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    • The First Great Environmental Crisis Will Be
      Water. As I’ve said for many years. The world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40 percent by the end of this decade, experts have said on the eve of a crucial UN water summit. I’ll use the US as an example, though this going to effect almost all countries, some much worse than others, and it wi […]
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Your Halloween Afternoon Read

Happy Halloween

For the first time ever, my daughter will spend Halloween in a foreign country. I can fully sympathize with the author of this piece.
Trick or treat: Is Halloween another tacky American import or a bit of harmless fun that boosts the economy?

As urban legends go, the one about unsuspecting trick-or-treaters having their Halloween loot spiked with razor blades is pretty chilling. Spookier still is the “fact” that the only records of serious injury resulting from poisoned booty involved children booby-trapping the items themselves, or parents poisoning their own offspring. I suspect those rumours, like the one about hospitals offering to X-ray trick-or-treat sweets, are also the stuff of legend – but none the less it’s enough to put us paranoid parents off altogether. And yet my children have been at near coma-inducing levels of excitement about their plans for weeks.

Hallowe’en is the devil’s work, Catholic church warns parents

When Victoria Romero, 6, dressed up as a witch for a Hallowe’en party this week she could hardly have imagined that she was provoking the wrath of God by attending a celebration akin to a Black Mass — at least in the eyes of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church in Spain.

Wearing skeleton suits, dressing up as vampires, witches or goblins or slapping on fake blood is not far removed from communing with the Devil, according to the country’s bishops.

However, the bishops, with Vatican backing, have reserved their venom for the millions of parents who allowed their children to celebrate this “pagan” festival.

Health-insurance Reform

Dems change focus in health debate

For days, Republicans believed they were making headway by ripping Majority Leader Harry Reid for negotiating the health care bill in private.

But when Reid announced Monday that he planned to include a public insurance option in the bill, it instantly changed the complexion of the debate – even though the meat of the bill is still being negotiated, tweaked and drafted in private and in the powerful Democrat’s auspices.

Democrats challenged on cost of health bill

Republicans on Capitol Hill are challenging an assertion by House leaders that their new health-care package comes in under President Obama’s spending limit of $900 billion over the next decade. The true cost of the measure, the GOP argues, is more than $1 trillion.

Health care: Some agreement, then there’s the public option

Congress is poised to begin a historic debate on the future of the nation’s health care system, but while most Democrats agree a new public plan is needed, its fate is far from certain.

Economy Watch

    Evaluating the stimulus

Schools Are Where Stimulus Saved Jobs, New Data Show

The best symbol of the $787 billion federal stimulus program turns out not to be a construction worker in a hard hat, but rather a classroom teacher saved from a layoff.
On Friday, the Obama administration released the most detailed information yet on the jobs created by the stimulus. Of the 640,239 jobs recipients claimed to have created or saved so far, officials said, more than half — 325,000 — were in education. Most were teachers’ jobs that states said were saved when stimulus money averted a need for layoffs.

Stimulus: The Good News, and the Bad

If this is the best a stimulus can do, we’re in real trouble, says BusinessWeek’s Peter Coy. Much more federal help may be needed to spark a real recovery

With big government boost, U.S. economy grew in 3rd quarter


The U.S. economy roared to life this summer, as an array of government actions led to the strongest quarter of growth in two years.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the nation’s gross domestic product rose at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the July-through-September quarter, the clearest evidence yet that the country has begun to emerge from the deepest downturn in decades.

    Financial (cough…cough) Reform

Financial bill under attack over loopholes

As Representative Barney Frank nears his goal of pushing a massive financial regulation package through the House Financial Services Committee, parts of the legislation are coming under blistering assault from consumer groups as well as key Democrats, who say it contains loopholes that could set the stage for another financial meltdown.

Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, is among those who said they have watched with dismay as Frank’s committee has passed provisions that they say would enable much of the controversial trading in derivatives to continue without adequate oversight.

