Month: March 2007

AugCog

Augmented Cognition International Society: “Limitations in human cognition are due to intrinsic restrictions in the number of mental tasks that a person can execute at one time, and this capacity itself may fluctuate from moment to moment depending on a host of factors including mental fatigue, novelty, boredom and stress. As computational interfaces have become more prevalent in society and increasingly complex with regard to the volume and type of information presented, researchers have investigated novel ways to detect these bottlenecks and have devised and continue to determine strategies to aid users and improve their performance by effectively accommodating capabilities and limitations in human information processing and decision making.

A main goal of the field of Augmented Cognition (AugCog) is to research and develop technologies capable of extending, by an order of magnitude or more, the information management capacity of individuals working with 21st Century computing technologies.”

Military to use bomb-sniffing robots

“As it increases its use of robots in war zones, the military will begin using an explosive-sniffing version that will allow soldiers to better detect roadside bombs, which account for more than 70 percent of U.S. casualties in
Iraq.

…There are nearly 5,000 robots in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from about 150 in 2004. Soldiers use them to search caves and buildings for insurgents, detect mines and ferret out roadside and car bombs.” (Yahoo! News)

Why do we sleep?

“Promoting changes in brain circuitry may well be the fundamental purpose of slumber—the answer we’ve long been searching for. But it could also turn out to be a byproduct of something more fundamental still. For instance, some of the genes that are especially active during sleep seem to play a role in rebuilding cell membranes and synthesizing basic molecules like proteins and lipids. So sleep’s ultimate function could be to repair or rebuild brain cells in light of new experience, with reinforced circuitry as one result.” (Slate)

U.S. Iraq Role Is Called Illegal by Saudi King

“King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq was illegal and warned that unless Arab governments settled their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region’s politics.

The king’s speech, at the opening of the Arab League meeting here, underscored growing differences between Saudi Arabia and the Bush administration as the Saudis take on a greater leadership role in the Middle East, partly at American urging.” (New York Times)

Bush’s Royal Trouble

The Saudis too know how to read election results: “Abdullah’s bowing out of the April 17 event is, in fact, one more warning sign that the Bush administration’s downward spiral at home is undermining its ability to achieve its policy objectives abroad. Friends as well as foes see the need, or the chance, to distance themselves from the politically besieged Bush.” — Jim Hoagland (Washington Post)

Teenager Casts Light on a Shadowy Game

‘I died and came back…’: “While asphyxiation games have been around for many years, a series of locally publicized deaths around the country over the last few years, coupled with a realization that teenagers are seeing the game on Internet sites like YouTube, and playing it in more threatening variations — more often, like Levi, alone with a rope — are sparking a vigorous and open discussion in schools and among parents’ groups, summer camp administrators and doctors.” (New York Times )

Swinging at Windmills

A close look at Catholic conspiracy theories: “Question: Who’s afraid of Jews in the boardroom? Freemasons in the basement? Reds under the bed? Black helicopters in the sky? Answer: A surprising number of otherwise sensible people. Even under the new shadow of terrorism, old fears live on, breeding bogeys that knot together in a vipers’ tangle of menace.” (Crisis [thanks to walker])

whocalled.us

whocalled.us: “The phone is ringing, and I don’t recognize the number, All Caller ID says is, ‘NAME UNAVAILABLE‘. Please help me figure out who is calling and what they want…” They keep a database of which numbers generate the most queries.

DefectiveByDesign.org

A project of the Free Software Foundation: “…a broad-based anti-DRM campaign that is targeting Big Media, unhelpful manufacturers and DRM distributors. The campaign aims to make all manufacturers wary about bringing their DRM-enabled products to market. DRM products have features built-in that restrict what jobs they can do. These products have been intentionally crippled from the users’ perspective, and are therefore “defective by design”. This campaign will identify these “defective” products, and target them for elimination. Our aim is the abolition of DRM as a social practice.”

