed to lop off diabetics’ limbs for princely sums of $50,000 and more.

The new town-hallers and tea-partiers who went to meetings and press conferences and protested their government were not Chicago-style hoi polloi, but counterrevolutionaries or insurance toadies who feared real reformers. The dissidents were, of course, also racists. These inauthentic Astroturfers simply could not tolerate a black president and so, like the doomed dinosaurs, they mindlessly bellowed out at the new landscape that they could not live within.

Once upon a time the people deluded themselves into thinking a suave extremist was to be their nuts-and-bolts centrist. Now they don’t know whether to be mad at him or themselves — or both.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. © 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MmViYjc2OGM5ZGU0OTczM2NjMTNjNzcxYjc2NWZiN2I=

Friday, August 28, 2009

Win At The Credit Scoring Game


Win at the Credit Scoring Game
by Carla Fried
Thursday, August 27, 2009
CNNMoney.com

To get the best deal on a loan, you need some new strategies to bump up your score - and keep it there.

Borrowing money today requires impressing an increasingly hard-to-please crowd. With creditors of all kinds more cautious than ever, you need an A+ application to land the best terms -- and that means an A+ credit score, the number lenders use to judge your risk of default.

The most commonly used credit scoring system, called FICO, rates people from a very risky 300 to a pristine 850. And right now we're in the middle of a credit score crunch: "You need a 750 or better today to have the same treatment you got with a 700 two years ago," says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at Credit.com.

John D'Onofrio, CEO of Autoloandaily.com, seconds that: "Two years ago a 680 was enough to get a great car loan rate. Today it's often the minimum to qualify at all."

Think you're still in the clear? Don't be so sure. Lenders have been making changes that could cause your score to slip from excellent to average. Improve and protect your number with these strategies:

Learn Your Score. You have three FICO scores, based on your credit reports at the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The numbers tend to be in the same ballpark, so pony up $16 to get one representative score at myfico.com. You can get an estimate free at Creditkarma.com. But the FICO score gives you a better sense of what lenders see.

Scout for Mistakes. Your scores are only as good as the information they're based on. And a third of people who've pulled their reports have found errors, according to a Zogby poll. That's good reason to read your report.

When you buy your FICO score, you'll get a copy of the report it was based on. Get gratis histories from the other bureaus via annualcreditreport.com (you're entitled to one free from each bureau every 12 months).

Spot an error? Request a correction, following the instructions on the bureau's website. Let's say the size of a credit line was misstated or an account was mistakenly marked delinquent. Getting the error fixed could raise your score as much as 200 points, says Ulzheimer, who has also worked for Equifax and FICO.

Never, Ever Be Late. As you'll see in the pie chart on the right, the biggest chunk of your credit score comes from your payment history. Just one late payment can shave 100 points off a 750-plus credit score, says Ulzheimer. Lenders can't tattle on you to the bureaus until you're 30 days past due, adds credit expert Gerri Detweiler. But don't risk it. For all your bills, enter recurring due-date reminders on your computer calendar.

Missed a payment? Get back on track within the next 30 days, and you should "get back the lion's share" of points lost, Ulzheimer says. More than 90 days late? The damage can stick for years. If it was a one-off lapse, call your issuer and plea for a good-will adjustment to your credit report. (It's a long shot.)

Remember the Magic 20%. The second-biggest factor in your score is how much you owe vs. how much credit has been extended to you. The part of this that's easiest to finesse is your credit card utilization rate, or your total card balances compared with your total credit limits, as well as each card's balance relative to its limit.

Example: If you've charged $5,000 on cards and have $50,000 in credit, your rate is 10%. For the best score today, 10% is ideal, but you can probably creep up to 20% and keep a high rating.

Unfortunately, with banks lowering credit limits and canceling unused cards, it's harder to maintain such a low percentage. In the previous example, if your available credit is cut to $20,000, your rate shoots to 25%. That could sink your score by as much as 50 points, says Ulzheimer. The lesson: Know your limits, watch for changes, and stay under 20% on each card and in total (0% if you'll be applying for a loan soon).

Already above 20%? Paying down debt is the obvious way to lower your utilization rate, but another strategy is to apply for an additional credit card to increase your overall credit limit. That may cause you to lose a few points in the short term -- so don't do it if you're about to apply for a mortgage -- but it should pay off in the long run.

Keep Oldest Cards in Play. As noted, credit issuers these days are eagerly canceling cards that are not in use. Besides reducing your limit and increasing your utilization ratio, having an account closed can hurt you in another way, especially if it's among your older ones.

See, 15% of your score rides on the length of your credit history. The longer you ably manage revolving debt, the better you look. So don't cancel your oldest cards. And don't let them get canceled on you: Move a recurring charge to each so they stay active.

Already ditched or been ditched? A new card (see previous) can help with your utilization rate, but there's little you can do to help the "history" component of your score, except to keep other old accounts in use.

Accept Fate on the Rest. There are other factors involved in your score, but they're not so easy to manipulate. For example, 10% is based on how well you manage a mix of credit types, such as mortgages, car loans, and credit cards. But you don't want to go out and, say, finance a car just for a score boost; besides, you can easily get 750-plus with just a few well-tended credit cards.

Along the same lines, 10% is based on "new credit," but the effects of a new application can be positive or negative, depending on your history.

In other words, if you want to be among the crème de la credit crème, accept what you can't change, and focus on what you can.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin

Sunday, Aug. 09, 2009
Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin
By John Cloud

As I write this, tomorrow is Tuesday, which is a cardio day. I'll spend five minutes warming up on the VersaClimber, a towering machine that requires you to move your arms and legs simultaneously. Then I'll do 30 minutes on a stair mill. On Wednesday a personal trainer will work me like a farm animal for an hour, sometimes to the point that I am dizzy — an abuse for which I pay as much as I spend on groceries in a week. Thursday is "body wedge" class, which involves another exercise contraption, this one a large foam wedge from which I will push myself up in various hateful ways for an hour. Friday will bring a 5.5-mile run, the extra half-mile my grueling expiation of any gastronomical indulgences during the week.

I have exercised like this — obsessively, a bit grimly — for years, but recently I began to wonder: Why am I doing this? Except for a two-year period at the end of an unhappy relationship — a period when I self-medicated with lots of Italian desserts — I have never been overweight. One of the most widely accepted, commonly repeated assumptions in our culture is that if you exercise, you will lose weight. But I exercise all the time, and since I ended that relationship and cut most of those desserts, my weight has returned to the same 163 lb. it has been most of my adult life. I still have gut fat that hangs over my belt when I sit. Why isn't all the exercise wiping it out?

(Read "The Year in Medicine 2008: From A to Z.")

It's a question many of us could ask. More than 45 million Americans now belong to a health club, up from 23 million in 1993. We spend some $19 billion a year on gym memberships. Of course, some people join and never go. Still, as one major study — the Minnesota Heart Survey — found, more of us at least say we exercise regularly. The survey ran from 1980, when only 47% of respondents said they engaged in regular exercise, to 2000, when the figure had grown to 57%.

