Saturday, February 2, 2008

Another Big Endorsement II

They just keep rolling on in. Here are two more:
Breaking: Ethel Kennedy Endorses Barack Obama

Her statement: Over these past few years, I’ve watched Senator Obama inspire Americans from all walks of life to believe in real change and a new sense of hope and possibility. He’s a magnetic force, drawing the nation together for the common good and galvanizing us all to help shape our country’s future. …

Today, we crave a leader with vision who can help us regain our lost humanity and rekindle our inherent generosity. With courage, caring, and charisma, Senator Obama is leading us toward a kinder, gentler world.

Senator Obama’s candidacy sends out ‘ripples of hope’ that can build a ‘current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’ I am proud to support Barack Obama, and look forward to him leading this country toward a brighter, more hopeful future.

And Susan Eisenhower
Why I'm Backing Obama
Excerpt: I am convinced that Barack Obama is the one presidential candidate today who can encourage ordinary Americans to stand straight again; he is a man who can salve our national wounds and both inspire and pursue genuine bipartisan cooperation. Just as important, Obama can assure the world and Americans that this great nation's impulses are still free, open, fair and broad-minded.…

The last time the United States had an open election was 1952. My grandfather was pursued by both political parties and eventually became the Republican nominee. Despite being a charismatic war hero, he did not have an easy ride to the nomination. He went on to win the presidency -- with the indispensable help of a "Democrats for Eisenhower" movement. These crossover voters were attracted by his pledge to bring change to Washington and by the prospect that he would unify the nation.

It is in this great tradition of crossover voters that I support Barack Obama's candidacy for president. If the Democratic Party chooses Obama as its candidate, this lifelong Republican will work to get him elected and encourage him to seek strategic solutions to meet America's greatest challenges. To be successful, our president will need bipartisan help.

Given Obama's support among young people, I believe that he will be most invested in defending the interests of these rising generations and, therefore, the long-term interests of this nation as a whole. Without his leadership, our children and grandchildren are at risk of growing older in a marginalized country that is left to its anger and divisions. Such an outcome would be an unacceptable legacy for any great nation.

Well, Ah'll Be…

Someone in the mainstream media groks the generational divide. This is from Newsweek's Jonathan Alter.
Twilight Of the Baby Boom
A generational struggle is underway. What's so unusual is it's taking place within a single generation.
He [Obama] also represents a new generation of leadership, even though technically he's part of the same generation as Hillary, the baby boomers. Here's where it gets a bit complicated. This tussle pits an Early Boomer vs. a Late Boomer, and the two cohorts have little in common.

Analyzing politics generationally is hazardous. Large numbers of voters and politicians defy the easy categories assigned to them. In the case of boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—the whole frame is wrong. It's based on birthrates, not common cultural and political affinities. Many quintessential boomer figures like Jimi Hendrix (born 1942) and Abbie Hoffman (born 1936) weren't actually in the demographic at all.

Worse, the Early Boomer sensibility gets all the attention. Five decades of newsmagazine boomer cover stories have focused on the (often narcissistic) preoccupations of the Woodstock generation as it ages. But those boomers born after 1955, now mostly in their 40s, missed Woodstock (unless a few snuck in as 14-year-olds). Our coming-of-age decade was the 1970s, not the 1960s. Our presidents were Carter and Reagan, not JFK, LBJ and Nixon. Our calling card was irony, not rebellion.…

…at least he [Obama] understands the argument. In late 2004, I interviewed the newly elected senator for what would become the first newsmagazine cover story about him or any Late Boomer politician. What I remember most from that day was his insistence that we stop "re-litigating the 1960s." Nowadays he's dropped that lawyer talk, but not the idea. Well before he challenged the Clintons, Obama rejected what he called "the same old arguments" between left and right. His campaign is about "turning the page," not just from BushClintonBushClinton, but from the cultural contentiousness of those years.

And if that page gets turned, as I hope and pray that it does, I'll be dancing in the goddamn streets.