The Right Kind of Pain

London Review of Books’ editor Mark Greif on the Velvet Underground:

“The Velvet Underground showed that aural pain becomes pleasure especially when listening to it constitutes an act of affiliation with a higher, because worse and more ‘transgressive’, standard of life. The person who doesn’t like being abused by Cale’s viola, or the badly recorded guitars of White Light/White Heat, is stupid, straight. The person who learns the pleasure of the abuse, who will listen to the 17 minutes of ‘Sister Ray’ and then put it on again, has ascended to a higher sphere – or rather descended into the underground – simply by the act of listening, with or without actual access to works, spoon, smack, transvestites, tenements, whips or leather boots.”

In some interesting senses, the essay seems an overgrown collegiate “compare and contrast” writing exercise, posing the Velvet Underground against the Grateful Dead, East Coast vs. West Coast, punk against hippie. Although we usually think of the former as having succeeded the latter, because of the Velvets’ prescience and the Dead’s longevity they were contemporaries.

Gov’t to take a hard look at horror

Torture, murder and deadly plagues, all making their way to a theater near you. “The Federal Trade Commission is putting the final touches on a follow-up to its September 2000 report on the marketing to children of violent movies, music and video games. The first such assessment in three years, it will examine the selling practices of a mainstream entertainment industry that in the interim has become increasingly dependent on abductions, maimings, decapitations and other mayhem once kept away from studio slates.” (New York Times )

Can You Live With the Voices in Your Head?

“For more than a half-century, auditory hallucinations have primarily been studied and discussed in terms of severe mental illness, most notably schizophrenia, and linked to bizarre delusions, disordered thought and emotional dissociation. Approximately 75 percent of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia hear voices, and for the majority the experience is overwhelmingly negative. Those voices may issue commands, comment sarcastically on everyday actions or berate, curse and insult the hearer. As many as one-third of people with schizophrenia attempt suicide; as many as one-fifth hear voices that command them to do so. [The Hearing Voices Network, a small but influential support group founded in 1991 and based in Manchester, UK], does not dispute that auditory hallucinations are frequently painful: many of the organization’s leading members have endured harrowing voices themselves and, at one time or another, sought psychiatric help.

What H.V.N. does dispute is that the psychological anguish caused by hearing voices is indicative of an overarching mental illness. This argument, disseminated through a quarterly newsletter, numerous pamphlets and speeches and alternative mental-health journals, are as voluminous and diverse as its membership. But H.V.N.’s brief against psychiatry can be boiled down to two core positions. The first is that many more people hear voices, and hear many more kinds of voices, than is usually assumed. The second is that auditory hallucination — or “voice-hearing,” H.V.N.’s more neutral preference — should be thought of not as a pathological phenomenon in need of eradication but as a meaningful, interpretable experience, intimately linked to a hearer’s life story and, more commonly than not, to unresolved personal traumas. In 2005, Louise Pembroke, a prominent member of H.V.N., proposed a World Hearing Voices Day (held the next year) that would “challenge negative attitudes toward people who hear voices on the incorrect assumption that this is in itself a sign of illness, an assumption made about them that is not based on their own experiences, is stigmatizing, isolating and makes people ill.” (New York Times Magazine)

Can You Live With the Voices in Your Head?

“For more than a half-century, auditory hallucinations have primarily been studied and discussed in terms of severe mental illness, most notably schizophrenia, and linked to bizarre delusions, disordered thought and emotional dissociation. Approximately 75 percent of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia hear voices, and for the majority the experience is overwhelmingly negative. Those voices may issue commands, comment sarcastically on everyday actions or berate, curse and insult the hearer. As many as one-third of people with schizophrenia attempt suicide; as many as one-fifth hear voices that command them to do so. [The Hearing Voices Network, a small but influential support group founded in 1991 and based in Manchester, UK], does not dispute that auditory hallucinations are frequently painful: many of the organization’s leading members have endured harrowing voices themselves and, at one time or another, sought psychiatric help.

