Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Lioness in Winter

Barbara Seaman, 72; Pioneer In Women's Health Movement
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 29, 2008
Barbara Seaman, 72, a writer and activist who challenged the safety of hormone replacement therapy and early oral contraceptives and became a central figure in the women's health movement, died Feb. 27 at her home in Manhattan. She had lung cancer.

The health movement of the 1970s urged women to educate themselves about their bodies and demand more control over their medical care. Ms. Seaman helped shepherd the movement by raising important, often overlooked questions about adequate testing for drugs.

She was also credited with helping to create the concept of patients' rights, particularly "informed consent" and proper warning labels on drugs.

Over time, she proved correct about the dangers of high doses of the female hormone estrogen in the earliest oral contraceptives. She also denounced hormone replacement therapy, which for decades was promoted as a magic bullet to keep menopausal women young and sexy.

Her books included "The Doctors' Case Against the Pill" (1969), which triggered congressional hearings into the safety of oral contraceptives, and "The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women" (2003), an expos¿ of hormone replacement therapy.

In 1975, Ms. Seaman co-founded the National Women's Health Network, an advocacy and watchdog group in Washington that worked to eliminate quotas for women in medical schools and give women the right to information about medical treatments and alternatives.

Ms. Seaman was among the first to question using hormone treatments to address symptoms of menopause, decades before the Women's Health Initiative released its long-term study in 2002 showing that such regimens significantly increase the risk of stroke, breast cancer and other diseases.

Vivian Pinn, a pathologist who directs the National Institutes of Health's Office of Research on Women's Health, said Ms. Seaman felt "vindicated" by the Women's Health Initiative study, for which she was an unofficial consultant.

"She was an advocate who challenged anyone she needed to challenge, including me, and recognized the importance of science" -- not just ideology -- "in responding to questions she raised," Pinn said.

"Condoms should be marketed in 3 sizes, jumbo, colossal, and super colossal, so that men do not have to go in and ask for the small."

Friday, February 29, 2008

Nader: The Audacity of Ego

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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It takes a particularly high opinion of self to be Ralph Nader. A multiple-loser for the Presidency, he is at again with another political loser, Matt Gonzalez. Although he lead the San Francisco Board of Supervisors several years ago, I find it difficult to understand how these guys think they can win in 2008.

Yes, let us all repeat again that Nader did bring product safety to the forefront of the American consciousness - yes, Ralph, thanks for that. But looking back at the last 7 years of a Bush presidency, you campaign harmed the nation just as much (if not more) as you helped it decades earlier.

You had great karma, but your 2000 bid damaged the nation, maybe to the point it may not recover.

But that wasn't enough. Oh hell no. Your ego required more stroking in 2004 and did nothing to help remove Bush from office. One would have thought that seeing how close the 2000 election was, you would have taken up the charge to restore voter rights and prevent that debacle from ever happening again. And it did happen again in the Great State of Ohio.

Thanks for that.

You may be a consumer advocate, but you can no longer claim to be an advocate for the American People. How many dead would still be living had Gore won in 2000? We needed you assistance instead of your resistance.

Don't look to me to stroke your ego or boost your over-inflated level of self-importance. And don't you dare ask for my campaign contribution.

Go masturbate on your own time.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

True Patriotism: The empty lapel of Barack Obama

"It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see publick dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief. But he sounds no alarm, when there is no enemy; he never terrifies his countrymen till he is terrified himself. The patriotism, therefore, may be justly doubted of him, who professes to be disturbed by incredibilities..." Samuel Johnson
The stage is covered with American flags, draped and propped and perched everywhere, to the left, to the right and behind the speaker's dais, which itself is covered with flag bunting and a covey of microphones nearly buried in a spreading nosegay of ... flags.

The wall at the rear of the stage is covered by a gigantic "Old Glory" and every participant, from the high and the mighty to the clipboard bearers, coffee servers and floor sweepers wears a flag on his lapel or near her heart. Ubiquitous is the term that comes to mind, sleazy is another, frightening yet another.