And yet obesity figures have risen dramatically in the same period: a third of Americans are obese, and another third count as overweight by the Federal Government's definition. Yes, it's entirely possible that those of us who regularly go to the gym would weigh even more if we exercised less. But like many other people, I get hungry after I exercise, so I often eat more on the days I work out than on the days I don't. Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight?

(Watch TIME's video "How to Lose Hundreds of Pounds.")

The conventional wisdom that exercise is essential for shedding pounds is actually fairly new. As recently as the 1960s, doctors routinely advised against rigorous exercise, particularly for older adults who could injure themselves. Today doctors encourage even their oldest patients to exercise, which is sound advice for many reasons: People who regularly exercise are at significantly lower risk for all manner of diseases — those of the heart in particular. They less often develop cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses. But the past few years of obesity research show that the role of exercise in weight loss has been wildly overstated.

(Read "Losing Weight: Can Exercise Trump Genes?")

"In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless," says Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University and a prominent exercise researcher. Many recent studies have found that exercise isn't as important in helping people lose weight as you hear so regularly in gym advertisements or on shows like The Biggest Loser — or, for that matter, from magazines like this one.

The basic problem is that while it's true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.

The Compensation Problem Earlier this year, the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE — PLoS is the nonprofit Public Library of Science — published a remarkable study supervised by a colleague of Ravussin's, Dr. Timothy Church, who holds the rather grand title of chair in health wisdom at LSU. Church's team randomly assigned into four groups 464 overweight women who didn't regularly exercise. Women in three of the groups were asked to work out with a personal trainer for 72 min., 136 min., and 194 min. per week, respectively, for six months. Women in the fourth cluster, the control group, were told to maintain their usual physical-activity routines. All the women were asked not to change their dietary habits and to fill out monthly medical-symptom questionnaires.

See the most common hospital mishaps.

See how to prevent illness at any age.

The findings were surprising. On average, the women in all the groups, even the control group, lost weight, but the women who exercised — sweating it out with a trainer several days a week for six months — did not lose significantly more weight than the control subjects did. (The control-group women may have lost weight because they were filling out those regular health forms, which may have prompted them to consume fewer doughnuts.) Some of the women in each of the four groups actually gained weight, some more than 10 lb. each.

What's going on here? Church calls it compensation, but you and I might know it as the lip-licking anticipation of perfectly salted, golden-brown French fries after a hard trip to the gym. Whether because exercise made them hungry or because they wanted to reward themselves (or both), most of the women who exercised ate more than they did before they started the experiment. Or they compensated in another way, by moving around a lot less than usual after they got home.

(Read "Run For Your Lives.")

The findings are important because the government and various medical organizations routinely prescribe more and more exercise for those who want to lose weight. In 2007 the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association issued new guidelines stating that "to lose weight ... 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary." That's 60 to 90 minutes on most days of the week, a level that not only is unrealistic for those of us trying to keep or find a job but also could easily produce, on the basis of Church's data, ravenous compensatory eating.

It's true that after six months of working out, most of the exercisers in Church's study were able to trim their waistlines slightly — by about an inch. Even so, they lost no more overall body fat than the control group did. Why not?

Church, who is 41 and has lived in Baton Rouge for nearly three years, has a theory. "I see this anecdotally amongst, like, my wife's friends," he says. "They're like, 'Ah, I'm running an hour a day, and I'm not losing any weight.'" He asks them, "What are you doing after you run?" It turns out one group of friends was stopping at Starbucks for muffins afterward. Says Church: "I don't think most people would appreciate that, wow, you only burned 200 or 300 calories, which you're going to neutralize with just half that muffin."

(Read "Too Fat? Read Your E-mail.")

You might think half a muffin over an entire day wouldn't matter much, particularly if you exercise regularly. After all, doesn't exercise turn fat to muscle, and doesn't muscle process excess calories more efficiently than fat does?

Yes, although the muscle-fat relationship is often misunderstood. According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a Columbia University team in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns. Which means that after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle — a major achievement — you would be able to eat only an extra 40 calories per day, about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight. Good luck with that.

Fundamentally, humans are not a species that evolved to dispose of many extra calories beyond what we need to live. Rats, among other species, have a far greater capacity to cope with excess calories than we do because they have more of a dark-colored tissue called brown fat. Brown fat helps produce a protein that switches off little cellular units called mitochondria, which are the cells' power plants: they help turn nutrients into energy. When they're switched off, animals don't get an energy boost. Instead, the animals literally get warmer. And as their temperature rises, calories burn effortlessly.

(See TIME's health and medicine covers.)

Because rodents have a lot of brown fat, it's very difficult to make them obese, even when you force-feed them in labs. But humans — we're pathetic. We have so little brown fat that researchers didn't even report its existence in adults until earlier this year. That's one reason humans can gain weight with just an extra half-muffin a day: we almost instantly store most of the calories we don't need in our regular ("white") fat cells.

All this helps explain why our herculean exercise over the past 30 years — all the personal trainers, StairMasters and VersaClimbers; all the Pilates classes and yoga retreats and fat camps — hasn't made us thinner. After we exercise, we often crave sugary calories like those in muffins or in "sports" drinks like Gatorade. A standard 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade contains 130 calories. If you're hot and thirsty after a 20-minute run in summer heat, it's easy to guzzle that bottle in 20 seconds, in which case the caloric expenditure and the caloric intake are probably a wash. From a weight-loss perspective, you would have been better off sitting on the sofa knitting.

See pictures of what makes you eat more food.

Watch a video about fitness gadgets.

Self-Control Is like a Muscle Many people assume that weight is mostly a matter of willpower — that we can learn both to exercise and to avoid muffins and Gatorade. A few of us can, but evolution did not build us to do this for very long. In 2000 the journal Psychological Bulletin published a paper by psychologists Mark Muraven and Roy Baumeister in which they observed that self-control is like a muscle: it weakens each day after you use it. If you force yourself to jog for an hour, your self-regulatory capacity is proportionately enfeebled. Rather than lunching on a salad, you'll be more likely to opt for pizza.

Some of us can will ourselves to overcome our basic psychology, but most of us won't be very successful. "The most powerful determinant of your dietary intake is your energy expenditure," says Steven Gortmaker, who heads Harvard's Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity. "If you're more physically active, you're going to get hungry and eat more." Gortmaker, who has studied childhood obesity, is even suspicious of the playgrounds at fast-food restaurants. "Why would they build those?" he asks. "I know it sounds kind of like conspiracy theory, but you have to think, if a kid plays five minutes and burns 50 calories, he might then go inside and consume 500 calories or even 1,000."

(Read "Why Kids' Exercise Matters Less Than We Think.")

Last year the International Journal of Obesity published a paper by Gortmaker and Kendrin Sonneville of Children's Hospital Boston noting that "there is a widespread assumption that increasing activity will result in a net reduction in any energy gap" — energy gap being the term scientists use for the difference between the number of calories you use and the number you consume. But Gortmaker and Sonneville found in their 18-month study of 538 students that when kids start to exercise, they end up eating more — not just a little more, but an average of 100 calories more than they had just burned.

