Tidbits for Political Junkies with Short Attention Spans & Hearty Appetites


Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Slime and Defend

Tom Tomorrow
Taxi Fares

Okay, this may not be a major news item for readers outside of New York City, but you may relate to the general theme.

The New York Times, reporting on a the just-approved increase in Taxi Fares, notes that "to soften the blow, the [Taxi and Limousine] commission also adopted improvements for passengers, including one that could make New York one of the first major cities where all cabs accept credit and debit cards."

Uh oh. Improvements.

Now, I don't know if you remember a television ad that ran a while back, for one of the credit cards, that depicts a hapless fellow waiting in line to buy hot dogs at some sporting concession. With dozens of other customers waiting in line behind him, he's still having trouble deciding how many hot dogs he wants when he reaches the front of the line, and only then discovers that he doesn't have enough cash to pay for them. Charming. Now I'm not sure what would happen where you live, but I think it's a safe bet that here in New York a lot us would be sorely tempted to throttle the guy.

New York does have its peculiar courtesies. One of them is know what you want, and be ready to pay for it, when you reach the front of a deli line. The corollary for taxis is know your cross streets, and be ready to pay when you get where you're going. Your driver, and the person getting into the cab as you're getting out, will appreciate it.

So, needless to say, I was a bit disappointed in the Times when I discovered this passage, towards the end of the article, describing just how much credit cards would "improve" the Taxi experience:

Out of 38 test trips conducted in a recent study by Mr. Schaller, he said, only 13 percent of transactions went through successfully. A significant problem is the time credit card transactions take to process, an average of two minutes and 20 seconds; that may be too long for drivers hurrying to their next fare and waiting in traffic.

I know it may be tempting to pay your taxi driver on the installment plan. But please, folks: carry cash.

Splitting the Marriage Baby

From Ellen Goodman:

Talk about shotgun marriages. The Massachusetts Legislature finally found a way to unite the opponents on either side of the gay marriage debate. These enemies are now wed in anger at the politicians.

On Monday, the Legislature narrowly approved an amendment to the state Constitution that would simultaneously ban same-sex marriages and establish civil unions. This dual deal was taken as a piece of double-dealing. It dismayed the folks bearing posters that read "No Civil Rights for Sodomites" almost as much as those carrying placards that said "No Discrimination in the Constitution."

Solomon would be proud. At last, a compromise that makes absolutely no one happy.

Lest We Forget

George W. Bush. March 19, 2004: "it is a good thing that the men and women across the Middle East, looking to Iraq, are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can be like."

Like this?

More on Clarke's Successors

Among the difficulties of writing about anything related to the Bush administration is the fact that one quickly discovers the story is larger, and worse, than you had imagined. My last post, for instance, brought a comment from astute reader DeepThought42, who directed my attention to some of the more fascinating links between General Wayne Downing and Ahmed Chalabi:

[Downing] was a lobbyist for Chalabi's INC, and he has ties to a Defense Contractor who's of course tied to the Iraq. He's nothing but a profiteer at this point although he may have been an honorable man once.

A little googling yielded up more. From Tom Paine, just last week, there’s a piece called “Chalabi’s Secret PR Shop." A sample:

The two CIA officials, Dewey Clarridge and Wayne Downing, are both retired, and they're now on the payroll of The Rendon Group, a firm long associated with U.S. covert operations in Iraq. Both have been seen recently in Baghdad. Clarridge, a key CIA participant in the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s, was spotted wearing a jacket with the word "Contra" on the back. Downing, a former Bush administration official and longtime covert operations specialist, plotted with the neocons to demand an invasion of Iraq during the 1990s, especially after 9/11. During that time, he worked closely with Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress on a fanciful plan to support an INC-led paramilitary effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein. (Boldface in original.)

Chalabi’s own entanglements, of course, are enough to make otherwise healthy synapses curl and sputter. If you need a refresher course, you may want to refer to this handy diagram, from the ever-helpful Uggabugga. While this is nothing compared to the Chart on W, you get the picture.

Meanwhile, the Slime Team is worried about Clarke's motives. Sheesh.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Clarke’s Successors AWOL on Slime Patrol*

Notably absent from the Sychronized Slime Team™ last week were any of the direct successors to Clarke’s position. So far, there have been four, a record which itself raises at least a few questions. One might reasonably ask why they’ve all been so quiet.

