Political conversations tend to be the most intelligent and thought-provoking late in the evening--lord knows why. Well, I can take a guess. Fatigue mimics drunkenness and we all become suddenly so much more philosophical, impassioned, argumentative when we're impaired. Ironic isn't it?

So, it's 11pm and I'm talking with LT about the '08 battlefield and how its unclear whether Gore will run for President, but that the Hillarites are watching to see if he starts shedding those post-White House pounds--presumably as an indication he is preparing to submit exploratory committee papers.

It should be mentioned here that LT is a devout presidential historian. When he was a child, he preferred shuttering himself in his room reading books on the Presidents instead of playing outside. He knows every factoid, every date of tenure, and more than enough sordid tales of policy and private lives gone wrong.

"I guess the days of William Taft are over," he complained.

"Of course they're over! With the public health crisis we're facing right now? Having a fat President would be a disgrace, not to mention counterproductive to curbing the obesity epidemic!" I relish saying things like the "public health crisis" and "obesity epidemic." They're smart people phrases like "recession" and "gross domestic product."

"But that's ridiculous! It shouldn't matter if he's fat if he's a good leader. Clinton ran to the McDonald's all the time and he did a good job! Polk died three months after he left the White House it took such a toll on his health and he was a great President!"

At this point, I mention that Polk was also ugly and would never have made it through a televised campaign.

"And that's the problem. We don't have good leaders any more because everyone is too busy trying to look good for the public. It shouldn't be about that. Look at Bush, he's an idiot, the biggest idiot for a Chief Executive we've ever had, and he's fit. Does that make him a better President?"

And Obama, dear Obama who is handsome and wise and decidedly unifying for the Democrats. ::Sigh::

If he wants to maintain his edge at the Oval Office he'll have to quit smoking--especially if he receives solicited or unsolicited money from the tobacco industry.

"It would just look bad if he were a smoker and taking money also from the companies that have had to give billions of dollars to most states to make up for the heavy financial burden of publicly funded care for smoker-related sicknesses and injuries--'cause they knew it was addictive and harmful and did nothing."

But would that be damaging enough to Obama's campaign by itself? Naaaaaaaaah. However, he is now in the precarious position of either successfully kicking the habit or suffering the dreaded "flip-flopper" insult from his opponents and flack from the American Cancer Society. The pressure is on, the paparazzi are everywhere, and the opposition is hungry for just one incriminating TMZ photo to make a mockery of Obama.

Smoking has become a moral issue, much like excessive alcohol use in this country. It's something we know is bad for us, but we do it anyway and sometimes are motivated enough to feel guilty about it.

So what if we'd never have to shoulder the burden of Obama's care if he ever got lung cancer or suffered a stroke. It's the principle. As a candidate for President, he must be able to convince us he can embody all that is good about our country--and that leaves no room for vice (well maybe a little private vice here and there).

And then there's the fact that Americans are dropping like flies from largely preventable chronic diseases like heart disease and some cancers.

The '08 elections will be a mandate on Health care and Hillary's got two birds in hand:
her health care reform proposal which would have worked if it hadn't been for Harry and Louise and the fact that the Clintons banned smoking from the White House. Hillary's only real liabilities (aside from ...ahem..Whitewater and the sex addiction of her husband--which let's face it, Bill's just so charming and doing global charity work that nobody cares) appears to be her acrid expression and embarrassing past relationships with hairbands.

Ok, I know it's a cheap shot considering her face is all wonky...but I couldn't resist.

On the other hand, Obama is a very smart man. He knows the risks. It's not illegal to smoke tobacco. If he enjoys an occasional ciggy but doesn't lie to us about WMDs in Iraq, what's the beef?

Maybe the fact that we Americas really are that irrational and superficial.

We love a good smoke screen. It makes us feel safe. Like the world is in control--especially among those who have access to the big red button. So smoke away Obama, just make sure you screen your audience first :).