Doubts greet Obama’s financial oversight plan

The Obama administration on Thursday ran into skepticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as a key regulator, as it pushed for broad new powers to monitor risks throughout the financial system and to wind down large, troubled financial firms whose failure could endanger the economy.

The criticisms included how the proposals would be funded, whether the Federal Reserve stood to gain too much influence and if the government would end up with the ability to continually bail out big financial firms without congressional approval.

An Object Lesson in Governmental Failure: Derivatives reform

If you want to understand why Congress seems completely incapable of checking the power of Wall Street, look back to a hearing on the Hill last October 7, and the subsequent events surrounding it. On that day, the House Financial Services Committee hosted a panel on reform of the market for derivatives, the financial instrument which played such a notable role in the country’s economic meltdown.

Around The Nation

White House Visitor Log Lists Stars and C.E.O.’s

Among the White House guests was a boldface-names list of chief executives, including Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Vikram Pandit of Citigroup Inc., Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Rex W. Tillerson of the Exxon Mobil Corporation, David J. O’Reilly of the Chevron Corporation and Jeffrey R. Immelt of the General Electric Company The men, who met with Mr. Obama, his advisers or both, were among nearly 500 entries in logs from Jan. 20 to July 31.

Ethics inquiry looks into several House panel members

Seven lawmakers on the defense appropriations subcommittee got donations from PMA Group clients while sponsoring spending on beneficial projects. The investigation was revealed in a ‘data breach.’

Around The World

The Quiet Power of Europe

EU members have become some of the planet’s most adroit globalizers, opening themselves to the world while keeping in place their extensive social services—Germany alone exports as much as China. The continent has also fared better than expected in the downturn. Europe’s unemployment rate now bests America’s, and France and Germany managed to escape the recession faster than the United States.

Things look almost as good on the political front. In the years since communism ended, the EU has doubled in size, and its population will pass 500 million next year. The Union, often decried as dysfunctional, has reached another important milestone: the Lisbon Treaty, a quasi constitution that streamlines decision making, has just been approved by the last of the 27 members.

Iran’s Nuclear Response Creates a Quandary for Obama

If the Obama Administration had hoped to get the bulk of Iran’s current stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country under a new agreement for reprocessing abroad, those hopes are fading fast. The counter-proposal offered by Iran on Thursday contained such substantive revisions that Western officials are interpreting it as a rejection — at least of the aspect of the deal most important to the Western powers. More worrisome, perhaps, for the future of President Obama’s engagement strategy may be the fact that although the deal contained some important concessions to Tehran, the possibility that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might embrace it sparked a storm of criticism from across the Iranian political spectrum.

Clinton makes personal bid to resume Mideast talks

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and aides in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi on Saturday before flying to Israel, where she is expected to meet senior Israeli officials in a push to restart peace negotiations.

Jacques Chirac ordered to stand trial on corruption charges

Jacques Chirac, the former French president, has been ordered to stand trial on embezzlement charges over accusations he rewarded cronies with payments for non-existent jobs while mayor of Paris.

If the case goes ahead it will make Chirac the first holder of France’s highest office to face a corruption trial.

Odds & Ends

15 most explosive videos on the internet

From science experiments to building demolitions to nuclear tests, there are few things in life more visually impressive than explosions. Here are 15 of the most dramatic.

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happy halloween!!!


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Gratuitious ratings scheme or just good information?

Over at Townhall.com they’ve sparked a debate over whether Dr. Nancy, from MSNBC, was looking for a ratings boost or reporting on important information.  It stems from an on-air depiction of a breast-self exam demonstrated on a local news station, WJLA in Washington DC.  Dr. Nancy led her segment off with a clip of the exam, setting off a controversy over how necessary the clip was to her specific story.  Ironically, the Dr. Nancy segment was focused on the question of whether the timing of the local news segment was in fact a critical news piece done in conjunction with the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or was it merely to capture higher ratings at the end of a ratings period?