First there was Wayne Downing, who, according to Clarke, is a “retired four-star Army General who had led Special Operations command.” Downing quit “within months,” and is now an NBC news military analyst. For the record, Downing did make a brief appearance on Chris Matthew's Hardball last week, where he made a few comments that, in the end, are unlikely to have either hurt or helped either side a great deal. Downing acknowledged that Clarke is “partisan,” but also “truthful” -- though the latter claim was then qualified:

“He tells the truth, Chris, as he knows it through the filters that all of us have with our perceptions.”

One can only infer, because Matthews didn't ask, that Clarke is also being truthful when he says in his book that Downing quit “in frustration at the Administration’s continued bureaucratic response to the threat.” You don't suppose, do you, that there's a pattern here?

Next up was the team of John Gordon and Rand Beers. Beers, as many of you know, is now a foreign policy advisor to the Kerry campaign, and a personal friend of Clarke’s. So I guess the White House won't be getting much help from him. There’s a memorable exchange in Clarke's book, where Beers stops by for “some drinks and advice:”

“I think I have to quit….They still don’t get it. Insteada goin’ all out against al Qaeda and eliminating our vulnerabilities at home, they want to fuckin’ invade Iraq again.”

Clarke quotes Beers at length, capturing a fine rant that goes on for a while about the idiocy of invading Iraq, and the shameless politicization of the War on terror, before it concludes with these words: “I can’t work for these people.”

Who, with a conscience, could?

Which left John Gordon, who remained until promoted – or kicked upstairs, it’s hard to tell, especially since I’m not sure if one can be kicked upstairs to a basement office – into the position vacated by Tom Ridge, Homeland Security Advisor. Perhaps the White House had figured out by then that it's not such a good idea to just let these guys quit. Presumably, he could have joined the attack team last week – but somehow chose not to. If anyone has any idea why, please let me know.

Which brings us, finally, to the matter of Fran Townsend, whom I’m betting few people have ever heard of. She did, however, manage to catch the attention of the ever-vigilant Robert Novak, shortly after her appointment last year:

Much of Washington was stunned last month when President Bush's chief counterterrorism expert [Rand Beers] resigned with a blast of criticism and then joined Democratic Sen. John Kerry's campaign for president.

The shock among a knowledgeable few was even greater when an intimate adviser of Janet Reno as the Clinton administration's attorney general was named to a similar high-ranking terrorism post.

Mr. Novak’s lament is that “careful political screening by the Bush operation for routine appointments seems to have broken down in filling highly sensitive terrorism posts.”

It’s not clear what alternative he would have preferred. Does he think that it would have been a good idea to put a brazen political hack in the nation’s most senior counter-terrorism post? Frankly, I doubt Novak considered alternatives at all. To do that, he would have had to consider one obvious possibility: maybe, just maybe, the White House couldn’t find any Republicans with serious counterterrorism credentials.

Call me crazy, but somehow I have a feeling we won't be hearing a lot from Ms. Townsend any time soon. But then, who knows: she may even be in line for a promotion.

*Headline format inspired by one of my favorite sites, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

**Clarke's account of the revolving door in his wake is in Against All Enemies, on pp. 240-242.

Today's Horoscope, Anesthesia Edition

Medical stuff to deal with today, so don't expect much new here. This just seemed oddly appropriate:

This is one of those days in which you just can't figure out what to order for dinner. You are the official owner of the cloudy head today, dear Aries. You are waiting at the deli counter trying to figure out what you want and then when it's your turn to order, you've already forgotten. Your emotions may be so tied up in your brain that you can't think straight at all. Use this time to simply mellow out and watch a movie.

Apparently, We’re Not Just Getting Wider.

This week’s New Yorker asks “why Europeans are getting taller – and Americans aren’t”:

In “The Height Gap,” in this week’s issue and here online (see Fact), Burkhard Bilger writes about new questions raised by the study of human height. Here, with The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson, Bilger discusses what height says about a society’s health—and why Americans may be falling behind.

I’d urge you read the whole thing. A few quick excerpts:

In our height lies the tale of our birth and upbringing, of our social class, daily diet, and health-care coverage. In our height lies our history.