Isn't it a sad metaphor for humanity?

According to the BBC:
"A pair of Sumatran tiger cubs and a set of young orang-utans, all abandoned at birth, have become inseparable after sharing a room at an Indonesian zoo. But the friendship is not destined to last as tigers start eating meat when they are three months old and will need to be separated from their new playmates."


I get the fact that Daniel Radcliffe (also known as "Harry Potter" ) wants to break out into more intellectual, mature roles. No 10 or 12 year-old actor who takes a role so desired as HP thinks one day they'll want to be seen as something more than their character.

Radcliffe is in his late teens now and he's British, which automatically gives him a penchant for the stage and he's obviously intelligent enough to know he has to start making some serious career changes to avoid the depraved existance of other child stars past their glory.

Yet, MUST we hear of him accepting a nude role? It's bad enough to think he might one day do it for film ala Brooke Shields (note I didn't link here to Pretty Baby and granted in Blue Lagoon most of the time it was a body double--but it was STILL awkward).

If Radcliffe thinks that these kinds of roles might save his acting future, he may be right, but does he have to do it so....well... I'll be delicate here and say...boldly?



Al Gore is Right, We're All Gonna DIE!

Except for the sea cucumbers and this little dude here. They don't seem to be as effected by the melting of ancient antarctic ice shelves...

I'm going to go grab some peanuts. I'll need the salt.

Who else was sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for Good Old Al to announce his candidacy for President?

Even my hero, JC, as I call him (also known as Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter) wants Gore to run.

I'll do more on that later. Yes, I love Jimmy Carter. No, I don't think he's antisemitic. And I'm Jewish so I can say that. :)

But seriously folks...that Best Documentary Feature Oscar category was a joke. As IF Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" wouldn't win. They might as well have just handed him the naked gold guy when he was up there with Leo shootin' the proverbial sugar-honey-ice-and-tea.

People used to think that cockroaches would be the only thing to survive if there was a nuclear holocaust. I guess it was a Cold War thing. I wouldn't know. I was too busy watching My Little Ponies and eating Captain Crunch at the time.

But I think Douglas Adams might just be right--the sea creatures will out survive us after all--especially if the polar ice caps melt and none of us can breathe underwater for long periods of time.

Well, maybe this guy has a chance.


Guard Us From Those Who Would Save Us

I always find it mildly amusing that as Americans, we have nothing better to do with ourselves than find things to be afraid of. It is a seductive proposition, or maybe simply a Darwinian prerogative, that we look for the competitive edge in survival. We want to be the person to know that mixing pop rocks and Coca-Cola kills you (for all my lazy readers, there's no truth to that tale), or that Tom Cruise has insider information on how to treat clinical depression.

The truth is, I really want to watch these misled celebrities or extremist hippie activists and laugh at them like I would laugh at bad karaoke or Britney Spears's new buzz cut. I want to enjoy with delicious satisfaction their ignorance and idiocy, but I can't. They aren't messing with Matt Lauer or Mickey from Life Cereal or dihydrogen monoxide. They're messing with millions of Americans who just want to protect their families.

I wasn't scared before, but I'm terrified now that people like Barbara Loe Fisher are allowed to get on national television and suggest that vaccines can cause learning deficiencies and may be responsible for a decreasing national trend in young people's IQ levels.

Everything really stems from the age-old debate: When are children old enough to learn about sex? And if we teach them about it, or let them read books with the word "scrotum" in them, will it mean they are at risk to do more than play doctor behind the bleachers?

The HPV vaccine and a consequent gubernatorial mandate in Texas (and possible mandates in other states) has fueled some parents' concerns that giving their children a vaccine for a sexually transmitted infection will make children and young adults ::gasp!:: think about the fact that they may have sex one day--or ::SHOCK!:: lose their virginity before marriage.