One of the arguments made concerned the fact that the woman shown was in her twenties, not someone in a higher risk factor age group; but, is it just as important to encourage young women to do these self-exams?  Are we as a nation too prudish and need to be “desensitized” as Elizabeth Edwards has said, or was WJLA and/or MSNBC pushing the ratings envelope just a bit too far?

Here is the WJLA story

Here is the WJLA video.
What are your thoughts?

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Halloween Frights and Funnies: Party Open Thread

The time nears when ghosts, goblins, witches, and black cats will be lining the darkened streets of your neighborhood in search of “Tricks” or “Treats.”  Halloween, October 31st, has been linked to several religious and pagan celebrations such as the Celtic festival of Samhain, the Christian holiday of All Saints (All Hallows Eve), or the Anglo-Saxon’s Winterfylleth.  However, we know it as the night when the Great Pumpkin rises out of the most “sincere” pumpkin patch.  Linus Van Pelt will be waiting…how about you?

Rico -halloweenRico’s on duty making his “killer” BLOODY Marys, and will make sure that BLOOD Orange-tinis are dripping from the fountain all night.  We also have a case of Vampire Merlot for those that prefer to drink sweet, dark-red fluids and several Pumpkin Ales on tap.  If you’re trying to keep your wits about you, there’s always hot and cold cider.

We’ll be bobbing for (Adam’s) apple as soon as his severed head arrives, so grab a coffin chair, pull your hair back to expose your neck (you never know when the Count might stop by) and enjoy some spooky (and some very silly) snippets of a Halloween-ish nature.

We’re looking for the most outrageous, original, or downright incredible costume — Post your entries (picture links or detailed descriptions) below!

And make sure to check any “Finger” food before you take a bite.

For the right effect, open one of these youtube links in another tab or window and let run in the background, just to get you in the mood. Halloween Sounds —  Scary Halloween Music —  Monster MashJumpin’ Jean Simmons and The Haunted House SongMichael Jackson’s Thriller


I’m going to start with the CREEPIEST thing I’ve ever come across.  It is guaranteed to bring the words, What the  #@$!??? to your lips:  Conclave Obscurum.  I wonder if it’s one of those things that cause you to die if you watch it.  How long do you dare watch?  Wait till you get to the blood drops and run your cursor over them…OK… I won’t tell you any more.



OK.  Now that the blood has curdled in your veins,  let’s start out with some

Spine-chilling stories and essays

Death has it’s own blog.  Do you want to know what the Grim Reaper’s best friend thinks?  Find out at Death’s Blog or you can learn all about death at Death Central.



Riverdaughter is a fan of podcasts and so are many of the Confluence’s regulars.  For the podcast crowd, here are several spooky-themed interviews and stories to facilitate a frightful night: Ghost Chronicles.  For Civil War buffs, there’s even an interview with Mark Nesbitt, the author of the Ghosts of Gettysburg series.



Tonight’s other competition is for the best, most traumatizing, horror flick.  My personal favorites are:

The Exorcist

or The Ring

What are your favorites?


Here are a few of the biggies: Ten Great Ghost Movies — but if you’ve seen all of the more popular horror flicks, here is a list of some lesser known ones to check out: 10 horror movies for Halloween that you may never have seen before.  And finally, even Wes Craven has a few movies that give him goosebumps:  10 movies that even scare Wes Craven.


You may never look at your vintage Raggedy Ann doll again in the same way after reading this story: The Possessed Doll


And just the look of this doll gives me the willies: Robert the Haunted Doll (you see the doll at about 2 min. 30 sec.)


Still looking for some scary stories to tell by flashlight?  Here are several that might do the trick:  Ghost Stories and Tales of the Unnatural, Moonlit Ghost Tales, Ghost Stories.  There are even a few podcasts.