Biologists say that we achieve our stature in three spurts: the first in infancy, the second between the ages of six and eight, the last in adolescence. Any decent diet can send us sprouting at these ages, but take away any one of forty-five or fifty essential nutrients and the body stops growing. (“Iodine deficiency alone can knock off ten centimetres and fifteen I.Q. points,” one nutritionist told me.)

While heights in Europe continued to climb, Komlos said, “the U.S. just went flat.” In the First World War, the average American soldier was still two inches taller than the average German. But sometime around 1955 the situation began to reverse. The Germans and other Europeans went on to grow an extra two centimetres a decade, and some Asian populations several times more, yet Americans haven’t grown taller in fifty years. By now, even the Japanese—once the shortest industrialized people on earth—have nearly caught up with us, and Northern Europeans are three inches taller and rising.

As America’s rich and poor drift further apart, its growth curve may be headed in the opposite direction, Komlos and others say. The eight million Americans without a job, the forty million without health insurance, the thirty-five million who live below the poverty line are surely having trouble measuring up. And they’re not alone. As more and more Americans turn to a fast-food diet, its effects may be creeping up the social ladder, so that even the wealthy are growing wider rather than taller. “I’ve seen a similar thing in Guatemala,” Bogin says. “The rich kids are taken care of by poor maids, so they catch the same diseases. When they go out on the street, they eat the same street food. They may get antibiotics, but they’re still going to get exposed.”

Steckel has found that Americans lose the most height to Northern Europeans in infancy and adolescence, which implicates pre- and post-natal care and teen-age eating habits. “If these snack foods are crowding out fruits and vegetables, then we may not be getting the micronutrients we need,” he says. In a recent British study, one group of schoolchildren was given hamburgers, French fries, and other familiar lunch foods; the other was fed nineteen-forties-style wartime rations such as boiled cabbage and corned beef. Within eight weeks, the children on the rations were both taller and slimmer than the ones on a regular diet.

Boiled cabbage? Corned beef? Who knew? Somewhere in here, there’s a nice little essay on what all of this means – but I’m not sure that I’m up to that right now.

But a few quick comments. Writers like Greg Critser and Michael Pollan have already done excellent work to reveal the links between agricultural policy, abundant cheap corn, and rising obesity. What Bilger has done here is add a new dimension to the debate: "In our height lies the tale of our birth and upbringing, of our social class, daily diet, and health-care coverage. In our height lies our history."

But enough of the soapbox. Like everything else, it’s all the Republican’s fault.


Monday, March 29, 2004

Threading the needle

Josh Marshall nicely dissects Condi's fine performance on 60 Minutes, noting her ability to chose words carefully, to fit "an unhelpful set of facts." I can't help wondering if this statement isn't yet another example of the same thing:

...the President doesn't talk to his staff in an intimidating way to ask them to produce information - that is false.

Is she telling us, in her own special way, that there is no need for the President to intimidate his staff, when he wants them to lie? Is she admitting, in a roundabout way, that they do so routinely & willingly? Or does she just want to remind us that intimidation, in this White House, only enters the picture when someone tells the truth?


Sunday, March 28, 2004

Hate Crimes

Yow. Take a look at this, from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs :

"In the six months of 2003 from the Supreme Court's Lawrence decision through the end of the year, NCAVP member organizations charted a 24% increase in anti-LGBTH incidents when we compared the same time period in 2002," said Clarence Patton, NCAVP's Acting Executive Director.

"This included a 120% increase in Chicago, a 133% increase in Colorado, a 43% increase in New York, and a 14% increase in San Francisco. Even more significantly, in a number of these regions, significant downward trends reversed themselves after the Lawrence decision, resulting in a total increase in incidents for the full year" added Patton.

And those are just the statistics.

[UPDATE: I've edited this post to remove the scary description of an incident in Georgia, for the sound reason that the story has not been confirmed. Apologies that I did not check this more carefully before posting it. You can follow the link for updates, but for now let's say I'm relieved.]

Our favorite nutritional expert, on carbs...

Dave Barry:

The Atkins Diet lives on, helping millions of Americans to lose weight. The irony is, you can't tell this by looking at actual Americans....