Another Big Endorsement

You know, it's hard to know what, if any, positive impact endorsements have. But I'd say they can't really hurt. This one is from La Opinion, the country's largest Spanish newspaper.
We need a leader today that can inspire and unite America again around its greatest possibilities. Barack Obama is the right leader for the time. We know that he is not as well known among our community and while he has the support of Maria Elena Durazo, Senator Gil Cedillo and others he comes to the Latino community with less name recognition. Nevertheless, it is Obama who deserves our support.
Hat tip: Daily Dish

My Scratching Post

An interesting article from Science Daily.
Why Scratching Relieves An Itch
ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2008) — In the first study to use imaging technology to see what goes on in the brain when we scratch, researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have uncovered new clues about why scratching may be so relieving -- and why it can be hard to stop.

"Our study shows for the first time how scratching may relieve itch," said lead author Gil Yosipovitch, M.D., a dermatologist who specializes in itch. "It's important to understand the mechanism of relief so we can develop more effective treatments. For some people, itch is a chronic condition that affects overall health."

More Hawaii Pics

Foraging for dinner

Fun on the coast



More Flora

The Return of the Ring

Wherein like Isildur of old, I foolishly let slip underwater a ring of power. And like Deagol many years later, Goa recovers it (though unlike Smeagol, I don't kill him for it). 

Speaking of snorkeling, our first attempt at doing so happened Tuesday and was fraught with misadventure.

Though most of Two Step is hardened lava, we ended up laying out our blanket and towels on the small area that does have sand. Shanti decided to hang back with our things while Goa, Annie and I went in for a snorkel. 

We geared up, pulling on our wet suits and defogifying our snorkel masks. Then we eased into the water for 20 feet or so before putting our flippers on. The water was very shallow for quite some time before turning a corner and getting deeper. We had to navigate a bit of a coral maze for fear or either cutting our hands or, worse, touching one of gazillions of urchins. 

Just as we were nearing the bend and deeper waters, Annie and I decide to hold hands. She feels her wedding rings on her finger and notices mine isn't on. She comments that I was smart to leave it in our room, but I don't hear that because I'm frantically looking at my hand to discover that it is, in fact, not there. 

I begin to freak out because, unlike what Annie assumes, I didn't leave it at the house. I had it on before entering the water. Which was stupid and something I'd never do if I'd been thinking about it. But it just slipped my mind (as well as my finger). 

With panic in my voice, I let her know. She tries to calm me down. Assuredly, she tells me it's probably back where we put on our fins, and we begin heading back. But first, we tell Goa so he knows where we went. I tell him it's cool to continue snorkeling (why ruin his good time?), but he insists on coming back toward shore with us. 

The three of us begin scanning near the spot where we estimate we put the fins on. I'm looking, but without much hope. I know we'll never find it. I mean, it could be anywhere and there was tons of coral and sand and rocks for it to be tucked under. Despairing over its loss, I start soothing myself with the idea that I can always buy another, and hell, this time the order was so fresh I can just call it in to the jewelry store from here (this is my second ring, which I just ordered a few months ago). This made me feel better, but not much. I leave the water expecting to never see it again. 

Meantime, Annie's filled Shanti in and Shanti points out to Goa an area where she senses it is. Now, Goa has a story—the details of which I can't remember right now—in which he lost something of great value once while swimming. Will dived in after it, in tremendously cold water, and miracle of miracles, finds it. With visions of karmic debt-paying dancing in his head, Goa enthusiastically heads back out to look for my ring. 

Shanti begins telling me that while she doesn't want to get my hopes up, Goa is really good at finding hard to find things. Well, he may be, I'm thinking, but still...that's a lot of water and a little ring. 

Then she tells me to call the ring back to me. Can't hurt to try, so I start visualizing the ring, both in the water and back on my hand. I'm seeing Goa's hand reach for it and imagining how great it will feel to find it and have it back. But, really, I'm pretty sure it's gone. 

Not five minutes later we hear Goa shout from 200 or so feet out, "Got it!" 

I'm not quite able to believe my ears. 

"What did he say?" I ask.

"Yay! He's got it!" chime Annie and Shanti in unison. 

"No fucking way!" I say, truly out of my mind with wonder.