The people, the true believers in the audience are waving smaller versions of the national banner in a crazed, grinning, drooling frenzy of nationalistic sentiment, carrying signs, and banners, wearing shirts, hats, and neckties on which the same theme is repeated, ad nauseum projectillum.
All in all, there are more flags in attendance at this rally than swastikas at Hitler's lovely Nuremberg torch light soirées of the thirties.

Such is the face of American politics, American policy, in the 21st century, lurid, self righteous and jingoistic, the face of rabid, belligerent sanctimony.

There is significant part of this crowd as all the throngs in attendance at these events who wish that, along with the flags there would be represented, with equal prominence, the cross, the symbol of the God that they believe has led them to ravage large portions of the world, to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents, to maim, to cripple and traumatize, and to displace millions more, to drive hundreds of millions of others to despise with a nearly everlasting hatred, the very symbols that they display in their leering, insensate, mocking pride.

If you can, imagine this scene, which has become so typical of these modern American political debates, rallies, or other functions, so carefully crafted, the throwing of red meat to the circus crowds, displaying for the cameras the totality of the zealous support of an admiring public.

Imagine, if you will, that the cameras have panned back, way back to display the crowd watching from the distance, from other shores, in other climes, crowds who lack the same enthusiasm for the gong banging thirst for empire of their gleefully celebrating oppressors now displayed on the television screens or newspapers in Baghdad or Amman, Lima or Jakarta, Islamabad, Mexico City, Agra or dozens of other locales on every continent.

Imagine what must occur in the minds and hearts of those who treasure other flags, other histories, those who treasure other Gods.

One man, in this crowd, a prominent figure, who in the course of the evening will take center stage to speak or debate, to encourage, cajole or inspire those who thirst for his version of this America does not wear a flag in his lapel.

The absence of this nearly obligatory symbol of patriotic obeisance on his very public lapel has set tongues to wagging in some quarters and caused a great sturm und drang among the more vitriolic talking heads of the mass media and their admirers.

He did not remove the symbol publicly, nor did he cast it into some dramatic fire, nor tread it under foot, he called no press conference to discuss the removal of this small pin from his coat, he simply decided that the time for meaningless chauvinistic displays, so prominent in the wake of the smoldering rubble of the Twin Towers should give way to real patriotism, to simple action, to meaningful discussion of what is right about this America as well as what is wrong.

When the criticism began, when the cynical questioning of his patriotism began to slide unctuously from the mouths of the self serving and opportunistic pundits of the corporate media, he mounted no stages to make a great defense of his simple act, he made no apology, he quietly stood his ground and said this:
"If anyone's patriotism should be considered suspect, it's those who want to send Americans off to die in a worthless and destructive war and those who want to eviscerate our basic political values by torturing, detaining people with no rights, and spying on American citizens with no warrants..." Barack Obama

And this:
"A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans' benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?

"That is a debate I am very happy to have. We'll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism." Barack Obama
And this from another time in our history, during the thirties when the patriotic torches were burning in Nuremberg and reaction was forming at home:
"When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled "made in Germany" It will not be marked with a swastika; It will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, "Americanism." Professor Halford E. Luccock of the Divinity School of Yale University said yesterday morning in a sermon at the Riverside Church, Riverside Drive and 122d Street.

"The high-sounding phrase `the American way' will be used by interested groups, Intent on profit, to cover a multitude of sins against the American and Christian tradition, such sins as lawless violence, tear gas and shotguns, denial of civil liberties," he said. .......

"For never, probably, has there been a time when there was a more vigorous effort to surround social and International questions with such a fog of distortion and prejudice and hysterical appeal to fear. We have touched a new low in a Congressional investigation this Summer, used by some participating in it to whip up fear and prejudice against many causes of human welfare, such as a concern for peace and the rights of labor to bargain collectively."

As many know this era, this dark age of neo conservative creeping fascism, wasn't the first time in our brief history that fear was cynically used to manipulate a nervously receptive population, nor is it likely to be the last. What the Cheney / Bush administration has accomplished in these few years is notable not only for its audacity but for the incredible level of our complicity, of our collective and individual silence.