Speaking of Credibility, Dr. Frist...

In the news reports of Senator Bill Frist’s attacks on Richard Clarke – at least those that I’ve seen so far – one detail seems to be seriously under-reported, and another, overlooked altogether. A little background first, from this article in yesterday’s Washington Post:

The Senate's top Republican called yesterday for declassifying Richard A. Clarke's testimony before a House-Senate intelligence panel two years ago to determine whether he lied, as partisan exchanges intensified over allegations leveled this week by the Bush administration's former counterterrorism chief.

Now here's the accusation, from Frist’s speech on Friday:

Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath. In July 2002, in front of the Congressional Joint Inquiry on the September 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke testified under oath that the Administration actively sought to address the threat posed by Al Qaeda during its first seven months in office.

Mr. President, it is one thing for Mr. Clarke to dissemble in front of the media. But if he lied under oath to the United States Congress it is a far more serious matter. As I mentioned, the intelligence committee is seeking to have Mr. Clarke's previous testimony declassified so as to permit an examination of Mr. Clarke's two different accounts. Loyalty to any Administration will be no defense if it is found that he has lied before Congress.

Note the emphatic, declarative sentence: “Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath.” Good work, Dr. Frist: Give 'em the soundbite first, short and unequivocal, and then slip in a couple of 'ifs,' later on, to leave room for backpedalling.

Now here’s that under-reported little detail, from the Daily News (tip of the hat to Billmon), from an account of Frist's later remarks to reporters:

He said he personally didn’t know whether there were any discrepancies between Clarke’s two appearances.


So if I understand you correctly, Dr. Frist, you are making accusations on the floor of the Senate, and yet you personally have no idea whether they’re true. But then, silly me, how could you know? I had almost forgotten, because these reports failed to mention, one little fact: you’re not even on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

(note: this entry cross-posted to my diary, here, at Daily Kos)


Friday, March 26, 2004

"The Buck Stops Somewhere Else"

A Quote. Some Facts. Another Quote.

Sometimes that's all you need to make a story. Billmon does this brilliantly. Go read this, now.

Weekend Food Section, Guacamole Department

I promised food talk when I started this thing – and so far, apart from a rant or two about HFCS, there hasn’t actually been much. Since it’s now officially the weekend, I thought I’d start you all off with something really, really simple: guacamole.

The most important trick is this: don’t make it until you’re ready, or about ready, to serve it. That’s it – and that’s also why most of the stuff you buy in a store won’t taste this good. It’s great freshly made, better a half hour later, fine for a few hours, and then (if you have any left by then) downhill from there. The next most important tricks are to trust your judgment, and trust your taste buds. There’s no need to dump in all of the flavoring ingredients at once. Start with what looks right. Taste, adjust, and taste again -- until you're completely convinced that it's yummy. That’s how good food is done.

If you like, you can also prep all of the flavoring ingredients at some odd moment during the afternoon. Just don’t cut open your avocados, or blend anything, until later.

In case there are any real novices among the three or four of you who read this thing, I’ve also included some links to some handy photo-tutorials on cooking basics. (And feel free to vary the amounts of the flavorings to taste. These are just guidelines.):

1 fresh jalapeño pepper.
a handful of fresh cilantro (about ¼ cup)
½ Medium onion (about 1/3 cup)
1 fresh tomato (okay, this may be hard this time of year, but do the best you can).
Salt (about 1 teaspoon)
Juice of one fresh lime
3 Ripe Avocados (Haas)

Prep. You have a choice with the jalapeno. You can simply remove the stem, split it lengthwise, remove the seeds, and dice it very finely. Fast, easy, and tasty. Just promise me you’ll wash your hands after handling the pepper (touching your lips, or, um, other sensitive body parts, while you still have fiery residues on your hands is not a good thing). Or, you can roast it first, and then just mash the whole thing (minus the stem, of course.) The result this way is both mellower and more complex, and worth the extra few minutes. For this option, follow the instructions here – although you can ignore the part about doing this in the oven. Use a small dry sauté pan over high heat, or use tongs to hold the pepper directly over a gas flame. If any of this sounds like too much trouble, don't worry about it. A bit of canned jalapeno, or even just a good splash of Tabasco, will also work.