What H.V.N. does dispute is that the psychological anguish caused by hearing voices is indicative of an overarching mental illness. This argument, disseminated through a quarterly newsletter, numerous pamphlets and speeches and alternative mental-health journals, are as voluminous and diverse as its membership. But H.V.N.’s brief against psychiatry can be boiled down to two core positions. The first is that many more people hear voices, and hear many more kinds of voices, than is usually assumed. The second is that auditory hallucination — or “voice-hearing,” H.V.N.’s more neutral preference — should be thought of not as a pathological phenomenon in need of eradication but as a meaningful, interpretable experience, intimately linked to a hearer’s life story and, more commonly than not, to unresolved personal traumas. In 2005, Louise Pembroke, a prominent member of H.V.N., proposed a World Hearing Voices Day (held the next year) that would “challenge negative attitudes toward people who hear voices on the incorrect assumption that this is in itself a sign of illness, an assumption made about them that is not based on their own experiences, is stigmatizing, isolating and makes people ill.” (New York Times Magazine)

What’s So Funny? Well, Maybe Nothing

Beginning to explain it means questioning the assumption that you have to explain humor: “Laughter, a topic that stymied philosophers for 2,000 years, is finally yielding to science. Researchers have scanned brains and tickled babies, chimpanzees and rats. They’ve traced the evolution of laughter back to what looks like the primal joke — or, to be precise, the first stand-up routine to kill with an audience of primates.” (New York Times )

An Inside-the-Bushies Mentality

David Ignatius: “Here’s the challenge for the Democrats: Become the party that fixes things, that solves problems, that respects expertise and professionalism. Let the GOP be the party of smart alecks and know-it-alls and smirking e-mail writers. The Republicans have made a bed of political arrogance; let them sleep in it for a good long while.” (Washington Post op-ed)

Annals of the Invasion of Privacy (cont’d.)

My National Security Letter Gag Order: “It is the policy of The Washington Post not to publish anonymous pieces. In this case, an exception has been made because the author — who would have preferred to be named — is legally prohibited from disclosing his or her identity in connection with receipt of a national security letter. The Post confirmed the legitimacy of this submission by verifying it with the author’s attorney and by reviewing publicly available court documents.” (Washington Post)

Pluto might still be a planet . . . over New Mexico

“Pluto-traditionalists rejoice. The downgraded dot in the sky has regained its status as our solar system’s ninth planet. Or at least it is when it’s hovering over New Mexico.

That’s the gist of a nonbinding measure approved by House members this week. Rep. Joni Gutierrez introduced it, and for good reason, she says: The Las Cruces Democrat grew up two blocks from the astronomer who discovered the dwarf planet, or, um, planet, if there’s any chance it’s above us right now.” (Albuquerque Tribune)

March Madness

The Gonzales office pool: “It’s looking like after dumping on the Geneva Convention, ignoring the Constitution and firing public servants for not toeing the Bush line, Alberto Gonzales may have to resign as Attorney General. We sure hope so — it would be a big step toward restoring the nation of laws we know and love.

If you guess the date and time Gonzales steps down, we’ll give you a year’s supply of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to celebrate.” (True Majority)

Study Finds Brain Injury Changes Moral Judgment

People with this rare injury express increased willingness to kill or harm others to save lives: “the findings, published online by the journal Nature, confirm the central role of the damaged region — the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is thought to generate social emotions, like compassion.

Previous studies showed that this region was active during moral decision-making, and that damage to it and neighboring areas from severe dementia affected moral judgments. The new study seals the case by demonstrating that a very specific kind of emotion-based judgment is altered when the region is offline. In extreme circumstances, people with the injury will even endorse suffocating an infant if that would save more lives.