It is not in the fires nor the explosions of the barricades where revolutions are realized, it is in the small and quiet acts of courage, in the voice that says a simple no to power, the single hand held high before the oppressive state. These are the tools of the patriot, no matter how he cloaks himself, no matter what he wears on his lapel.

Admittedly Barack Obama was not my first choice to represent my party in this battle to regain the presidency. John Edwards spoke words that were closer to those that were already in my mind and offered a version of America that I had also dreamed of and I have been torn between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama since Senator Edward's withdrawal from the contest.

I think that I could make a good case for or against either candidate, they are both capable of turning from the madness of the last near decade and toward a new era of sanity and reason and they both are afflicted with the hairy warts of American politics. Both are capable of beating John McCain and preventing a disastrous continuation of the Cheney/Bush nightmare.

In the end, difficult as it is, I have decided that Barack Obama, because of a simple,yet profound and courageous expression of true patriotism,because of the political courage evidenced by his empty lapel and his refusal to apologize for it gives Obama the edge as my choice for President.

Bob Higgins
Worldwide Sawdust

Legacy Worries

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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The Clintons, if anything, are complicated. Very complicated - sometimes seeming compassionate and sometimes appearing aloof and disconnected.

I do think however the Clintons do care about the safety and well-being of America. Regardless of all the bullshit and punditry, they are advocates of America. I am not one of those who keep chanting "9-11 changed everything." It didn't change everything, George W. Bush changed everything. 9-11 could have been prevented but in Bush's fever to erase all things Clinton from the White House, he sat on all the Al Qaeda intel and actions Clinton/Gore put into place.

Bush changed everything.

Sadly, I think the Clintons have not. I rewatched the documentary War Room this past week and I see the same playbook being used today on the campaign trail. What worked in the 80's in Arkansas and in New Hampshire in 1992 is now outdated and shoeworn. We uppity progressives and liberals took up citizen journalism in the tradition of Thomas Paine. Only now, instead of pamphlets, we have Wordpress and Scoop, diaries, Google, social networking, YouTube and Adobe Software. We can track down damn near every lead, every fact, every nuance and collectively pound out a million words within an hour on any hot topic.

Howard Dean was the first politician to get a clue. He knew the power of people-powered politics, blogs and citizen journalists while Jame Carville was still working the old media Crossfire gig. One would change the world and the other would die.

I think that is the root of Hillary Clinton's problem, it is her inability to embrace change. I am not speaking of the overused campaign meme of a change in government, but change in terms with what has happened to the Democratic party. Democrats and progressives in general have turned their back on the DLC. When Carville demanded Howard Dean's resignation after Dean's 50 state strategy paid off in spades is a another sign of being shoeworn.

Those days have passed.

Obama is barely 18 months older than I am - I blog, use social network tools and am a slave to Adobe. His and mine, was the first generation to grow up with software in the home - Apple, Atari and Commodore's were everywhere. I am not saying he was geeked out with an Apple ][ in his basement, I am saying he is more aware of what those tools can do to democracy. My Mom is near Hillary's age and she has problems with mastering AOL. She is a user, not a groker.

Obama groks it, he is AJAX.

Bill and Hillary are legacy apps.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hillary Takes Florida Nuclear

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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From CNN:

A failed switch and fire at an electrical substation outside Miami triggered widespread blackouts across Florida on Tuesday, cutting off power for nearly 1 million customers across most of the state, a utility executive said.

About 8,000 locations remained without power early Tuesday evening, Florida Power and Light President Armando Olivera told reporters.

The failure eventually knocked out power to customers north of Miami on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, state and local authorities and utility officials said.

The simple fire triggered more than just snarled traffic and closed out Starbucks.

Olivera said about 475,000 Florida Power and Light customers and about the same number of customers from other utilities lost power as a result. The affected region ranged from Miami to Tampa, throughout Orlando and east to Brevard County, home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.