Clean and chop the cilantro. Core and chop the tomato (skin and all is fine here). Dice the onion, very finely, and then rinse it (a tea strainer works fine for this) under cold water (don't skip this detail). You are now ready.

Assembly. Halve the avocados lengthwise (cutting around the pit). Remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash with the back of a spoon, or one of those squiggly wire potato mashers. Add about half of the jalapeño, the tomato, the onion, and blend. Add salt to taste. Then the cilantro. To finish, add the juice of half of the lime. This lime juice should brighten up all the other flavors immediately. Taste, and then adjust with more lime juice, salt, or more jalapeño, as needed.

One note: if you’re holding it, even for a half hour, cover with plastic directly on the surface, and keep it in the fridge.

That’s it. Break out the chips and enjoy.

Bonus margarita formula (Always HFCS-free!): For each drink: In a shaker, stir together the juice of one lime (about ¾ oz.). 1 oz. Cointreau. 1 oz Silver, 100% agave Tequila. Taste, and add a bit of sugar if you feel it needs it. Add ice cubes, shake vigorously, and strain into chilled, salt-rimmed glasses. Repeat as necessary.

More on HFCS

My post yesterday on High Fructose Corn Syrup proved to be timelier than I had imagined. Take a look at Google News right now, and you’ll see what I mean.

The precipitating event for this minor, indeed practically unnoticed, media frenzy is the forthcoming release of a commentary from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which “Researchers say they've found more evidence of a link between a rapid rise in obesity and a corn product used to sweeten soft drinks and food since the 1970s.” (AP.)

We should be clear, however, that the link appears to one of correlation, rather than causality – at least that’s what I can glean so far.

The interesting part, of course, is that food industry flacks are already out trying to minimize the impact of the article, long before the rest of us can find out what it actually said. Maybe they’ve all been watching the White House out in full denial mode this week, and they just wanted to join the fun.

For example, from the same AP article, we learn that Alison Kretser, a spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America (a group whose members include Coca Cola and Sara Lee), says that “weight gain would be a problem even if the sweetener didn't exist.”

Well yes, probably. But that doesn’t mean that it's not a big part of the problem. In fairness, it’s hard to tell yet whether the heart of the problem is fructose metabolism, or simply the fact that the stuff is so cheap that it’s become easier than ever to consume way too much of it. That jury is still out. But I suspect the truth is that it’s a little of both.

Among the odder claims is one that appears in the Washington Times, from the same Alison Kretser:

"HFCS is a blend of 42 percent fructose and 58 percent glucose. Table sugar is made of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose," Ms. Kretser said.

Well, sort of. She makes it sound as if your sack of Dixie Crystals is a blend of little glucose granules and fructose granules, which is decidedly not the case. What she fails to point out is that table sugar is a complex sugar called sucrose, and a sucrose molecule is made up of one molecule each of glucose and fructose. Since one of the key points of contention is how the stuff is broken down in the body, it strikes me as just a tad misleading to pretend that the stuff is the same. Salt is sodium chloride, but I wouldn’t use that fact to argue that pure chlorine or pure sodium is good for you.

More Condi

Josh Marshall Nails it:

...it is very hard for me to grasp the constitutional issue implicated in Rice's taking an oath to tell the truth when she speaks to the Commission.

A constitutional issue involved in a presidential aide speaking to a fact-finding commission? Not a determinative one, I think. But yes, an issue.

Whether the testimony is public? Maybe.

But whether or not the testimony is sworn? I don't get that. This seems especially the case when she wants to appear specifically to rebut other sworn testimony. How can you claim the need to preserve the confidentiality of the president's communications with his top aides, then break that confidence to refute someone's criticism, and then say you won't make the charges under oath?


Obviously, not having the testimony sworn gives her ... well, more leeway.

Voiceover (as Montgomery Burns): "Mmmmmm....yes...leeway...excellent...."


Thursday, March 25, 2004

This is encouraging...

Republicans for Kerry?

Condi-related Coverage Activities, Special Awards Edition

For forthright honesty in a headline: Sean Aday, of the Gadflyer, for “He Said, She Lied.”

Most entertaining headline: Brad Delong, for “It’s a Circular Firing Squad of Flying Attack Monkeys.” Don’t miss the accompanying Tom Toles cartoon.