And angry, ignorant parents with scaremongering sound bites like "we don't know the long-term effects of the vaccine," or "why should the state be making decisions about my child's health" have forced the very public demise of Merck's lobbying campaign to have state legislatures require the vaccine in 11 and 12 year-old girls.

The area between protecting the public interest and protecting human rights is sometimes blurred in the case of public health. Just ask Mary Mallon, who was imprisoned on an island for years because she was a healthy carrier of typhoid.

That's why vaccine mandates exist. They exist because if you want to protect kindergartners from highly contagious diseases that can kill or irreparably harm them (smallpox, polio, measles, whooping cough), you make it difficult for parents to opt their babies out.

There will always be the parents who fear vaccines will make their children autistic or cause cancer, or multiple sclerosis. These are dreadful diseases, but there hasn't been any definitive proof that vaccines cause any of these problems. In fact, vaccines are being used today to help treat cancer and it's possible new disease targets like Alzheimer's and diabetes are also on the horizon.

Autism is likely to due to several factors--among them a genetic predisposition (as may be the case in Rhett's syndrome), environmental exposure (although not to thermisol--the medium vaccines used to be delivered in as study upon study upon study has shown), or something else. But, contrary to what some devastated parents might think, there has been no evidence that cases of the disease are rising.

In a few years, thanks to recent recent CDC findings establishing a baseline prevalence, we may be able to determine a trend. I wouldn't be surprised if there are more cases now than ever, but that's also a common effect of raising awareness, increasing childhood testing, and expanding the definition of the spectrum of disorders that are conglomerately known as autism.

Yet despite the facts, there are parents still scared enough, still desperate to edge out the rest of the normally distributed crowd, that they will believe anything to the detriment and possible death of their own offspring.

So, here lies Gardasil. A vaccine that promises to prevent some of the most common causes of cervical cancer, and its being bullied away from saving lives.

Why is it so controversial? Cervical cancer has many origins, among them the human papillomavirus. Gardasil protects women from the most common cancer-causing strains. The thing is, HPV is so common, that if you're sexually active, it's pretty likely you've already been exposed and contracted it. Some estimates suggest that 50% of women will be exposed to at least one form of the 30 different HPV strains during their lifetime.

So, the plan is to give young girls the vaccine long before they ever become sexually active so that they will be protected when they do. And yet I didn't see nearly as many parents cry foul when hepatitis B vaccines were required for school entry.

Cervical cancer is one of few cancers that is highly treatable if not curable if caught early. Yet it is the second most common cancer affecting women.

While wonderful preventive measures such as pap smears and regular gynecological exams exist to help detect cervical cancer in its early stages, they are not infallible. In fact, women would still need regular pap smears even if they have been given the vaccine.

Anti-Gardasil parents say they don't want the state to make decisions about their child's health care. But the truth is, they wouldn't have nearly the same number of supporters if a vaccine to prevent breast cancer or diabetes was discovered.

If you're concerned your child, who's probably more interested in High School Musical than American Pie, is going to consider Gardasil carte blanche for sexual activity--maybe it's time you took a sex-ed class.

Let me assure you, from one who took them in middle school--they are embarrassing and gross, and most of my classmates thought the opposite gender was smelly, yucky, and stupid.

The kids at the greatest risk for early sexual activity are those who don't have strong familial influence to guide them through the tough questions and tougher decisions. A mother or father so adamant about delaying sexual debut should be confident in their own parenting skills to prevent it. Or they could just claim that the Gardasil made their kid
do it.


Peanuts, Coca-Cola, and Devolution

A lot of people harbor misconceptions about the South--some are more valid than others. It really can be a different world--or at the least a very unfriendly one in some areas if you're not
Caucasian, Christian, and into Civil War history.

Even in Atlanta, my hometown, history classes throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school ignored the Civil Rights movement, probably our region's greatest, albeit also most highly contested contribution to the United States and the world.