The substation trouble set off a sequence of events that within two to three minutes had knocked numerous power plants off-line -- including the Turkey Point nuclear power plant south of Miami. Olivera said Turkey Point's two nuclear reactors and a natural gas-powered generation unit automatically shut down when the plant's systems detected a fluctuation in the power grid.

"In a fraction of a second, the demand was far greater than the power plants that were on line generating electricity could handle," he said. "When you have that kind of imbalance, we have a system that kicks in and it starts turning people's lights off, essentially balancing the demand with what's available."

Mike Stone, a Florida Department of Emergency Management spokesman, said 2 million to 3 million people were affected at the height of the outage.

Detective Robert Williams, a Miami-Dade County police spokesman, said power was out across the entire county within 20 minutes of the initial failure. Outages extended into neighboring Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, and north to Palm Beach County -- a region of about 6 million people.

So two nuclear reactors went into shutdown because of this fire.

If Hillary wanted the Florida delegates so badly, I think there are other things she could have done besides setting fires at substations

Ya know?

Blogger Meets With Barack Obama in Ohio

African American Political Pundit had the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with Social and Political Blogger MsLadyDeborah from the blog From My Brown Eyed View this week. MsLadyDeborah had the opportunity to meet with 5 other residents of Ohio in a Health Care Roundtable held at OSU with Senator Barack Obama to review and discuss his Health Care proposal. Listen in as MsLadyDeborah provides her take on Senator Obama from a black woman and consumers perspective.

This is a photo of the Health Care Roundtable that was held at OSU on Saturday February 23, 2008.

Source: From My Brown Eyed View

Hillary Takes Heat off of McCain

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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The antics of the Hillary campaign has easily distracted the media from talking about John McCain. Last night we all saw the photo of Obama with the traditional African garb (over khakis and a golf shirt) and hardly scant reporting on McCain.

I wouldn't be surprised if the McCain camp is stirring all of this up just to keep the focus on Hillary and Obama, but I don't think McCain is that clever. He loses, remember?

Hillary's campaign claims they did not send the photo to Drudge but they couldn't say one of the staffers did. John Edwards stepped in it big time when two of his blog advisers turned out to be vocal. I am unsure if Hillary is getting a pass or not, I don't think so. The second thing out of the mouths of the anchors last night was "Hillary" and the questioning of her motives.

But at the end of the day, it is McCain who is benefiting.

Not Hillary, not Obama, not the Democrats and certainly not democracy.

Monday, February 25, 2008

No Country for Old Bloggers

Appearing at The Jaundiced Eye, the Independent Bloggers' Alliance, and My Left Wing.

Note: I tried to write this review after seeing this film a couple of months ago, but it left me nearly speechless. To honor its well-deserved Oscar wins, I shall try again.

And the Oscar goes to...

Best Picture -- Joel and Ethan Coen
Best Supporting Actor -- Javier Bardem
Best Director -- Joel and Ethan Coen
Best Adapted Screenplay -- Joel and Ethan Coen

Claude Debussy said that "Music is the silence between the notes." Likewise, the Academy Award winning movie from the Coen brothers, "No Country for Old Men," is most brilliant for what it does not do. Spare, austere, and without musical soundtrack, "No Country for Old Men" is film-making at it's least compromising. There is no nod to Hollywood formula, audience sentimentality, or pat beliefs about good and evil. By all accounts, true its source material, the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, the film takes its time telling the surprisingly satisfying story from its dark, foreboding beginning to its anti-climactic end. Unafraid of long, slow, silent takes, the Coen brothers do not pander to audiences more accustomed to breathless action and telegraphed motivations. It is a nearly inconceivable thing; an action thriller without heroes or redemption. The basic plot line, about a man running from a hit-man with a satchel of drug dealer cash, is almost incidental. Its dramatic tension arises from the complex, internal motivations of richly drawn, if stoic, characters and actors who reveal them with brilliant subtlety.