Most telling photo selection, Kevin Drum, who notes, “I certainly understand why Rice has been looking so pissed lately.” (No graphics yet on this site, so do follow the link.)

Most entertaining animated presentation: Wonkette, for inspiring the Sloganator Memorial Presentation. (Okay, it doesn’t even mention Condi, but it was just too funny not to include.)

Most imaginative use of unread review books, to the The Center for American Progress, for this Contest Challenge:

Prove you're better than The Progress Report! Send any instance of Rice, Cheney or Bush uttering the words "al Qaeda" or "bin Laden" in public between 1/20/01 and 9/10/01 to pr@americanprogress.org. The first person to submit a successful entry (which we can verify) will receive a free copy of "Deliver Us From Evil" by Fox News Anchor Sean Hannity signed by the members of the Progress Report team.

I’m sure that there’s a lot more out there that I’ve missed altogether, but here are a few other must-reads: Spencer Ackerman, at The New Republic; Martin Sieff, at Salon, and “Clarke Withstands Scrutiny,” from the same issue of The Progress Report linked above.

Finally, via Tom and Lambert over at Corrente ("Profiles in Bush League Courage"), we hear that Condi wants to clear up "a number of mischaracterizations." Privately, and not under oath.

What I can't figure out is why forty-plus percent of the public still wants to vote for these clowns....

UPDATE: I somehow missed this, from TBogg:

Putting Condoleeza Rice on TV is not one of the administration's best moves. She comes across as shifty, defensive, and thin-skinned (possibly because she is shifty, defensive, and thin-skinned), so it comes as no surprise that she wants to talk about 9/11...in private:

Deflating the Texas Soufflé

Stirling Newberry, a very capable commentator not known for brevity, has thoughtfully provided a nice graph of the new Rasmussen poll, (see “Speaking of Clarke…,” below), along with a detailed post here, on the tanking of the Bush reputation. His conclusion is magnificent:

There are many who do not yet want to believe, but the arc of the last year has forced them to be willing to believe. These people wobble in their loyalties. The polls show the truth, they have already abandoned the current Executive Branch on the question of the economy, if they become convinced that Iraq, and indeed the national security apparatus, is, likewise, a sham, the[y] will turn on the Executive with a brutality which only the disillusioned know.

Something devoutly to be wished....

...Billmon has more on this, here

The World’s Finest Intelligence Service

There’s so much good stuff out there on the Clarke controversy – to read and to watch – that I’ve hardly had time to crack the book itself. So I’ll spare you another repeat of what you can easily find elsewhere, and instead offer up this little nugget, from page 83.

If you recall, Clinton’s retaliation for the assassination attempt on the elder Bush’s life was to bomb the Iraqi intelligence headquarters. Clarke describes the critical moment between the time the bombs were launched, and the time that Clinton was scheduled to go on national television, when he began looking to then-National Security Advisor Anthony Lake for something he didn’t yet have: clear confirmation. Said Clinton, “I do want to know for certain that we blew this place up before telling the world that I did.”

A reasonable enough request, that apparently sent the CIA scrambling:

Admiral Bill Studebaker, the number two man at CIA, began making calls. Satellites were redirected. “We got nothin’,” he reported. “The missiles should have hit several minutes ago, but we have nothing that can tell us that…not for a while.”

A glum mood settled over the office as we wondered how we would get the President to go on national television. Then, as we talked, he did it. On all networks, the Saturday news anchors were told something and announced a surprise address by the President. “We don’t know why,” one said.

Clinton read the short statement and then, almost immediately, showed up in Lake’s office with Vice President Al Gore. “We thought you were not going to go on,” Lake confessed. “We thought you needed proof that the missiles hit.”

Gore urged the President to tell us something that the two highest leaders in the land clearly found funny. “Okay, okay,” Clinton agreed. “I needed relative certainty that the missiles had hit and none of you could give me that…so I called CNN….”


I tend to scoff at anyone who tells me what not to eat. I like bacon (especially artisanal varieties such as you might find here), I use plenty of butter, and I tend to think that few things rival the joy of a freshly shucked and carefully fried oyster. So please take my word for it when I tell you that I am not some Jane Brody-ish advocate of plain steamed vegetables or “sauce on the side” I live for the sauce.