Christian youth clubs at high schools were embraced, but gay pride organizations are contraband. And let's not forget that cops still have to keep watch at synagogues on Saturdays and holidays because somebody once threw a bomb onto the steps of The Temple.

Yet, Atlanta has one of the largest Jewish populations in the South (not counting Florida), is a mecca for the gay community, and is a flourishing center of black culture. She is a fickle animal, Atlanta, a symbol of old southern glory and new southern rebirth. And like Scarlett O'Hara choosing between her many suitors--so far, Atlanta has treated them all with vain indifference.

Sometimes I think we're making more progress than other cities, especially those in the North and then I go and read about a Georgia legislator sending a memo to his fellow politicians in Georgia and in other states to convince them that evolution is a Jewish "conspiracy".

We've been through this before. Even Penn & Teller picked on Cobb County's unabashedly anti-evolution education leaders. And rightly so. But I can't say I'm not heartbroken that my home state is moving closer to the middle ages than the new

Some people say science is just as much a religion as any other....there are fundamental belief systems established to explain the unknown. Nobody can really, fundamentally prove the earth rotates the sun, except for astronauts--and we all know they are paid by the government to lie like everyone else.

But seriously folks. If you've ever really sat down and thought about it, conspiracy theories are so much more complicated than the truth. More importantly, usually the people who come up with them have their own agenda and it may be no better for humanity than what the government or big business, or the public school system allegedly has in mind. Take the guys who jailed Galileo for example.

The big difference between science and many other religions is that science is about testing that which we accept on faith. Scientists who produce tangible, repeatable results to prove centuries-old common beliefs wrong are considered
heroes, not heretics.

Why can't G-d have created all the fish in the sea and all the animals of the earth and ALSO have allowed them to adapt to their environment? And how long is a day in G-
d's time anyway? If He/She/It is omnipresent, omniscient, and eternal then we have to assume that G-d's sense of time would be different from our own in some way. We know that fish existed before land animals and in the Book of Genesis it acknowledges that G-d created sea creatures first. Who knows if a day in G-d's life isn't a million years or so?

But that's not really what Creationists care about. They specifically take issue with the concept that humans evolved from ape-like species rather than from a mystical intervention. After all, if humankind is not made in G-
d's image, than the whole premise that we are meant to be better than the animals falls apart. We are left then with all the sin and temptation in the world and no excuse not to enjoy it.

But in all fairness, let's think for a moment about what we would modern life would be like if evolution were from now on ignored in schools and university systems. There would be no new vaccines, no genetically targeted cancer drugs and an unstable food supply. We'd be back in the era of plague,
pestilence, and war. Starting to sound a little bit like the End Times doesn't it?

That's not to say that things aren't so hot right now. War ravages the earth, HIV/AIDS is killing millions, malnutrition is a leading cause of death among the world's under 5s. But we have the tools right now to feed more people, encourage sustainable peace agreements in troubled areas, and find better treatments for the world's most horrifying diseases. The truth is, we're just not that invested in these lofty goals.

Does it matter if a life is saved, if it isn't
saved? Perhaps I should save that question for another time...

The real choice Creationists have, as I see it, is not that people should believe in every word the Bible says, but that they should put every commandment by G-d (and if you're so inclined, Jesus) to the test.

Where you can, alleviate suffering rather than ignore it. Show mercy and forgiveness to your enemies. And judge not others in a way in which you would not like to be judged yourself. With all the money spent on glamorous Sunday school presentations on why Ms.
Pringle is wrong about evolution, you could be feeding a village in Africa.


Everybody's Perfect, Save Me

It isn't my intention to start this blog off with a pity party...but if a pity party is the source of inspiration to start something like this, I guess its just as good an excuse as any. Don't worry gentle reader, in true rhetorical fashion, I plan to spend more time criticizing others than feeling sorry for myself :)

I was wondering the other day whether I'm the "type" for the city I live in. People moving to
Los Angeles or New York may find the connection more obvious. In LA you should be thin and tan. In New York, you should only wear black and have a desperate caffeine addiction.