It's just beyond my ken that he could have found it. I'm filled with an odd mixture of gratitude and disbelief. I truly hoped he'd find it, but really I don't think I believed he would. Or maybe I did. I don't know. What I do know is, my mind was blown. My heart was filled with joy. And my finger had back the ring that fits so perfectly (well, except in cold-ass water apparently). 

For his part, Goa looked proud as can be and was getting hugs and kisses from the ladies for his effort. And righteously so. He was a goddamn hero for me in that moment! And I'm hugely in his debt. Thanks, Goa.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Island Time

Spent today doing very little. Got up, stretched, meditated, surfed the Web, walked the grounds, had a bit of breakfast and hung out with Annie, Shanti, and Goa. Sunbathed a bit, took a shower, and just hung out. Surfed a little, blogged a little, rested some more, then got a nice zero balancing session from Shanti. 

Reminds me of my favorite proverb (which is Spanish): How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.

Yesterday, however, we spent most of the day at the beach, a spot called Two Step. Calling it a beach is a bit of a stretch since it's mostly hardened lava and tide pools, but it was still a beautiful spot and a great place to snorkel from. The snorkeling was great, calm water and lots of variety. It's called Two Step because the best place to enter the water is a piece of the lava formation that resembles two steps. It's important to go in here because the reefs are just riddled with sea urchins—it's a virtual minefield. 

After snorkeling, sunbathing, and eating a nice lunch of avocado, turkey, mango, and papaya (which we shared with a local stray cat), we decided to walk over to the City of Refuge. CoR is a part of the Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. It's an ancient archaeological site complete with a temple which houses the bones of at least 23 chiefs. The grounds are also home to a very small beach which is protected for the green sea turtles which relax there. Learn more about CoR here

Later we went to dinner at Senor Billy's, which I swear has some of the best Mexican food in the world. Tashina met us there and we enjoyed a nice time catching up and sharing drinks before heading home and doing some yoga. 

Movin' On Up endorses Obama.
With hundreds of thousands of ballots cast across the country, for the first time in MoveOn’s history, we’ve voted together to endorse a presidential candidate in the primary. That candidate is Barack Obama.

We know how to roll up our sleeves and win elections, and if we all pitch in together between now and Tuesday, we can help Sen. Obama win the biggest primary day in American history.
Hat tip: Crooks and Liars

Howdy, Pardner

Si Se Puede

More good news from the front lines in CA: 
“The leadership and membership of MAPA have resolved to endorse Senator Barack Obama as the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, who also just happens to be African American."

The Los Angeles based MAPA, formed in 1963, “has been, and is, dedicated to the constitutional and democratic principle of political freedom and representation for the Mexican and Hispanic people of the United States of America.”
This is something akin to, say, if the NAACP or another long established civil rights organization were to endorse Clinton suddenly today, because it is cutting into the rival candidate’s base.
Update: Another kind of inroad: First Read reports that the 200,000-strong Transportation Workers Union, which had been with Edwards, voted to back Obama today. “The union would be the first national AFL-CIO union to endorse Obama.” Its largest local represents the New York City subway workers.

Update II: Another huge Spanish-language radio host, Renán Almendárez Coello of El Cucuy de la Mañana, after a live interview with Obama, told the senator, “Ojala nos vemos en la Casa Blanca,” which means, “god willing, we’ll see each other in the White House.”

Michelle, Our Belle

I had the extreme pleasure of finally seeing Michelle Obama deliver a speech last night on CSPAN. (Yeah, I know I'm a geek.) She was in Delaware stumping for Barack and laying out who he is, what he's done, and why he's the right person for the job. 

And I've got to tell you, she was ELECTRIC! She's as good a speaker, if not better, than her husband. She spoke with conviction and passion and authenticity and humor. I just can't tell you how much I want to see Obama in the White House. I can't tell you how much I want to see them both for the next four to eight years. The more I see of them, the more I like. The more I'm sold. Do you know how rare that is in a politician? (Of course you do.)

I'm dying to find video of the entire speech, but in the meantime here are some clips:

A Daily Kos diary post which hits the main themes of the speech. 