Travel Ideas


You don’t have to go to hell just because others have suggested it to you.  You can always check out The World’s 5 Creepiest Places and have a helluva time.  One is the Catacombs of Paris where the remains of several million dead can be observed stacked into a wall along one of the corridors.


There are also the 18 Creepiest Landscapes on Earth if you’re more of the Gruesome Geology type like me.  You might find the Icelandic Stone Trolls interesting, where the mountain sides are riddled with images of these gruesome goblins.  A photo reveals several in one spot.


Those who find themselves in a spooky travel mood and who enjoy having their adrenaline spike to unhealthy levels can opt for one of these Real Haunted Places to spend your Halloween holiday.  At the Lodge Resort in New Mexico, you just may run into Rebecca, the friendly chambermaid ghost known to haunt these quarters.


Or, if you’re in Louisiana, you can head 2 hours north of Dakinikat’s neck of the woods and spend a fitful night at One of America’s Most Haunted Homes: The Myrtles Plantation.



If you are still in need of a terrifying travel destination, try these Top 10 places to get spooked on Halloween or take a Vampire Vacation.


Frightful Facts and Spooky Stories


Just because you hear noises doesn’t mean there isn’t an axe murderer trying to pick your lock.  Or it could be one of these insane and murderous animals:  10 Worst Serial Killers


If you were planning to do so, you may want to rethink that project to resurrect the deceased :  10 Reasons Not to Bring Someone Back from the Dead.  Reason #3 — They’ll try to kill you afterward.


Don’t close your eyes at night my friends.  They just might be outside your window because they’re real!!!!Scientific Reasons to believe in Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies. Regarding Zombies and the process of “zombification.”

Zombification?  Now there’s a word I just might use again.


Awww…even Vampires need love:  Vampires Tie the Knot


There’s no such thing as a run of the mill vampire.  Actually, there are at least 23 types of vampires…you’ll very likely recognize a few.  23 Unusual Vampire Variations


Don’t settle for crackpots peddling pictures of orbs and smoke.  Get the real deal — The 30 most infamous ghost photos ever taken


Never fear.  If your Halloween party invites are a bit lacking, you can always find some interesting conversationalists by tapping into one of these “clubs.”  10 Doomsday Cults


Donald Mills at crabbyoldfart.com weighs in for the holiday of horrors: Affronts to Old People #7: God Damned Teenage Trick or Treaters

Few things chaff my thighs more than damned teenagers who don’t know when to hang up the pillowcase and stop trolling for free candy on Halloween.

I have no objection to doling out some boxed raisins or wintergreen lozenges to a damned 3-year old in a Garfield costume but I get pretty incensed when some pock-marked 17-year old smelling of old bong water and sloth shows up at my door with a insolent scowl and a demand for free food.

From the comment section, an appropriate video to accompany the post:


You could spend quite a bit of time at this creepy site where the owner has a large collection of morbid information, blogs, links, and photos.  The Asylum Eclectica.


and of course

Everything you wanted to know about Halloween but were too afraid to ask: 7 Burning Halloween Questions: Answered!


Eerie Entertaining Tips

Having a Party?  You may find some great ideas for your Boo-ti-full Buffet among these Gruesome Halloween Food creations



Ghostly gourds are only a knife away…if you’re willing to wield sharp objects and dig out the slimy guts of a gourd with your bare hands.  Take a moment to check out these Stunning Pumpking Carvings


And if you’re just looking for some (heh) “cutting edge”Pumpkin Carving ideas, here you’ll find Extreme Pumpkin Carving Ideas. But don’t kid yourself into thinking you could try these at home.  This guy is the Master Pumpkin Carver: Amazing Pumpkin Carvings by Ray Villafane



Need a main dish for that special spooky soiree?  There’s nothing better than a chunk of Meat Hand.  MMMMmmmm.  (blech!)