If evolution didn't program us to lose weight through exercise, what did it program us to do? Doesn't exercise do anything?

Sure. It does plenty. In addition to enhancing heart health and helping prevent disease, exercise improves your mental health and cognitive ability. A study published in June in the journal Neurology found that older people who exercise at least once a week are 30% more likely to maintain cognitive function than those who exercise less. Another study, released by the University of Alberta a few weeks ago, found that people with chronic back pain who exercise four days a week have 36% less disability than those who exercise only two or three days a week.

But there's some confusion about whether it is exercise — sweaty, exhausting, hunger-producing bursts of activity done exclusively to benefit our health — that leads to all these benefits or something far simpler: regularly moving during our waking hours. We all need to move more — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says our leisure-time physical activity (including things like golfing, gardening and walking) has decreased since the late 1980s, right around the time the gym boom really exploded. But do we need to stress our bodies at the gym?

Look at kids. In May a team of researchers at Peninsula Medical School in the U.K. traveled to Amsterdam to present some surprising findings to the European Congress on Obesity. The Peninsula scientists had studied 206 kids, ages 7 to 11, at three schools in and around Plymouth, a city of 250,000 on the southern coast of England. Kids at the first school, an expensive private academy, got an average of 9.2 hours per week of scheduled, usually rigorous physical education. Kids at the two other schools — one in a village near Plymouth and the other an urban school — got just 2.4 hours and 1.7 hours of PE per week, respectively.

To understand just how much physical activity the kids were getting, the Peninsula team had them wear ActiGraphs, light but sophisticated devices that measure not only the amount of physical movement the body engages in but also its intensity. During four one-week periods over consecutive school terms, the kids wore the ActiGraphs nearly every waking moment.

And no matter how much PE they got during school hours, when you look at the whole day, the kids from the three schools moved the same amount, at about the same intensity. The kids at the fancy private school underwent significantly more physical activity before 3 p.m., but overall they didn't move more. "Once they get home, if they are very active in school, they are probably staying still a bit more because they've already expended so much energy," says Alissa Frémeaux, a biostatistician who helped conduct the study. "The others are more likely to grab a bike and run around after school."

Another British study, this one from the University of Exeter, found that kids who regularly move in short bursts — running to catch a ball, racing up and down stairs to collect toys — are just as healthy as kids who participate in sports that require vigorous, sustained exercise.

See nine kid foods to avoid.

Read "Our Super-Sized Kids."

Could pushing people to exercise more actually be contributing to our obesity problem? In some respects, yes. Because exercise depletes not just the body's muscles but the brain's self-control "muscle" as well, many of us will feel greater entitlement to eat a bag of chips during that lazy time after we get back from the gym. This explains why exercise could make you heavier — or at least why even my wretched four hours of exercise a week aren't eliminating all my fat. It's likely that I am more sedentary during my nonexercise hours than I would be if I didn't exercise with such Puritan fury. If I exercised less, I might feel like walking more instead of hopping into a cab; I might have enough energy to shop for food, cook and then clean instead of ordering a satisfyingly greasy burrito.

Closing the Energy Gap The problem ultimately is about not exercise itself but the way we've come to define it. Many obesity researchers now believe that very frequent, low-level physical activity — the kind humans did for tens of thousands of years before the leaf blower was invented — may actually work better for us than the occasional bouts of exercise you get as a gym rat. "You cannot sit still all day long and then have 30 minutes of exercise without producing stress on the muscles," says Hans-Rudolf Berthoud, a neurobiologist at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center who has studied nutrition for 20 years. "The muscles will ache, and you may not want to move after. But to burn calories, the muscle movements don't have to be extreme. It would be better to distribute the movements throughout the day."
For his part, Berthoud rises at 5 a.m. to walk around his neighborhood several times. He also takes the stairs when possible. "Even if people can get out of their offices, out from in front of their computers, they go someplace like the mall and then take the elevator," he says. "This is the real problem, not that we don't go to the gym enough." (Read "Is There a Laziness Gene?")

I was skeptical when Berthoud said this. Don't you need to raise your heart rate and sweat in order to strengthen your cardiovascular system? Don't you need to push your muscles to the max in order to build them?

Actually, it's not clear that vigorous exercise like running carries more benefits than a moderately strenuous activity like walking while carrying groceries. You regularly hear about the benefits of exercise in news stories, but if you read the academic papers on which these stories are based, you frequently see that the research subjects who were studied didn't clobber themselves on the elliptical machine. A routine example: in June the Association for Psychological Science issued a news release saying that "physical exercise ... may indeed preserve or enhance various aspects of cognitive functioning." But in fact, those who had better cognitive function merely walked more and climbed more stairs. They didn't even walk faster; walking speed wasn't correlated with cognitive ability.

There's also growing evidence that when it comes to preventing certain diseases, losing weight may be more important than improving cardiovascular health. In June, Northwestern University researchers released the results of the longest observational study ever to investigate the relationship between aerobic fitness and the development of diabetes. The results? Being aerobically fit was far less important than having a normal body mass index in preventing the disease. And as we have seen, exercise often does little to help heavy people reach a normal weight. (Read "Physical Fitness — How Not to Get Sick.")

So why does the belief persist that exercise leads to weight loss, given all the scientific evidence to the contrary? Interestingly, until the 1970s, few obesity researchers promoted exercise as critical for weight reduction. As recently as 1992, when a stout Bill Clinton became famous for his jogging and McDonald's habits, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published an article that began, "Recently, the interest in the potential of adding exercise to the treatment of obesity has increased." The article went on to note that incorporating exercise training into obesity treatment had led to "inconsistent" results. "The increased energy expenditure obtained by training may be compensated by a decrease in non-training physical activities," the authors wrote.

Then how did the exercise-to-lose-weight mantra become so ingrained? Public-health officials have been reluctant to downplay exercise because those who are more physically active are, overall, healthier. Plus, it's hard even for experts to renounce the notion that exercise is essential for weight loss. For years, psychologist Kelly Brownell ran a lab at Yale that treated obese patients with the standard, drilled-into-your-head combination of more exercise and less food. "What we found was that the treatment of obesity was very frustrating," he says. Only about 5% of participants could keep the weight off, and although those 5% were more likely to exercise than those who got fat again, Brownell says if he were running the program today, "I would probably reorient toward food and away from exercise." In 2005, Brownell co-founded Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, which focuses on food marketing and public policy — not on encouraging more exercise.

Some research has found that the obese already "exercise" more than most of the rest of us. In May, Dr. Arn Eliasson of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center reported the results of a small study that found that overweight people actually expend significantly more calories every day than people of normal weight — 3,064 vs. 2,080. He isn't the first researcher to reach this conclusion. As science writer Gary Taubes noted in his 2007 book Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health, "The obese tend to expend more energy than lean people of comparable height, sex, and bone structure, which means their metabolism is typically burning off more calories rather than less."