Strange Fruit

In honor of National Black History Month, a post about one the most haunting, heart-breaking songs of the 20th century.

Strange Fruit
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

This song began its life as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher who lived in the Bronx. He set the poem to music and published it under the pseudonym of Lewis Allan. It was later famously recorded by Billie Holiday and became of sort of signature song for her as well as an iconic piece of the Civil Rights movement. 

Meeropol was inspired to write the poem after seeing this horrific photograph showing the lynching of two black men in the American South:

Quintessentially American. "Strange Fruit" is, in my opinion, the most important American poem/song of the 20th century. It's poignant, haunting words send chills down the spine. Sadness and pain ooze through Lady Day's vocals. It captures a main element of the brutal reality of what was arguably the defining issue of American life in the last hundred years—what W.E.B. Dubois called the color line—race. 

But Meeropol's outrage and the words that came from that anger inspired change and managed to turn the gruesome pasttime of photographing lynchings, creating postcards of them and passing them around like vacation souvenirs back on itself. A transmutation of evil to good.  

Also, the fact that it was written by a Jewish man and sung by an iconic African-American singer (my personal favorite) and moved the hearts of people across the continent only adds to its power and ironically, I think, conveys a latent message of hope not found (or intended) in its lyrics.

For a more detailed history of the song click here, here, and here

Look and Listen. Take a listen to the song:   powered by ODEO 

Or better yet, watch this video:

Sting also recorded a surprisingly moving version of the song for the 1986 compilation album called Rock for Amnesty, a fundraiser for the human rights organization Amnesty International. I'll link if I can find that version, but in the meantime, this video's not bad (though, frankly not as haunting and spare as the album version). 

Glimpses of Evil. For more on the history of lynching postcards, please check out this site: Without Sanctuary. It's a difficult visit, but it is an integral part of American history, and one I think we shouldn't shy away from if we're to continue moving forward. 

How Depressing

Anyone closing in on 40 probably won't be surprised by the findings in this article from The Guardian. But I find it strangely comforting to realize the this is a relatively normal aging process and not some personality defect.

Happiness Is Being Young or Old, But Middle Age Is Misery
People are most likely to become depressed in middle age, according to a worldwide study of happiness. The team of economists leading the work found that we are happiest towards the beginning and end of our lives, leaving us most miserable in middle years between 40 and 50.
Update: Just to be clear—I don't actually find this to be depressing at all. The post title was ironic. This information, if correct and confirmable, should only further destigmatize the subject of mental health, depression in particular. And that is a good thing.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ready To Go!

Obama Raises $32 Million in January
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raised $32 million in the single month of January, a whopping figure that has permitted the campaign to boost staff and extend advertising to states beyond the sweeping Feb. 5 contests, aides said Thursday. The amount was the most raised in one month by a presidential candidate who still faced a primary challenge.

Good Riddance

I do my best not to speak ill of the dead, but exceptions can be made. 

Daily Dish: One of the most powerful and well-connected child-abusers in the Catholic hierarchy, Marcial Maciel Degollado, has died. 

Good Gaydar

A gay power couple raises scads cash for Obama. Only makes sense since Obama's way better on gay issues than Clinton is, HRC be damned. 

A new breed of power broker is staking out the White House. Their names are Bernard and Gifford.

They started to feel a true fondness for the candidate back in August, when he appeared at a gay forum televised on the LOGO cable network. After the show, Bernard and Gifford organized a gay fund-raiser at Area, a nightclub on La Cienega Boulevard. In just a few hours, they raised more than $100,000 from 400 gays and lesbians, and Obama gave a speech that some saw as exceptional.

"It was truly phenomenal," says Gifford. "He equated all social injustices with the injustices gays and lesbians have to face."

Just before Obama vanished into his motorcade that warm evening last summer, he draped his arms around Bernard and Gifford and asked them if he did them right. Bernard looked at him, "Senator, you always do us right. This time, you did us proud."

Gifford, the urban sophisticate, started to choke up. Not only did he realize he was finally doing something that would matter, but he seemed to be getting results. On that August night, he thought, possibly the next president of the United States was standing there for all to see, literally embracing him and his lover.