You just might thrill and chill your party guests if you make one of these horrifying cakes: The Most Awful Cakes Every




For all the ghoulish Martha Stewarts out there, wouldn’t you like to know how to make your very own charred corpse?  Of course you would, so the instructions can be found here.  How to Make a Charred Corpse.  Now that’s something I just might try.  Then again, you can always just buy a corpse: Corpses for Sale.


My mouth watered the whole way through this recipe slideshow.  Everything Pumpkin!! Pumpkin Desserts Slideshow.


And it’s not a party without: Oh Boy!  Party games (bwahahahahahahahaha!!!)  Any volunteers?  9 Insane Torture Techniques.  OK, if you’re not game for some “who’s hiding in the Iron Maiden,” you can always play one of these Halloween Video Games:  The Pumpkin Game, or for anyone who’s itching to know if they’re possessed or a vampire try this: We’ll be the judge of that.


Creepy and Crazy Costumes

If you’re looking to dispel all doubt this year that you’re the tackiest and most inappropriate Hallo-weener of all, select your attire from This year’s most inappropriate Halloween costumes.  And then of course there are The Most Offensive Halloween Costumes of 2009 to choose from.


Dressing up Fido for your trick or treat trek?  Here are 25 Creative Dog Costume ideas that will have your four-legged friend tricking and treating in style.  Not enough dogalicious creepy couture?  Here are several more:  Doggies on (Halloween) Parade. Dogs in Costumes, and how about your cat? Cats in Costumes.  Finally, we can’t leave out your goats and iquanas:  Pets in costumes.

The Final Fright-filled Word

You know those scary,creepy set-ups your most creative neighbors whip up to decorate their houses on Halloween?  Don’t be so sure it’s their artistry that makes it look so real.  Neighbors thought dead man was a Halloween display


and since there is nothing more frightening than this, I leave you with these images:









and if that doesn’t scare you…

What’s making the hair stand up on the back of YOUR neck these days?


This is an Open Thread — but we’re also looking for the “Best Costume” and “Scariest Horror Movie.”  What are your entries?

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Thursday Schmursday…gimme some Friday


Ahh, Thursday.  We’ve made it through hump day and it’s downhill now to the end of the day Friday.  The news has been predictable and slow: Healthcare yada yada yada.


Hillary Clinton’s arrival in Pakistan Met by Fatal Attacks


Was that poor girl in California who was gang-raped in front of 20 people a victim of “Genovese Syndrome?” That’s what some experts are saying.  Even so, how have we failed our children when something like this happens and they consider it entertainment?  This is the most devastating news story in quite some time.  My heart goes out to that poor child and her family.


The Bay Bridge in San Francisco is still closed in both directions due to structural damage causing more traffic jams than usual.  Bay Bridge closure threatens to snarl traffic for at least another day.


Here’s a story about some very resourceful cats:  Cats take over vacant house in Blackstone



Sorry Yankee Fans, my hubby made me post this: Game 1 of the World Series:  Phillies 6       Yankees 1


Is a ticket really that valuable?:  Woman attempts to trade sex for World Series Tickets.


Are we confusing despair with depression?: Kierkegaard on the Couch


If you’re interested in tracking your lifestyle habits to increase awareness of what may be keeping you from being as healthy as possible, this website offers a solution.  At www.thecarrot.com, you can track everything from diet to exercise to daily behaviors and then prepare reports to compare all of your personal data.


I really wish they’d pick a version of the story and stick with it.  One day we’re scraping to find enough H1N1 vaccines to handle demand, the next day we’re tossing surplus in the dumpster out back.  Which is it?

U.S. may end up discarding unused vaccine.


Shortage of Vaccine Poses Political Risk for the President


Fertility breakthrough:are we at the precipice of major change in the way we view human reproduction?: Stem cell studies lead to creation of sperm and egg in the lab.


That’s all I’ve got!  What’s caught your eye this morning?

Obama told us so

There’s some amazement floating around (e.g. Digby, TPM) about this:

President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan “triggered” into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks.