In villain Anton Chigurh the Coen brothers may have brought to the screen the most perfectly realized character since Hedda Gabler. He is pure form; an archetype made celluloid from the nightmare visions of a profound imagination. He is not human. He is elemental. Like the pneumatic cattle gun he wields, he is a force of nature contained in cumbersome metal; wrath focused like a laser beam at the point of impact and leaving no trace but merciless destruction. He is not human. He is a sociopath, incapable of relating to mere mortals, cruelly weighing their lives and deaths on the flip of a coin. He is not human. He is the winds of fate made flesh.

My only clear thought upon leaving the theater, "There's so much evil in the world." Not that Anton Chigurhs are common; most will never meet one. But underlying the death and destruction of "No Country for Old Men" is the inescapable awareness that life is a most uncertain of quantities and that justice is a fairy tale we tell ourselves to make sense of the senseless.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is a man whose life has been defined by the pursuit of justice and on whom the realization is dawning that, in that pursuit, he is "over-matched." The futility of seeking order in a chaotic universe has left him tired and vaguely mystified. With the deadpan incredulity the actor has mastered, Tommy Lee Jones recalls crimes so meaningless and devoid of humanity that he can only shake his head in wonderment.

Ed Tom Bell: There was this boy I sent to the gas chamber at Huntsville here a while back. My arrest and my testimony. He killed a fourteen-year-old girl. Papers said it was a crime of passion but he told me there wasn't any passion to it. Told me that he'd been planning to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember. Said that if they turned him out he'd do it again. Said he knew he was going to hell. Be there in about fifteen minutes. I don't know what to make of that. I surely don't. The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job - not to be glorious. But I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. To go into something you don't understand you would have to be crazy or become part of it.

But Ed Tom Bell is drawn into the incomprehensible world of Anton Chigurh when a local hunter (Josh Brolin) stumbles on the grizzly aftermath of a drug deal gone bad and makes off with 2 million in cash.

Wendell: You think this boy Moss has got any notion of the sorts of sons of bitches that're huntin' him?
Ed Tom Bell: I don't know, he ought to. He's seen the same things I've seen, and it's certainly made an impression on me.

Anton Chigurh knows no such internal conflict. He is, if anything, a wholly integral character. He operates with total clarity about his place in the universe, delivering ruthless destruction in a manner as impersonal as the weather. Indeed, the ambivalence and moral aspirations of the better men, with whom he collides, leave them at a disadvantage.

It has been suggested, by at least one reviewer, that despite the early 80s setting, the movie speaks to the zeitgeist of our post-9/11 world. One can't help but feel sympatico with Sheriff Ed Tom Bell's longing for a simpler time and his sense of powerlessness in a society that appears to have slipped its moorings.

Ed Tom Bell: It starts when you begin to overlook bad manners... Anytime you quit hearin' "sir" and "ma'am" the end is pretty much in sight.

But then comes the inevitable question. Has the world really spun out of control or was that sense of order an illusion to be stripped slowly from the bone by time and disappointment?

Like Ed Tom Bell, reading the news only makes me feel old, tired, and increasingly jaded. For any of us who believe in old fashioned values like fair elections, free speech, responsive government, affordable health care, consumer protections, a living wage, decent education -- in short, anything other than government as criminal enterprise -- can hardly help but feel "over-matched."

Ellis: You can't stop what's comin'. It ain't all waitin' on you. That's vanity.

Pakistan Bans YouTube

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project & My Left Wing

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From CNN:

Pakistan has become the latest country to block access to the video-sharing Web site YouTube on the grounds that one or more videos on the site offend Islam, authorities said Monday.

The Pakistani government is also asking YouTube to remove "objectionable content," said Nabiha Mehmood, a spokeswoman for the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority.

If YouTube removes the video or videos that concern Pakistan, she said, the government may once again let its people post and view video clips.

It is unclear what the video or videos in question depict, but a PTA official, who asked not to be identified, told the Associated Press that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocks Web sites that show controversial drawings of the Prophet Mohammed.

How is it Bush thinks we are terrified of these people when the mere sight of pen and ink can bring their country to its knees? Or endless videos of cats sleeping in laundry baskets for that matter?

The power of free speech will always trump the power of a gun. You can kill a person, but you can't kill an idea. No matter what the Clinton Campaign wants you to think.