This Bodes Well

I kind of suspected this whole brown/black divide was being hyped by the Clinton campaign. I'm still not sure, since I'm not really on the ground as far as that issue is concerned, but this article and this post suggests my suspicions were correct.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The perception that Hispanics won't vote for Barack Obama because he is black is a myth, and Obama trails Hillary Clinton among Latinos because she has long courted their vote and he was late to reach out, experts say.

"The suggestion of black-Latino electoral polarization is greatly overstated," said Rodolfo de la Garza, a political scientist at New York's Columbia University.


New footage obtained by ABC shows Hillary Clinton as WalMart director at various WalMart events. I'm not sure this is damning for Hillary, but it sure can't help. 
Clinton Remained Silent As Wal-Mart Fought Unions
Tapes Reviewed by ABC News Show Clinton As a Loyal Company Woman
In six years as a member of the Wal-Mart board of directors, between 1986 and 1992, Hillary Clinton remained silent as the world's largest retailer waged a major campaign against labor unions seeking to represent store workers.
Click link to see video. 

I Love This Country

This is a big boost for Obama
The El Piolín radio show, the most popular Spanish-language radio show in America (strike that - see the update below - it is the most popular radio show in any language nationwide), with millions of listeners in California and nationwide, gave a BIG buildup for Teddy at 7:40 a.m. California time with a three minute pre-produced bio calling him “the best senator in America” highlighting Kennedy family history and his leadership on education, health care and immigration reform.…

Kennedy: “Only two senators marched for immigrant rights on May 1, 2006, one in Washington and the other in Chicago. I marched in Washington and Barack Obama marched in Chicago. He was not afraid to stand up when others wouldn’t.”

But what is really heartening is the fact that this DJ, Eduardo Sotelo aka, El Piolin (Tweety Bird), immigrated from Mexico and now has a larger talk radio audience than Howard Stern and the corpulent Rush Limbaugh.
Tweety Bird in the Morning is probably the biggest radio show that most Americans have never heard of, and its quiet triumph over English language shows speaks volumes about the living arrangement between Americans and the estimated 11 million to 12 million immigrants who reside in this country illegally. These immigrants are hidden in plain sight, even as their numbers and purchasing power grow ubiquitously day by day.

Advertisers, however, have recognized their value -- "Forty million people, spending $700 billion -- it will be $1 trillion by 2010," says Moses Frenck, managing editor of Adweek's Marketing y Medios, which follows the Spanish-language industry, and "if you advertise on Piolin's radio show, you will have a whole cross section of people buying your product."
Read the whole story of El Piolin here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Deja Cool

Deep Brain Stimulation In Hypothalamus Triggers Déjà Vu In Patient
ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2008) — Deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders, is now being studied for its potential to treat a variety of conditions. A new study found that hypothalamic DBS performed in the treatment of a patient with morbid obesity unexpectedly evoked a sense of déjà vu and detailed personal memories.…

While they were identifying potential appetite suppressant sites in the hypothalamus by stimulating electrode contacts that had been implanted there, the patient suddenly experienced a feeling of "déjà vu."

He reported the perception of being in a park with friends from when he was around 20 years old and as the intensity of the stimulation was increased, the details became more vivid. These sensations were reproduced when the stimulation was performed in a double-blinded manner.

The contacts that most readily induced the memories were located in the hypothalamus and estimated to be close to the fornix, an arched bundle of fibers that carries signals within the limbic system, which is involved in memory and emotions. Stimulation was shown to drive the activity the temporal lobe and the hippocampus, important components of the brain's memory circuit."

Good For Them

Good news from The Guardian:
Danish library plans to house cartoons of prophet Muhammad
Denmark's national library is to risk re-opening an international political storm by housing the cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad that provoked violent convulsions throughout the Islamic world two years ago.
The royal library in Copenhagen - founded in the 17th century by King Frederik III and home to many historic treasures - has declared the drawings to be of historic value and is trying to acquire them for "preservation purposes".

Downtown Hawaii

There Is No Spoon