In short, it's what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off, that matters more in losing weight. You should exercise to improve your health, but be warned: fiery spurts of vigorous exercise could lead to weight gain. I love how exercise makes me feel, but tomorrow I might skip the VersaClimber — and skip the blueberry bar that is my usual postexercise reward.

See the top 10 food trends of 2008.

See a special report on the science of appetite.

Find this article at:
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1914857,00.html

Saturday, August 15, 2009

And They Didn't Even Ask For An Autograph...

You're Bob Dylan? NJ police want to see some ID

Aug 14, 8:49 PM (ET)

By WAYNE PARRY

Rock legend Bob Dylan was treated like a complete unknown by police in a New Jersey shore community when a resident called to report someone wandering around the neighborhood.

Dylan was in Long Branch, about a two-hour drive south of New York City, on July 23 as part of a tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp that was to play at a baseball stadium in nearby Lakewood.

A 24-year-old police officer apparently was unaware of who Dylan is and asked him for identification, Long Branch business administrator Howard Woolley said Friday.

"I don't think she was familiar with his entire body of work," Woolley said.

The incident began at 5 p.m. when a resident said a man was wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.

The police officer drove up to Dylan, who was wearing a blue jacket, and asked him his name. According to Woolley, the following exchange ensued:

"What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.

"Bob Dylan," Dylan said.

"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.

"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer. He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said.

The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Blowin' in the Wind" said that he didn't have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night's show.

The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.

The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

"He couldn't have been any nicer to them," Woolley added.

How did it feel? A Dylan publicist did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Friday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Binyamin Netanyahu's Bar Ilan Speech

Full text of Binyamin Netanyahu's Bar Ilan speech

Jun. 14, 2009
THE JERUSALEM POST

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech at the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University:

Honored guests, citizens of Israel.

Peace has always been our people's most ardent desire. Our prophets gave the world the vision of peace, we greet one another with wishes of peace, and our prayers conclude with the word "peace."

We are gathered this evening in an institution named for two pioneers of peace, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and we share in their vision.

Two-and-a-half months ago, I took the oath of office as the prime minister of Israel. I pledged to establish a national unity government - and I did. I believed, and I still believe, that unity was essential for us now more than ever as we face three immense challenges - the Iranian threat, the economic crisis and the advancement of peace.

The Iranian threat looms large before us, as was further demonstrated yesterday. The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons. I discussed this issue with President [Barack] Obama during my recent visit to Washington, and I will raise it again in my meetings next week with European leaders. For years, I have been working tirelessly to forge an international alliance to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Confronting a global economic crisis, the government acted swiftly to stabilize Israel's economy. We passed a two-year budget in the government - and the Knesset will soon approve it.

And the third challenge, so exceedingly important, is the advancement of peace. I also spoke about this with President Obama, and I fully support the idea of a regional peace that he is leading.

I share the president's desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region. To this end, I met with President [Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt and King Abdullah in Jordan to elicit the support of these leaders in expanding the circle of peace in our region.

I turn to all Arab leaders tonight and I say: Let us meet. Let us speak of peace and let us make peace. I am ready to meet with you at any time. I am willing to go to Damascus, to Riyadh, to Beirut, to any place - including Jerusalem.

I call on the Arab countries to cooperate with the Palestinians and with us to advance an economic peace. An economic peace is not a substitute for a political peace, but an important element to achieving it. Together, we can undertake projects to overcome the scarcities of our region, like water desalination, or to maximize its advantages, like developing solar energy, or laying gas and petroleum lines, and transportation links between Asia, Africa and Europe.

The economic success of the Gulf States has impressed us all, and it has impressed me. I call on the talented entrepreneurs of the Arab world to come and invest here and to assist the Palestinians - and us - in spurring the economy.

Together, we can develop industrial areas that will generate thousands of jobs and create tourist sites that will attract millions of visitors eager to walk in the footsteps of history - in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, around the walls of Jericho and the walls of Jerusalem, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee and the baptismal site of the Jordan.

There is an enormous potential for archeological tourism, if we can only learn to cooperate and to develop it.

I turn to you, our Palestinian neighbors, led by the Palestinian Authority, and I say: Let's begin negotiations immediately without preconditions.

Israel is obligated by its international commitments and expects all parties to keep their commitments.

We want to live with you in peace, as good neighbors. We want our children and your children to never again experience war: that parents, brothers and sisters will never again know the agony of losing loved ones in battle; that our children will be able to dream of a better future and realize that dream; and that together we will invest our energies in plowshares and pruning hooks, not swords and spears.

I know the face of war. I have experienced battle. I lost close friends, I lost a brother. I have seen the pain of bereaved families. I do not want war. No one in Israel wants war.

If we join hands and work together for peace, there is no limit to the development and prosperity we can achieve for our two peoples - in the economy, agriculture, trade, tourism and education - most importantly, in providing our youth a better world in which to live, a life full of tranquility, creativity, opportunity and hope.

If the advantages of peace are so evident, we must ask ourselves why peace remains so remote, even as our hand remains outstretched to peace? Why has this conflict continued for more than 60 years?

In order to bring an end to the conflict, we must give an honest and forthright answer to the question: What is the root of the conflict?

In his speech to the first Zionist Conference in Basel, the founder of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, said about the Jewish national home, "This idea is so big that we must speak of it only in the simplest terms." Today, I will speak about the immense challenge of peace in the simplest words possible.

Even as we look toward the horizon, we must be firmly connected to reality, to the truth. And the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland.

In 1947, when the United Nations proposed the partition plan of a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the resolution. The Jewish community, by contrast, welcomed it by dancing and rejoicing.

The Arabs rejected any Jewish state, in any borders.

Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is confusing cause and consequence.

The attacks against us began in the 1920s, escalated into a comprehensive attack in 1948 with the declaration of Israel's independence, continued with the fedayeen attacks in the 1950s, and climaxed in 1967, on the eve of the Six Day War, in an attempt to tighten a noose around the neck of the State of Israel.

All this occurred during the 50 years before a single Israeli soldier ever set foot in Judea and Samaria .

Fortunately, Egypt and Jordan left this circle of enmity. The signing of peace treaties has brought about an end to their claims against Israel, an end to the conflict. But to our regret, this is not the case with the Palestinians. The closer we get to an agreement with them, the further they retreat and raise demands that are inconsistent with a true desire to end the conflict.

Many good people have told us that withdrawal from territories is the key to peace with the Palestinians. Well, we withdrew. But the fact is that every withdrawal was met with massive waves of terror, by suicide bombers and thousands of missiles.

We tried to withdraw with an agreement and without an agreement. We tried a partial withdrawal and a full withdrawal. In 2000 and again last year, Israel proposed an almost total withdrawal in exchange for an end to the conflict, and twice our offers were rejected.

We evacuated every last inch of the Gaza strip, we uprooted dozens of settlements and evicted thousands of Israelis from their homes, and in response, we received a hail of missiles on our cities, towns and children.

The claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up till now not stood the test of reality.