“I think it’s very convincing now that there are at least two systems working when we make moral judgments,” said Joshua Greene, a psychologist at Harvard who was not involved in the study. “There’s an emotional system that depends on this specific part of the brain, and another system that performs more utilitarian cost-benefit analyses which in these people is clearly intact.”” (New York Times )

Happy Ostara

“Sping has arrived and the day and night are balanced. Ostara is the vernal equinox, when the God and Goddess walk the fields, causing the animals to reproduce. Some traditions view this as a time of courtship between the God and Goddess. Ostara is the German Goddess of fertility and rebirth, but also of enchantment, innocence and dawn.”

http://pages.infinit.net/haiku/images/basho.gif' cannot be displayed]First day of spring–
I keep thinking about
the end of autumn.

— Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694)
Translated by Robert Hass

Cellar door

Wikipedia entry: “A widely repeated claim holds that the phrase cellar-door is the most beautiful in the English language… Cellar door is a combination of words in the English language once characterized by J. R. R. Tolkien to have an especially beautiful sound. In his 1955 essay “English and Welsh”, commenting on his affection towards the Welsh language, Tolkien wrote:

“Most English-speaking people…will admit that cellar door is ‘beautiful’, especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful than, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful. Well then, in Welsh for me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent, and moving to the higher dimension, the words in which there is pleasure in the contemplation of the association of form and sense are abundant.”

…Nonetheless, this phrase has been subject to a legendary degree of misattribution. In common circulation, this pronouncement is commonly attributed to “a famous linguist”. [3] It has also been mistakenly attributed to Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy Parker[4], and Robert Frost although no such texts have surfaced. The most detailed account alludes to a survey, possibly conducted around the 1940s, probing the word in the English language generally thought to be the most beautiful. Contributing to this survey, American writer H. L. Mencken supposedly claimed that a Chinese student, who knew little or no English, especially liked the phrase cellar door — not for what it meant, but rather for how it sounded. Some accounts describe the immigrant as Italian rather than Chinese. Another account suggests that it is a mispronunciation of the French words C’est de l’or, which can be translated as “It is gold”.In 1991, Jacques Barzun repeated the claim, attributing it to a “Japanese friend”…

References in literature, media and music follow.

Here is a link to other “beautiful (and not so beautiful) words, according to various references.”

Cellar door

Wikipedia entry: “A widely repeated claim holds that the phrase cellar-door is the most beautiful in the English language… Cellar door is a combination of words in the English language once characterized by J. R. R. Tolkien to have an especially beautiful sound. In his 1955 essay “English and Welsh”, commenting on his affection towards the Welsh language, Tolkien wrote:

“Most English-speaking people…will admit that cellar door is ‘beautiful’, especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful than, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful. Well then, in Welsh for me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent, and moving to the higher dimension, the words in which there is pleasure in the contemplation of the association of form and sense are abundant.”

…Nonetheless, this phrase has been subject to a legendary degree of misattribution. In common circulation, this pronouncement is commonly attributed to “a famous linguist”. [3] It has also been mistakenly attributed to Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy Parker[4], and Robert Frost although no such texts have surfaced. The most detailed account alludes to a survey, possibly conducted around the 1940s, probing the word in the English language generally thought to be the most beautiful. Contributing to this survey, American writer H. L. Mencken supposedly claimed that a Chinese student, who knew little or no English, especially liked the phrase cellar door — not for what it meant, but rather for how it sounded. Some accounts describe the immigrant as Italian rather than Chinese. Another account suggests that it is a mispronunciation of the French words C’est de l’or, which can be translated as “It is gold”.In 1991, Jacques Barzun repeated the claim, attributing it to a “Japanese friend”…

References in literature, media and music follow.

Here is a link to other “beautiful (and not so beautiful) words, according to various references.”