I’m baffled that anyone is surprised. He told us loud and clear that helping the insurance companies was his priority. When he was an Illinois’ State Senator working on that state’s attempt at expanding coverage, this was the contribution he was proud of:

“We radically changed [the health care bill] in response to concerns that were raised by the insurance industry.” (Obama, 2004/05/19, report from Sep. 23, 2007)

When someone tells you who they are, listen.

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Happy Birthday Hillary!


Today is Hillary Clinton’s birthday.  How can we thank her appropriately for her inspiration and leadership?

I would like to express my wishes by saying this to you Hillary:

On behalf of my family, who is ever grateful to you and your fabulous husband, thank you Madame Secretary from the bottom of my heart.  I wish you great joy on this celebration of your birthday.  Your work as Secretary of State continues to inspire me and so many other women and girls. You are the epitome of transformational leadership and your compassion, dedication, and hard work on behalf of our country cannot be understated.

The concession speech you gave on June 7, 2008 will endure as a reminder of your courage, and your determination:

I want to start today by saying how grateful I am to all of you – to everyone who poured your hearts and your hopes into this campaign, who drove for miles and lined the streets waving homemade signs, who scrimped and saved to raise money, who knocked on doors and made calls, who talked and sometimes argued with your friends and neighbors, who emailed and contributed online, who invested so much in our common enterprise, to the moms and dads who came to our events, who lifted their little girls and little boys on their shoulders and whispered in their ears, “See, you can be anything you want to be.”


To those who are disappointed that we couldn’t go all the way – especially the young people who put so much into this campaign – it would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours. Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. When you stumble, keep faith. When you’re knocked down, get right back up. And never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.

As we gather here today in this historic magnificent building, the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House.

I met one of those 80-90 year old women you mentioned in your speech.  She stood in line with my daughter and I, shivering in the cold, telling us she had just been released from the hospital — begging them to let her go a day early just for the chance to see you.  I gave her my scarf and gloves to keep her warm and will never forget the look of pride in her eyes as she said: “I’ve waited my whole life to see this.”

You will continue to remain as the lantern that lights the way of so many women (and the men who support them of course!) seeking a world where equality is the standard that is upheld.

This photo, taken by my daughter, represents to me the metaphor of Hillary's compassion and care for all of us.

This photo, taken by my daughter, represents to me a metaphor of Hillary's compassion and care for all of us.

As I listened to the Clinton Tapes, one of the things that stood out for me in these extemporaneous reflections of Taylor Branch was the spontaneous outpouring of love and respect your husband expressed for you.  Over the years the intimate insights into his love of finding you the perfect gift reveal the deep connection you two have cultivated.  My wish for you is that you also know how much you are loved and respected throughout the world.  Words cannot adequately express my gratitude for all have have done.  God Bless you on your special day.

Happy Birthday Madame Secretary, from all of us here at The Confluence, your “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuit.”

Send your best wishes to Hillary!  I’m sure she will stop by to see.

In the first few minutes of this, watching Big Dawg mouth “I love you” over and over, just tears me up every time.  Her shout out to Riverdaughter, and those of us who found a home in the sisterhood that was born here can be found at about 10 minutes.  Be ready to grab a hanky when you hear her recognize RD’s great piece.

Your Breakfast Read, Sunday Edition

Democrats In The Age of Obama

Obama fatigue or Democrats fatigue? Which one is it?
Democratic Party encounters ‘Obama hangover’ in state, local elections

Some Democratic candidates running for local office around the country call the phenomenon the “Obama hangover.” It is proving tougher to recruit volunteers and get people to vote.

“It’s like the morning after the party,” Michael McGann, a Democrat running for clerk of courts in the Philadelphia suburbs, said in an interview. “The party was wonderful and exciting. The day after it’s like, ‘Gee, I don’t want to do that again for a while.’ ”

Combating the malaise, Obama is trying to galvanize voters by reminding them of the “fired up, ready to go” fervor that made last year’s race riveting political theater.