In addition to this, Hamas in the South, like Hizbullah in the North, repeatedly proclaims its commitment to "liberate" the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Beersheba, Acre and Haifa.

Territorial withdrawals have not lessened the hatred, and to our regret, Palestinian moderates are not yet ready to say the simple words: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it will stay that way.

Achieving peace will require courage and candor from both sides, and not only from the Israeli side.

The Palestinian leadership must arise and say: "Enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land, and we are prepared to live beside you in true peace." I am yearning for that moment, for when Palestinian leaders say those words to our people and to their people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples, no matter how complex they may be.

Therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

To vest this declaration with practical meaning, there must also be a clear understanding that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel's borders. For it is clear that any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel's continued existence as the state of the Jewish people.

The Palestinian refugee problem must be solved, and it can be solved, as we ourselves proved in a similar situation. Tiny Israel successfully absorbed tens of thousands of Jewish refugees who left their homes and belongings in Arab countries.

Therefore, justice and logic demand that the Palestinian refugee problem be solved outside Israel's borders. On this point, there is a broad national consensus. I believe that with goodwill and international investment, this humanitarian problem can be permanently resolved.

So far I have spoken about the need for Palestinians to recognize our rights. In a moment, I will speak openly about our need to recognize their rights.

But let me first say that the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.

The right of the Jewish people to a state in the Land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people. True, for 2,000 years, the Jewish people suffered expulsions, pogroms, blood libels and massacres which culminated in a Holocaust - a suffering which has no parallel in human history.

There are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the state of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the state of Israel had been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occurred.

This tragic history of powerlessness explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.

But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: This is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged.

As Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed in Israel's Declaration of Independence: "The Jewish people arose in the Land of Israel, and it was here that its spiritual, religious and political character was shaped. Here they attained their sovereignty, and here they bequeathed to the world their national and cultural treasures, and the most eternal of books."

But we must also tell the truth in its entirety: within this homeland lives a large Palestinian community. We do not want to rule over them, we do not want to govern their lives, we do not want to impose either our flag or our culture on them.

In my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government. Neither will threaten the security or survival of the other.

These two realities - our connection to the Land of Israel, and the Palestinian population living within it - have created deep divisions in Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more that unites us than divides us.

I have come tonight to give expression to that unity, and to the principles of peace and security on which there is broad agreement within Israeli society. These are the principles that guide our policy.

This policy must take into account the international situation that has recently developed. We must recognize this reality and at the same time stand firmly on those principles essential for Israel.

I have already stressed the first principle - recognition. Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is demilitarization. The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel.

Without these two conditions, there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza.

We don't want Kassam rockets on Petah Tikva, Grad rockets on Tel Aviv, or missiles on Ben-Gurion Airport. We want peace.

In order to achieve peace, we must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hizbullah and Iran. On this point as well, there is wide consensus within Israel.

It is impossible to expect us to agree in advance to the principle of a Palestinian state without assurances that this state will be demilitarized.

On a matter so critical to the existence of Israel, we must first have our security needs addressed.

Therefore, today we ask our friends in the international community, led by the United States, for what is critical to the security of Israel: Clear commitments that in a future peace agreement, the territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarized - namely, without an army, without control of its airspace, and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory; real monitoring, and not what occurs in Gaza today. And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts.

Without this, sooner or later, these territories will become another Hamastan. And that we cannot accept.

I told President Obama when I was in Washington that if we could agree on the substance, then the terminology would not pose a problem.

And here is the substance that I now state clearly: If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitarization and Israel's security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state.

Regarding the remaining important issues that will be discussed as part of the final settlement, my positions are known: Israel needs defensible borders, and Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel with continued religious freedom for all faiths.

The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements.

But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives, to allow mothers and fathers to raise their children like families elsewhere. The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.

Unity among us is essential and will help us achieve reconciliation with our neighbors. That reconciliation must already begin by altering existing realities. I believe that a strong Palestinian economy will strengthen peace.

If the Palestinians turn toward peace - in fighting terror, in strengthening governance and the rule of law, in educating their children for peace and in stopping incitement against Israel - we will do our part in making every effort to facilitate freedom of movement and access, and to enable them to develop their economy. All of this will help us advance a peace treaty between us.

Above all else, the Palestinians must decide between the path of peace and the path of Hamas. The Palestinian Authority will have to establish the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit at the negotiating table with terrorists who seek their destruction.

Hamas will not even allow the Red Cross to visit our kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, who has spent three years in captivity, cut off from his parents, his family and his people. We are committed to bringing him home, healthy and safe.

With a Palestinian leadership committed to peace, with the active participation of the Arab world, and the support of the United States and the international community, there is no reason why we cannot achieve a breakthrough to peace.

Our people have already proven that we can do the impossible. Over the past 61 years, while constantly defending our existence, we have performed wonders.

Our microchips are powering the world's computers. Our medicines are treating diseases once considered incurable. Our drip irrigation is bringing arid lands back to life across the globe. And Israeli scientists are expanding the boundaries of human knowledge.

If only our neighbors would respond to our call - peace, too, will be in our reach.

I call on the leaders of the Arab world and on the Palestinian leadership, let us continue together on the path of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein. Let us realize the vision of the prophet Isaiah, who in Jerusalem 2,700 years ago said: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more." With God's help, we will know no more war. We will know peace.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1244371096849&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

We Are So Screwed (II)

The news media and Congress toss around phrases about "a trillion-dollar budget deficit" as if that is comprehensible, let alone acceptable.

But I don’t think any of us can really grasp the concept of what a trillion dollars is.

Not you.

Not I.

Not anyone.

Just think about this:

Question: If you were to spend $1 per second, how long would it take you to spend $1,000?

Answer: Just under 17 minutes. $1,000 divided by 60 seconds/minute = 16.667 minutes.

So now ask:

Question: How long would it take you to spend $1,000,000 (i.e., 1,000 x $1,000) at $1 per second?

Answer: Less than 12 days. I.e., 16.667 minutes x 1,000 = 16,667 minutes divided by 60 minutes per hour divided by 24 hours per day = 11.57 days.

So now ask:

Question: How long would it take you to spend $1 Trillion at $1 per second?

Answer: Just under 317...centuries!!!

($1/second x 60 seconds/minute x 60 minutes/hour x 24 hours/day x 365.24* days/year x 100 years/century x 316.8895542 centuries = $1,000,000,000,304.71)

* There is no leap year in years that end in 00, so instead of 25 extra days every 100 years, there are only 24, or something like that.

And they say (with a straight face and a calm tone of voice) that we're looking at a budget deficit of $1.8 Trillion.

570 centuries!!

We ... Are ... So ... Screwed.

What comes to mind is Pete Seeger's anti-war song, Waist Deep In The Big Muddy.

Anyone want to rewrite the lyrics so as to apply them to our financial situation? I'll let you choose who "the big fool" is. Between the Legislative and the Executive Branches, I suspect you have a lot of choices!