There is, however, one substance that I do my best to avoid: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). If you’re not familiar with its evils, you might want to look here, or better yet – get yourself a copy of Greg Critser’s excellent book, Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World. In my mind, it’s as essential and eye-opening as Eric Schlosser’s far more widely-read Fast Food Nation.

Now, a more sensible journalist would have written this post before giving away his copy of the book, so I’m working from memory here – but the upshot is very clear: HFCS is demonstrably more fattening than ordinary table sugar. There’s a study cited in the book of some 570 or so schoolchildren, whose soda-drinking habits were monitored for a period of eighteen months. Three bits of information stick in my mind: one, that soda consumption increased throughout the monitoring period; two, that each can per day correlated with a measurable increase in body mass (point one-something, I don’t recall exactly); and three, that the correlation remained constant regardless of other differences in diet or exercise. Needless to say, that last bit got my attention.

The somewhat alarming thing, of course, is that the stuff is almost impossible to avoid. I could not find an example of any mass-market soft drink, including “sports drinks,” that wasn’t loaded with the stuff. It also shows up in breads, and even healthy-sounding cereal bars.

So my diet tip of the day is this: stick with water as your daytime beverage – and consider replacing that Vodka-tonic with a bourbon-and-soda, or a sensible martini.

...further reading: Michael Pollan's outstanding piece, originally published in the New York Times Magazine, "The (Agri)cultural Contradictions of Obesity."
Speaking of Clarke...

Billmon, as usual, is in fine form on this topic. Dont miss this, or this. A brief sample:

If you watched Clarke today, you now have a pretty good idea of why the administration and the VRWC wind machine are so terrified of him. If anything, he was even more effective than he was on 60 Minutes. From his opening statement (a simple, but eloquent, apology for failing to stop the 9/11 attacks) to his final answer to the final question, he was absolutely calm, completely lucid and utterly authoritative.

...meanwhile, via Kos, we learn of a Rasmussen poll, showing a 6-point swing in Kerry's favor, from Bush 48/Kerry 45 on Sunday to KERRY 47/BUSH 44 Wednesday. Whatever do you think might have happened?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Constitutional Tinkering, Re-Tinkered...

The Clarke book – and the ensuing White House smear campaign – have so dominated the news over the last few days, that you might have overlooked this item.

In brief, Wayne Allard (R:CO), one of the original sponsors of the moribund turkey known as the Federal Marriage Amendment, has announced a slight revision:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

As you see, all he’s done is strike five words ("nor state or federal law")– claiming, in the process that this protects the ability of states to legislate Civil Unions. Perhaps.

More to the point, however, the FMA in its new form still preserves its most odious characteristics. It still prevents judges in every state from interpreting their own constitutions in such a way that would require anything even resembling civil marriage. Pretty hideous on Federalist grounds, never mind flat out mean.

Jack Balkin, always an astute observer on this topic, offers this:

The irony of the new version is that legislatures could pass civil unions laws as long as they did not believe that they were interpreting the state or federal constitution and promoting constitutional values-- such as equal protection of the laws-- by doing so. For then the legislature (or the executive official) would be construing the state or federal constitution to require civil unions.

Put another way, if legislatures sincerely believed that civil union laws were necessary to protect important constitutional values of equality and civil rights for gays and lesbians, they would not be permitted to pass such laws. On the other hand, if the legislature thought that a civil unions bill would bring more tourism into the state, that would be a permissible reason.

But of course, that's what the authors of the proposed amendment think about equal rights for gays-- they don't see it as an issue of civil rights. And that's precisely where they're wrong.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


First post, so bear with me.

The topics here are politics and food, not necessarily in that order. The political postings will lean Left, the food postings, distinctly Southward. Beyond that, only time will tell.

For the record, I'm not an academic or otherwise expert in the political field. I'm just a voracious reader, and (I hope), a reasonably educated citizen. I do, however, have a formal culinary education -- so, if you haven't yet got the hang of creole gumbo or an honest guacamole, the odds are pretty good that I can help.

For the moment, this will be just one blog -- though it may well turn out that it's a better idea to split the topics and run two. That, too, will emerge as this thing progresses.

Let the fun begin.... |

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