In his own image: Barack Obama’s DNC

The Democratic National Committee, often relatively inactive in the year after a presidential election, is ramping up its hiring and aggressively broadening its mission under the direction of Obama campaign veterans intent on applying the lessons of 2008 to races in 2010 and 2012.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, the DNC chairman installed in January by President Barack Obama, has hired many of the top staffers, pollsters, ad makers and fundraisers who helped steer the Obama campaign, completing a takeover of the party machinery that began when Obama became the Democratic nominee 14 months ago.

What’s up with this permanent campaigning? This attitude already annoyed the hell out of me during the Bush years, although Bush wasn’t afraid to satisfy HIS base.
Barack Obama must stop campaigning and start governing

Mr Obama won because of his persona – post-racial, healing, cool, articulate and inspirational. In a sense, therefore, his greatest achievement in life is being Barack Obama. Or the campaign version, at least.

Therein lies the problem. While campaigning could centre around soaring rhetoric, governing is altogether messier. It involves tough, unpopular choices and cutting deals with opponents. It requires doing things rather than talking about them, let alone just being.

Mr Obama is showing little appetite for this. Instead of being the commander-in-chief, he is the campaigner-in-chief.

I like Anna Quindlen, but buy is she making it hard for me to go through this piece.
Is Obama Keeping His Promises?

One reason may be the president’s essential character, which is at odds with the persona that developed during the campaign. Perhaps because of his race and his age, much of the electorate, especially those of us who are liberals, succumbed to stereotype and assumed that he was by way of being a firebrand. A year in, and we know that we deceived ourselves. He is methodical, thoughtful, cerebral, a believer in consensus and process. In an incremental system, Barack Obama is an incremental man. It is one reason he is taking his time ending the two wars in which we remain mired, Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding. On the one hand, on the other.

Is Obama just sticking it to us for some reason?
Leaderless: Senate Pushes For Public Option Without Obama’s Support

President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan “triggered” into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks.

Around The Nation

I can’t believe some of the people who were rightfully outraged at the sexual abuse cases in the catholic church and would have any sympathy for a sexual predator like Polanski. If only some of those priests had only made good movies…
How a girl’s stark words got lost in the Polanski spectacle

“After he kissed you, did he say anything?” asked the prosecutor, Roger Gunson.

“No,” the girl said.

“Did you say anything?”

“No, besides I was just going, ‘No, come on, let’s go home. . . .’ He said, ‘I’ll take you home soon.’ ”

“Then what happened?”

“And then he went down and started performing cuddliness.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means he went down on me, or he placed his mouth on my vagina. . . . I was ready to cry. I was kind of — I was going, ‘No. Come on. Stop it.’ But I was afraid.”

Samantha’s testimony that day was unequivocal: She had kept trying to get away from him, putting her clothes back on, saying no repeatedly. She had made up a lie about having asthma to get out of a Jacuzzi. He persisted. She was scared. She did not physically fight him off. He began to have sex with her, then, concerned she might get pregnant, switched to anal sex. When he drove her home, he told her not to tell her mom, adding, “You know, when I first met you, I promised myself I wouldn’t do anything like this with you.”

Economy Watch

Colin Barr is making very good point here. We’ve heard so oft that if Wall Street is not allowed to pay a bunch of incompetent boobs a gazillion Dollars in bonus, the “best talents” would be lured away.
Who cares if Wall Street ‘talent’ leaves?

If lower pay lures some of Wall Street’s finest away, so be it. It’s not as if the best and brightest were doing a good job to begin with.