Waist Deep In The Big Muddy
by Pete Seeger 1963, planned for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967 but CBS objected to the blacklisted Seeger making obvious references to the"big fool" in the White House, finally sung by Seeger on the Comedy Hour in 1968 as the finale in a medley of anti-war songs.

It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That's how it all begun.
We were -- knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
'Bout a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, with all this equipment
No man will be able to swim."
"Sergeant, don't be a Nervous Nellie,"
The Captain said to him.
"All we need is a little determination;
Men, follow me, I'll lead on."
We were -- neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,
We heard a gurgling cry.
A few seconds later, the captain's helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, "Turn around men!
I'm in charge from now on."
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn't know that the water was deeper
Than the place he'd once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
'Bout a half mile from where we'd gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I'm not going to point any moral;
I'll leave that for yourself
Maybe you're still walking, you're still talking
You'd like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We're -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man'll be over his head, we're
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!

Words and music by Pete Seeger (1967)
TRO (c) 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

The Bob Dylan Show (2009)



The Bob Dylan Show

Along with fellow troubadour Willie Nelson, this summer The Bob Dylan Show will also feature John Mellencamp, marking just the second time in the past 24 years that these three performers have shared the concert stage.

bobdylan.com is happy to offer pre-sale tickets for all ballpark shows to its visitors. At each venue, the gates will open 30 minutes early for holders of tickets purchased during the bobdylan.com pre-sale.

Visit this page for pre-sale passwords, which will be posted in the table below before each pre-sale begins. You do not need to be registered or logged-in to see the passwords.

All concert tickets are priced at $67.50 and most shows are general admission, allowing fans to grab a seat in the stands or find a place to watch from the field. Children 14 and under get in free with each adult ticket holder at ballpark shows.

Showtime is 5:30pm and gates open at 5:00. Gates will open at 4:30 for holders of bobdylan.com pre-sale tickets for ballpark shows.

Please check your local listings for on-sale dates and information. More shows will be announced.
Please visit this page regularly for updates.


- - -

After making our reservations for our trip to Seattle August 6-10, I realized that I was going to be gone when Bob Dylan was playing in Grand Prairie, TX on Friday, August 7.

:(

But...since he'll be in Round Rock, TX, on Tuesday, August 4, which is less than 3 hours south of where I work, I can leave work at noon and drive to the concert!

So I got my ticket today! Hurray! (As long as it doesn't rain!)


(identifying/authenticating information blocked out in photo of ticket)

- - -

From John Mellencamp's site:

The Bob Dylan Show Summer 2009 Tour Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS THE TICKET PRICE?
The base ticket price is expected to be $67.50 for most shows, plus any required venue and ticket fees. Tickets for shows at venues other than ballparks may vary in price.

WILL THERE BE A PRESALE?
There will be a Mellencamp.com presale for most shows during the week tickets go on sale to the public. Watch the TOUR page for details. Some of these presale tickets may allow early access to the venue. This will allow those ticket holders first choice of their location to enjoy the concert. Because the shows are general admission, Club Cherry Bomb will NOT be doing our own private presale. There are no VIP ticket packages on this tour. Presale tickets for non-ballpark venues will most likely NOT include early access to the general admission areas.

WHEN WILL THE PRESALE START?
We have been advised that the presale will begin the Monday of the week tickets will go on sale to the public. However, at this time, we have not been provided exact times for the presale to start. Please refer to Mellencamp.com and Ticketmaster starting Sunday evening to see when the presale(s) will start.

IS THERE A CLUB CHERRY BOMB PRESALE?
No. Because John is not the headliner on the Bob Dylan Show tour we are unable to offer a Mellencamp Fan Club exclusive presale. Please use the general presale password and links we will post on the TOUR page of Mellencamp.com for early ticket access.

WHAT TIME DOES THE SHOW START?
Gates will open around 5 PM. Music should start around 5:30 PM. Holders of tickets from the presale will gain access at many venues at 4:30 PM.

WILL THERE BE MORE DATES?
There there will be more dates announced for the tour. The initial announcement will be augmented by more show announcements in the coming weeks. The tour will total about 30 dates once all are announced, and will run from early July through mid-August 2009.

IS EVERY SHOW AT A BALLPARK?
No, not every show on the tour will be at a ballpark. Select shows will be at other venue types.

WHAT IS THE PERFORMANCE ORDER?
The expected performance order will be any opening/additional acts playing first, then Willie Nelson & Family, followed by John Mellencamp and his band with Bob Dylan and his band closing the show.

ARE TICKETS GENERAL ADMISSION OR RESERVED SEATING?
Most shows will be general admission seating throughout the entire venue/ballpark. The stage will be located on the field and will point towards the seats, allowing fans their choice of sitting on the field or in the seats of the venue to enjoy the concert. Shows in Dayton, Syracuse, and Sevierville will have reserved seating. Other shows/venues may have assigned seating, check with the venue. Also check with local venue for what items are allowed to be carried in (blankets etc.).

IS JOHN PLAYING AT BOB DYLAN'S OTHER SUMMER SHOWS?
John is not performing on Bob Dylan's other Summer dates at Milwaukee Summerfest or the Rothbury Festival.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We Are So Screwed

Without Preparation, Explanation or Response


Does anyone take serious words seriously anymore here in Washington?

News item No. 1 concerns the testimony of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 22. She said deteriorating security in nuclear-armed Pakistan "poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world."

News item No. 2 is this headline on the front page of the May 4 edition of The Washington Post: "U.S. Options in Pakistan Limited."

News item No. 3 is a quote in Jackson Diehl's May 4 column in The Washington Post from a senior Obama administration official: "It's not good when your national security interests are dependent on a country over which you have almost no influence."

In a matter of two weeks, we have gone from witnessing the U.S. secretary of state testify to Congress that a nuclear Pakistan run by Islamist radicals would be a "mortal threat" to America to hearing the administration admit that we have limited options to avoid such a threat.

What are we to make of such a development? I and many others had previously warned of the dangers of a nuclear "Talibanistan" (which have been obvious and talked about for years). Experts I have talked to in the past week do not believe Clinton is overstating the case. Nor do I. She is very careful with her words — and they fit the danger.

If Pakistan's nuclear weapons were to get into the hands of Taliban or al-Qaida, even unlaunched, they would provide the weapons-grade fissile materiel necessary to create a nuclear holocaust, here in the United States or elsewhere.

How did it come to be that the government of the most powerful nation in the history of humanity (with a population of 300 million-plus and a gross domestic product of about $14 trillion, which is larger than the second-, third- and fourth-largest economies — Japan, Germany and China — combined) has confessed that its options are limited regarding a "mortal threat" to it?

And what are we going to do about it? I don't blame the Obama administration — not yet. It inherited our current national military strength. But it has been obvious for years that we are not prepared to deal with a world that refuses to behave as we either predict or prefer. And we need to start catching up with the growing contingent threats.