Bad medicine in New Orleans

The Katrina-ravaged health care system is ‘critically ill’: “Eighteen months after Hurricane Katrina, the healthcare system in New Orleans remains in such disarray that patients with heart disease and cancer are getting inadequate care, local medical authorities told Congress on Tuesday. By one estimate, they said, the number of deaths may have increased by more than 40% from pre-Katrina figures.

The federal government has pumped in millions of dollars in aid, but hospitals and clinics that care for the poor — already strained before the storm — have not recovered. Behind the failure to improve healthcare in New Orleans is a squabble between state and federal officials with competing visions.” (Los Angeles Times)

The Pragmatism of Prolonged War

‘War Managers’ are not ‘War Enders’: “More than ever, in the aftermath of the Scooter Libby verdict, the country’s major news outlets are willing to acknowledge that the political road to war in Iraq was paved with deceptions. But the same media outlets were integral to laying the flagstones along the path to war — and they’re now integral to prolonging the war.

With the same logic of one, two, and three years ago, the conformist media wisdom is that a cutoff of funds for the war is not practical. Likewise, on Capitol Hill, there’s a lot of huffing and puffing about how the war must wind down — but the money for it, we’re told, must keep moving. Like two rails along the same track, the dispensers of conventional media and political wisdom carry us along to more and more and more war.

The antiwar movement is now coming to terms with measures being promoted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi and Reid have a job to do. The antiwar movement has a job to do. The jobs are not the same.” (FAIR)

Don’t mention polar bears, Bush tells US scientists

“The Bush Administration has been accused once again of gagging US government scientists by getting them to agree not to talk about polar bears, sea ice and climate change during official overseas trips.

A leaked memorandum issued by a regional director of the US Department of the Interior states that officials within the US Fish and Wildlife Service will limit their discussions when travelling in countries bordering the Arctic region because of sensitivities about climate change.” (Independent.UK)

Feline Reactions to Bearded Men

I have assiduously resisted the weblogging trend of posting cute cat photos, even on Fridays (yes, my family keeps cats as well as dogs), but I could not resist this research paper by Catherine Maloney, Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut; Sarah J. Lichtblau, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois; Nadya Karpook, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; Carolyn Chou, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Anthony Arena-DeRosa, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts:

“Abstract

Cats were exposed to photographs of bearded men. The beards were of various sizes, shapes, and styles. The cats’ responses were recorded and analyzed.” (Scientist, Interrupted )

Scroll down the paper for the study’s findings. (And, yes, some of us in my family have beards…)

Housekeeping


My webhost mistakenly took my site down for a few days there, prompting panicked emails to me from all both of my faithful readers. As you see, FmH is back up now. Sorry…

Situationist International Anthology

“In 1957 a few European avant-garde groups came together to form the Situationist International. Picking up where the dadaists and surrealists had left off, the situationists challenged people’s passive conditioning with carefully calculated scandals and the playful tactic of détournement. Seeking a more extreme social revolution than was dreamed of by most leftists, they developed an incisive critique of the global spectacle-commodity system and of its “Communist” pseudo-opposition, and their new methods of agitation helped trigger the May 1968 revolt in France. Since then — although the SI itself was dissolved in 1972 — situationist theories and tactics have continued to inspire radical currents all over the world.

The Situationist International Anthology, generally recognized as the most comprehensive and accurately translated collection of situationist writings in English, presents a rich variety of articles, leaflets, graffiti and internal documents, ranging from early experiments in “psychogeography” to lucid analyses of the Watts riot, the Vietnam War, the Prague Spring, the Chinese Cultural Revolution and other crises and upheavals of the sixties.