Cities aren't built in a day and their mores are equally carefully constructed.

Why then was it so
surprising to me that the hub for all political maneuvering should also be so entrenched in appearance? Really, someone should slap me upside the head for that admission.

Women in politics are not as ransacked for their weight or dress. It's almost expected they project an image of Humble Homemaker Harriet, who's really participating in politics as some sort of grand undertaking to while away the time now that their children are in school.

I used to like to think I could be in politics one day, making speeches to stir hearts and sew justice. Then I realised, I wasn't "perfect" enough.

I'm not a
lawyer. I have bad skin. I'm not wealthy. I used to guest on my boyfriend's college radio show and I'm sure copies of me behaving badly still circulate the Internet.

Hillary Clinton isn't perfect either. There's the Whitewater scandal, the fact that her husband was almost impeached, and of course, she's been criticized for being too "manly" which seems to intimidate a lot of male politicians.

It all started with the pantsuit, and maybe Hillary really ought to consider that one of her shinning achievements for our country--forget the fact that her health care reform plan might have really worked.

After all, if it weren't for
HC, Speaker Pelosi would be forced to employ seriously less fashionable outfits and that would be the undoing of all future female leadership in our country. Case in point--Margaret Thatcher.

Have you ever seen another female PM? No, because Mile-High Hair Maggie ruined it for all of them. It's not like she had much to work with, and she was a Torie, which didn't help either. Yet, ultimately, Maggie failed in the delicate balance between form and function--consequently rendering any little girls who wanted one day to be THE Number 10, not just reside in it, to consider blue hair more pragmatic than

Sadly, women (and Hillary) are held to a horrific double standard. If they appear too feminine, (Laura Bush), we'd never trust them with the decision-making skills to push the red button. If they look too masculine, we distrust their lack of gender conformity.

It's also convenient that most Americans turn a blind eye to the viciousness mothers can employ in the defense of their own children in PTA let alone their country--or the fact that many women in our military and police forces today are displaying tremendous bravery and dedication in the line of fire.

We'd rather think of them as behind-the-scenes samurais like Nancy Reagan...let them pull the strings, just don't tell us about it.

And yet here's Hillary, our first female candidate for President with a chance in hell, and she is already facing tremendous pressure to be considered perfect for the job.

She'll not only have to convince most democrats to vote for her, but now also the disappointed, disenfranchised republicans who want the war to end. Pull those black boot
stilettos out again Hill, it's time you showed those Pentagon pansies who wears the pants in this relationship (and you'd better bring a whip, I hear they like it like that).

But go easy, because if you push it too far, the very women who would put you in office might be turned off by your disconnect with their lives, their dreams, their values. You might just end up being no better than any other man in the Oval Office.

So what makes a perfect President? A perfect woman in Washington?

Well if you're like most women my age (that is in our early to mid-20s) you have at least one roommate, and eat
ramen noodles at least once a week.

You must be well-read, preferably from an Ivy League academic institution, run 5 miles a day or play tennis, and know all the intimate details of Congress.

You must have well-coiffed hair, and appropriately expensive shoes. You must have boyfriends (perish the thought you'd have a girlfriend!) and these people must be doing prestigious things in their own right--preferably with a family house in Martha's
Vineyard or a modest yacht on the Chesapeake.

And the pressure to be the underlings of a powerful, perfect politician is so intense that people don't sleep and do stab each other in the back and lie about their lives if their father isn't a doctor or lawyer.

And little old me? I'm 5'9 and size 12 with perpetually wavy hair. My boyfriend is a different race than me and has no interest in working on The Hill (the Capitol that is). I don't own any shoes worth more than $40 and get the occassional adolescent break-out when I'm stressed.

I'm neither red, nor white. Neither artsy
fartsy nor conservative. I'm just BlueToYou, thank goodness.