It was in understanding the inevitability of contingent or unexpected events to emerge that led Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, the great 19th-century Prussian field marshal and army chief of staff, famously to observe, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy." Thus, he believed that "war is a matter of expedients." As has been observed, "He was suspicious of rigid, inflexible, and totalizing grand strategies and theories," arguing instead for a strategy and preparations that provided for a series of plug-in points that could be shaped to meet the military challenges of the moment — as a war unfolded.

So, too, should we be prepared for world political events — or be prepared to pay the consequences.

That is why when, a year ago, I was writing my most recent book, "American Grit: What It Will Take To Survive and Win in the 21st Century," I argued that we must face the reality that, given the growing threats in a rapidly morphing world, we will need a bigger military than our current all-volunteer force: "The questions that any statesman or strategist has to confront are obvious: What if our armed forces are suddenly needed to take out Iran's nuclear program? What if Pakistan falls to the jihadists, and we need troops to secure that country's nuclear weapons? What if China invades Taiwan? What if North Korea, in a desperate gambit, launches an attack on South Korea? What if the vast resources of the North Pole spark a military rivalry between Russian, Canada, the United States, and other countries? What if the Saudi oil fields require protection? What if we have to secure our southern border from increasingly ambitious drug cartels or civil disturbances in Mexico?"

Well, in the mere year since I wrote those words, three of those seven contingencies (Iran, Pakistan and Mexico) have gone from speculation to the daily headlines. The blood is not yet on the ground regarding them, but prudent investors would start buying coffins. And yet we plan not at all.

Our troop strength is so limited that President Obama has to move troops out of Iraq — risking turning inherited near success into possible strategic failure — in order to slightly beef up Afghanistan. Now, while perhaps we may have some time, we should be putting on a crash program to increase troop and materiel strength. With the recession, we probably could induct more volunteers than seemed possible during prosperity. But that is only a half-measure. We eventually will need more Army and Marine combat troops than will volunteer (and increased Navy and Air Force sea and airlift and fighting capacity, which we could start building now).

It should be inadmissible for the U.S. government to identify a "mortal threat" without at least offering up a plan to defeat it. Where is the plan? Where is the public clamor for a plan?

Tony Blankley is executive vice president of Edelman public relations in Washington. E-mail him at TonyBlankley@gmail.com. To find out more about Tony Blankley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Go, Speed Racer, Go!

I just finished watching this movie on Blu-Ray disc.

Wow!

The story is fun, it's kid-friendly (but with a few PG words) without being too childish for adults, and the visuals are spectacular. My only regret is that I didn't see this in the local all-digital-projection theater when it was released.

It is a visual knockout, with colors so bright and saturated and unreal and over-the-top that you'll just stare at the movie in giddy delight the whole time.

Monday, February 9, 2009

It Was Forty-Five Years Ago Today


Yeah, Yeah, Yes
How the Beatles led a six-year-old boy to contemplate art and life.

By Mark Goldblatt

Forty-five years ago this week—February 9, 1964—the Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was six years old and don’t remember much about it, but my mother never tired of telling the story of what happened that night in the Goldblatt household.

We owned one television, a black-and-white Motorola monster built into a battleship of walnut cabinetry that also housed a record player, a radio tuner, and stereo speakers. My five-year-old sister and I functioned as remote controls for my father, who, when he was home, would lie on the couch and exercise absolute dominion over programming. The arrangement was more onerous than it sounds; wherever we were in the house, whatever we were doing, if my dad wanted to change channels, one of us had to run into the living room and do it.

The payoff for our labors came on Sunday night at eight o’clock, when we’d gather around the TV—my mom and dad on the couch, my sister and me on the pine-green carpet at their feet—for Ed Sullivan. It was the only program we watched together, a coincidence of agendas: My dad liked the show enough to watch it straight through, my mom liked the idea of having the family together at the end of the weekend, and my sister and I liked staying up past our usual 7:30 bedtime. On a typical Sunday night, according to my mom, my sister lasted until 8:15; I’d start to doze off 15 minutes later. By 8:45, we’d both be conked out on the carpet, ready to be toted to the bedroom we shared as soon as Sullivan signed off at 9:00.

But February 9, 1964, was different. My mom said you could sense it from the start of the show. There was a buzz in the studio audience that came through the speakers and seemed to take hold of me and my sister. We were suddenly up on our haunches—as skittish, she said, in her Louisiana twang, as long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs. She had just enough time to notice the difference before Sullivan introduced the Beatles, and the crowd broke into a torrent of screams . . . at which point, my sister and I rushed the TV. The two of us sat mesmerized, perhaps a foot from the screen, as Paul McCartney began to sing “All My Loving.” We did not move the entire hour, not even during the commercials. Afterwards, when my mother tried to tuck us into our beds, we kept kicking the covers loose. She got us settled down after half an hour, but around midnight, she was awakened by several loud thuds. She ran into our room and found us jumping up and down on our beds, literally bouncing off the walls, making nonsensical noises that sounded vaguely like Beatles songs.

It’s difficult for baby boomers to convey to their children, and now to their grandchildren, the otherness of the Beatles. There was, of course, the sheer size of the phenomenon. Beatlemania was a kind of collective derangement, an abrupt skewing of popular perception. By April, the group held down the top five positions on the Billboard magazine chart and had seven other songs in the top 100. That meant that if you turned on a radio in the spring of 1964, you heard a Beatles song. I remember thinking that the Motorola tuner was a Beatles music player; once I turned it on and heard Louis Armstrong singing “Hello Dolly,” and thought the thing was broken.

But Beatlemania went beyond radio. The girls in my first-grade class would sing Beatles songs as they lined up in the schoolyard, then break into spontaneous screams until the teachers shushed them. I remember a boy named Andrew crying in the back of the classroom because his mother made him cut his hair, which he’d wanted to grow out like the Beatles. My best friend, Eddy, who was a year older than I was, persuaded his parents to buy him a Beatles single—I’m almost sure it was “A Hard Day’s Night.” I remember going over to his house and staring at it. Not playing it; that was too risky. Just staring at it, the paper sleeve and record together . . . and then, holy of holies, the vinyl itself. Eddy set it down on the pillow of his bed, and the two of us stepped back and venerated it.

Even in 1964, though, no one could have predicted that by the end of that decade the Beatles would bear the same relationship to popular music that Shakespeare bore to the English drama of his time: clearly within it, yet curiously beyond it. Just as there is no explicable way to get from Nicholas Udall’s Ralph Roister Doister to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so too there is no way to get from Leiber and Stoller’s “Jailhouse Rock” or Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” to John Lennon’s “Revolution” or Paul McCartney’s “Helter Skelter.” Given the landscape of musical influences available to the Beatles, what’s the logical precedent for “Eleanor Rigby” or “I Am the Walrus” or “Golden Slumbers” or “Nowhere Man” or “Penny Lane” or “Across the Universe” or the entire Sgt. Pepper album? The question that jumps to mind with each of these recordings is: Where the hell did that come from?

For each generation’s most popular musicians, from Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland to Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and the Temptations to (I suppose) Eminem, Mariah Carey, and Beyoncé, there’s a traceable progression to their musical development, a discernible link with what came before. What set the Beatles apart was that they seemed to conjure their greatest work out of the ether—or maybe out of the breath of a muse.