Situationist International Anthology
Revised and Expanded Edition
Edited and translated from the French by Ken Knabb
Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006
ISBN 978-0-939682-04-1
532 pages. $20.00″

R.I.P. Jean Baudrillard, 77

All of our values are simulated. “One of his better known theories postulates that we live in a world where simulated feelings and experiences have replaced the real thing. This seductive “hyperreality,” where shopping malls, amusement parks and mass-produced images from the news, television shows and films dominate, is drained of authenticity and meaning. Since illusion reigns, he counseled people to give up the search for reality.” New York Times R.I.P. Jean Baudrillard

The Etiology and Treatment of Childhood

“Childhood is a syndrome which has only recently begun to receive serious attention from clinicians. The syndrome itself, however, is not at all recent. As early as the 8th century, the Persian historian Kidnom made references to ‘short, noisy creatures,’ who may well have been what we now call ‘children.’ The treatment of children, however, was unknown until this century, when so-called ‘child psychologists’ and ‘child psychiatrists’ became common. Despite this history of clinical neglect, it has been estimated that well over half of all Americans alive today have experienced childhood directly (Suess, 1983). In fact, the actual numbers are probably much higher, since these data are based on self-reports which may be subject to social desirability biases and retrospective distortion. The growing acceptance of childhood as a distinct phenomenon is reflected in the proposed inclusion of the syndrome in the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, or DSM-IV, of the American Psychiatric Association (1990). Clinicians are still in disagreement about the significant clinical features of childhood, but the proposed DSM-IV will almost certainly include the following core features:

1. Congenital onset
2. Dwarfism
3. Emotional lability and immaturity
4. Knowledge deficits
5. Legume anorexia”

NASA long ago devised mental breakdown plan

But that was for a psychological crisis in space, not back on Earth: “Long before NASA was confronted with an off-duty astronaut’s bizarre behavior and arrest in Florida earlier this month, the agency had developed procedures to deal with a mental breakdown in space.

The guidelines were developed to respond to an attempted suicide or severe anxiety, paranoia or hysteria aboard the international space station. Astronauts are instructed to bind the stricken flier’s wrists and ankles with duct tape, restrain the torso with bungee cords and administer strong tranquilizers.

The procedures have been in effect for at least six years, but the space agency did not develop any protocols for dealing with astronauts who become unstable while on the ground.” (Houston Chronicle)

Also:

“Welcome to Human Interactions in Space, a research program dedicated to identifying and characterizing the psychosocial issues that affect the health and well-being of space crewmembers and the mission control personnel that support them. The program goal is to develop countermeasures that will enhance the safety and success of people involved with long-duration space missions.”

Nader says he may run in 2008…

…especially if Hillary gets the nomination (San Francisco Chronicle). He says he’s going to wait and see what the Democrats come up with. Many hold Nader responsible for bringing us Bush and Co. I am all for an idealist gadfly who can push the Democrats toward more progressive stances but his intransigence and egotism appear boundless. However, he is not the problem but only a symptom of a system which does not have room for idealism and a segment of the liberal voting public too myopic to realize that (amongst all the other versions of voter myopia that plague the American electorate…) If he runs, I hope that those who voted for him in the past have learned their lesson and will not play their small but perhaps decisive part in handing the election to the Republicans again.

The Obama Myth

Factual Discrepancies to the Selma Claim: “Sunday’s march in Selma, Ala., may have been a sacred commemoration of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ civil rights march of 1965, but beneath it all lurked raw politics, with Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., competing fiercely for black voters.

While local churches were packed with parishioners, just a few hundred yards apart on Martin Luther King Jr. Street, the rival Democratic presidential candidates made their pitches, both praising civil rights leaders for paving their way.

‘Don’t tell me I’m not coming home when I come to Selma, Ala. I’m here because somebody marched for our freedom. I’m here because y’all sacrificed for me,’ Obama told a crowd.” (KTRE)

Did anyone hear the soundbites from Obama’s Selma speech? He certainly has developed a down-home accent recently. I hope this won’t be a harbinger of a wholesale attempt to reinvent himself similar to blue-blood New England preppie Dubya’s vote-trolling transformation into a drawlin’ Texas shucks-jes’-folks common man.

Nader says he may run in 2008…

…especially if Hillary gets the nomination (San Francisco Chronicle). He says he’s going to wait and see what the Democrats come up with. Many hold Nader responsible for bringing us Bush and Co. I am all for an idealist gadfly who can push the Democrats toward more progressive stances but his intransigence and egotism appear boundless. However, he is not the problem but only a symptom of a system which does not have room for idealism and a segment of the liberal voting public too myopic to realize that (amongst all the other versions of voter myopia that plague the American electorate…) If he runs, I hope that those who voted for him in the past have learned their lesson and will not play their small but perhaps decisive part in handing the election to the Republicans again.

Dowd now believes Gore "prescient" on several issues…

…despite previously belittling him. ‘In her February 28 column, titled “Ozone Man Sequel” (subscription required), New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd described former Vice President Al Gore as the “man who was prescient on climate change, the Internet, terrorism and Iraq,” and wrote that “[i]t must be excruciating not only to lose a presidency you’ve won because the Supreme Court turned partisan and stopped the vote, but to then watch the madness of King George and Tricky Dick II as they misled their way into serial catastrophes.” Dowd wondered who Gore must blame more for his defeat in the 2000 election: “Does he blame himself? Does he blame the voting machines? Ralph Nader? Robert Shrum? Naomi Wolf? How about Bush Inc. and Clinton Inc.?” Yet, as blogger Bob Somerby noted (Daily Howler, ) Dowd omitted an obvious other potential target of blame: the media. Indeed, Dowd herself, while now praising Gore for being “prescient” on such issues, relentlessly mocked Gore during his 2000 presidential campaign and onward for what she described as Gore’s “obsessions about global warming and the information highway.” Dowd has also compared Gore to the “wackadoo wing of the Democratic Party” for his criticism of the Iraq war; and has repeatedly furthered numerous falsehoods about Gore, such as that Gore once claimed to have “invented the Internet…” ‘ (Media Matters)

The Conservatives’ "Secular Problem"

Bill Scher writes in The Huffington Post: “Today through Saturday, when Republicans and conservatives gather in Washington for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, will they face up to the biggest obstacle preventing them from connecting with voters? Their ‘secular problem.’

Lots of ink has been spilled about how Democrats and liberals suffer from a ‘religion problem’ — a perceived hostility towards Christianity and religion in general.
But Pew Research Center exit poll data from the 2006 midterm elections shows the opposite.

Democrats crushed Republicans among secular voters, broadly defined as those who attend church seldom (favoring Democrats 60% to 38%) or never (67% to 30%). Republicans retained strong support among those who attend church more than weekly. But among those who only go weekly — the larger portion of the religious vote — the Republican lead shrunk from 15 points to 7.

In short, Republicans failed to be competitive among secular voters, while Democrats were at least competitive among regular churchgoers. And since the secular vote is roughly equal to the regular churchgoing vote, according to the last several national election exit polls, that means Republicans and their conservative base have a far bigger secular problem than their rivals have a religion problem.”

Ready to take on the world

Al-Qaeda’s resurgence: “KARACHI – Al-Qaeda will this year significantly step up its global operations after centralizing its leadership and reviving its financial lifelines. Crucially, al-Qaeda has developed missile and rocket technology with the capability of carrying chemical, biological and nuclear warheads, according to an al-Qaeda insider who spoke to Asia Times Online. While al-Qaeda will continue to operate in Afghanistan and Iraq, it will broaden its global perspective to include Europe and hostile Muslim states, Asia Times Online has learned. For the first time since its attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, this could be al-Qaeda’s year on the offensive. “

With gratitude to the American neocons.

Last Throes of Cheney’s Credibility

Joe Conason: “…the broader collapse of Middle East policy under Cheney’s intellectual stewardship. Thanks to his belligerent outlook, we have abandoned the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, encouraged both Shiite and Sunni extremism, diminished our own military strength, and made democracy synonymous with irreparable destruction. No wonder the vice president thinks things are going so well.” (truthdig)