Consider the first verse of “For No One”: “Your day breaks, your mind aches / You find that all her words of kindness linger on / When she no longer needs you.” The subject matter couldn’t be more familiar—in essence, breaking up is hard to do. But the mood is Thomas Hardy. The compactness is William Carlos Williams. The rhythms and internal rhymes are Emily Dickinson, with hints of Dylan Thomas and Gerard Manley Hopkins. There’s nothing remotely like it in popular music. Now consider that the words were written by McCartney, who was 23 at the time, who set out to write a pop song, not a work of literature, and who, by his own admission, never put as much effort into his lyrics as Lennon did.

When asked once whether he himself was a genius, Lennon replied, “Yes, if there is such a thing as one, I am one.” Whether Lennon was correct is debatable. He was no intellectual giant—“Imagine” is melodic and moving, especially given what we know of his fate, yet it’s as trite and grandiose as a mass-produced sympathy card. His inability to see through Yoko Ono’s bluff art is forgivable, perhaps, as the indulgence of a spouse, but not otherwise. On the other hand, Lennon did have flashes of exquisite clarity throughout his life, even towards the very end, as in the justly celebrated line from “Beautiful Boy”: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” He also had a largeness of sensibility that both reflected and shaped the times in which he lived. Does that amount to genius?

The question of genius becomes less debatable when asked collectively of the Beatles. If there is such a thing, they had it—in spades. Indeed, the strongest evidence of their collective genius is found in the unimpressive post-Beatles careers of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr. Lennon, who had once appeared to some an amalgam of Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, Buddy Holly, and Howlin’ Wolf, devolved into Lenny Bruce with a guitar and a howling Oedipus complex. McCartney, who as a Beatle seemed to channel George Gershwin as often as Chuck Berry, became just another Brill Building–caliber singer-songwriter, a harder-edged Neil Diamond. Harrison, who had developed into a great songwriter through osmosis, released one magnificent triple-LP solo album, All Things Must Pass, consisting primarily of a backlog of Beatles-era material, and then a string of ever-more-unlistenable records before hooking up with a group of fellow has-beens, including Dylan and Roy Orbison, to form the intermittently palatable Traveling Wilburys. Starr, after the success of his solo album Ringo, went on to become a nostalgia act, even now peppering his stage performances and interviews with two-fingered peace signs straight out of 1970.

Clearly, in the case of the Beatles, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. But isn’t that a hopeful sign for the human condition? There’s potential in each of us, perhaps, for greatness—a potential that cannot be gauged or accounted for, a potential that cannot be tapped by social engineering, because the formula for its realization is mysterious. (What would a happy childhood, a structured adolescence, and a formal musical education have done to John Lennon?) Of course, the overwhelming majority of us will never be truly great at anything. But the potential for greatness, even if it’s rarely realized, is the first and final counterargument to the grim sterility of materialism. We’re more, the Beatles remind us, than the cells of our bodies, more than the atoms of our cells, more than our drives and appetites, more than our economic relation to the state and to one another.

Under just the right circumstances, we can transcend the deterministic logic of what we are and come to the truth of why we are. Being the Beatles was the why of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr’s lives. It was their raison d’être, their teleology, their lasting contribution.

And it was what had me bouncing off the walls 45 years ago this week.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Texas: Where Innocence Is No Excuse


From http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6243255.html

Commentary: Verdict is still out on innocence as defense
By LISA FALKENBERG
Feb. 2, 2009, 11:31PM

Does innocence matter?

When I posed that question in a column last week on death row inmate Larry Swearingen's innocence claim in federal court, I was unaware of the state of Texas' long-held official answer.

The next day, attorney Gerry Birnberg sent me the link to the transcript of the 1992 oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case Herrera v. Collins.

I was appalled by what I read.

The State of Texas argued before the nation's highest court that it was OK to execute an innocent person, as long as he got a fair trial.

The most chilling exchange came when a justice asked the assistant attorney general arguing for Texas, Margaret Griffey, whether the state would maintain that same position if video evidence conclusively proved the person didn't commit the crime. The justice wanted to know: Is there a violation of that person's constitutional rights if he were executed anyway because no court would hear the video evidence?

"No, Your Honor, there is not," Griffey replied.

The justices continued to probe, as if needing clarification of what they were hearing.

If everyone agrees that the evidence establishes innocence, another justice inquired, but the jury just made a mistake, "is there a constitutional right under the Eighth Amendment (which bars cruel and unusual punishment) not to be executed when you're innocent? That's the issue. And you're saying no, there's no such right."

"That is what I'm saying, Your Honor," said Griffey.

Several criminal defense attorneys told me this is still Texas' official stance. But I decided to ask Attorney General Greg Abbott's office.

AG spokesman Jerry Strickland provided an unexpected response. Texas, it seems, has changed its mind.

"No," he wrote in an e-mail. "It would not be permissible for the state to execute a person whom the state knew to be innocent." In a later e-mail, he said such an execution "would constitute a miscarriage of justice."

I asked what led to the change of position, and he wouldn't elaborate. But he pointed out that even under the old thinking, AG's attorneys had worked to clear inmates they felt were wrongfully convicted.

The new philosophy was news to the criminal defense bar.

"It's a breath of fresh air coming from the AG's office, a fabulous development," said James Rytting, who represents Swearingen. "To take the position that you can kill people who are innocent is morally repugnant to anyone's system of justice."

Rytting said the AG's new stance could help his client, who got a stay of execution from a federal appeals court last week based on newfound forensic evidence. The evidence suggests Swearingen was in jail on an unrelated charge in 1998 when the body of 19-year-old victim Melissa Trotter was dumped in the woods.

But several other criminal defense attorneys expressed skepticism that the AG's lawyers, who represent the state in late criminal appeals in federal court, will practice what their office is now preaching.

The AG's office, defense attorneys say, still throw up every roadblock at their disposal, such as procedural errors and strict adherence to deadlines, to derail even credible claims of innocence.

"It's a refreshing attitude," said attorney Patrick McCann, but, "until they start actually waiving appeal and confessing error ... they're just blowing smoke."

"It's a significant change in position," said attorney Dick Burr. "We in the capital defense bar hope they will likewise have a more open-minded approach to the facts showing innocence."

"They're charged to defend the state's convictions," said attorney Stan Schneider. "I don't see them changing. They're going to continue fighting cases."

Still more roadblocks

The question remained: was Strickland articulating a true shift in Texas' approach to innocence claims, that actual innocence actually matters, or just feeding a line to a newspaper columnist?

The proof, I guess, is in the pleadings.

As recently as last month, the AG's lawyers answered Swearingen's compelling claim of actual innocence with the same procedural roadblocks it's employed for years.

Among the reasons the AG's office argued that the 5th Circuit shouldn't consider the merits of Swearingen's claim: It was past deadline.

And, this late in the game, in federal court, being truly innocent isn't a good enough reason to ask not to be executed.