Isn’t it great being a banker? Your own s–t gets everyone in deep trouble, you get a boat load of money from all of us, and then you share get a huge bonus for your stellar performance.
Stop the fat-cat bonuses! George Soros turns on the bankers

George Soros became the latest high-profile figure from the world of finance to condemn the bankers, and call for watertight restrictions on their activities yesterday. He said: “Banks are actually getting hidden subsidies of enormous amounts because of their ability to borrow at effectively zero, and buy 10-year government bonds at 3.5 per cent. So those earnings are not the achievement of risk-takers. These are gifts, hidden gifts, from the Government, so I don’t think those monies should be used to pay bonuses. So there’s a resentment which I think is justified.”

Bankers and morality: churches turn on the modern moneylenders

The Brits are bleeding
U.K. Economy Continues to Shrink

The U.K. economy contracted for a record sixth consecutive quarter, underscoring the country’s lagging position compared with other leading nations and dealing a blow to Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s re-election prospects.

Around The World

At least 132 people have been killed and 520 injured in two car bomb attacks in Baghdad

The blasts hit the ministry of justice and a provincial government office near the Green Zone, causing severe damage.

They came in quick succession at 1030 local time (0730 GMT) as people headed to work during the morning rush hour.

Correspondents say this is the deadliest day in Iraq since the US handed over security control of Iraqi cities to local forces in July.

Can we get anything done right these days?
Costs for U.S. project in Afghanistan balloon, benefit hyped

Only about 6 percent of Afghans are estimated to have electricity, and in his appearance with President Hamid Karzai east of Kabul, Eikenberry hailed the project as part of the country’s emergence out of the “darkness” of oppression and isolation.

To some U.S. experts, however, the project is the latest example of exaggerated political expectations and wasted American taxpayers’ dollars in the effort to rebuild Afghanistan.

Plagued by delays and rising costs, the project reveals how the U.S. government continues to ignore the hard lessons of Iraq, critics say, where contractors received billions of dollars with little oversight and inspectors have found rampant waste, fraud and abuse.

Come on! Who wants to be compared to a used condom?
America, condoms and the Taliban

The Pakistanis use an earthy metaphor when they want to put their American interlocutors on the defensive. They complain that the United States used Pakistan like a condom, simply discarded it when it is no longer useful, as has happened time and again in the Cold War era. By saying so, they urge the Americans to be constant in friendship.

Odds & Ends

Bank robber demands $100, then waits to be arrested

Timmy Lee Porter walked into a Midtown bank this month and handed a teller a note scribbled on the back of a bank slip. “This is a bank robbery, place 1 100.00 bill on the counter or I will shoot you.”

Police arriving on the scene moments later found that note on the floor. The $100 bill was still in the bank. So was Porter, who had taken a seat on a couch in the bank lobby, apparently waiting to be arrested.

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Helen Thomas and Craig Crawford Offer Advice to President Obama


This is interesting Helen Thomas and Craig Crawford have written a book together in which they discuss Thomas’ recollections of all the Presidents she has covered, beginning with John F. Kennedy. It’s called Listen Up, Mr. President At CNN.com, the two reporters offer “five key insights” for the current President. There is also a great collection of photos of Helen Thomas over the years. Here are just a few brief excerpts from the article.

Insight #2: Forget your privacy: You are a public servant

You are not perfect, Mr. President. So don’t pretend that you are and hide the bad stuff. If you are still smoking, say so directly, and openly share your struggle with the public.

Protecting your privacy can come at a greater cost than simply revealing what you don’t want the public to know. If it is found out — and it probably will be — you not only have the fallout from the exposure to deal with, but you will also be accused of deceit.

Insight # 4: Have courage: Even if it hurts

The theme of your campaign was summed up by the title of one of your books, “The Audacity of Hope.” You’ve given us hope, Mr. President. Now show us the audacity.

In Afghanistan, Mr. President, you risk repeating Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War after listening too much to the generals. Again, the Pentagon wants more troops for a tricky war, vowing success in Afghanistan if you only agree. That’s what the British and the Russians thought before they utterly failed to subdue their foes in Afghanistan’s difficult terrain.

Have courage to resist such pleas if your instincts say otherwise, Mr. President. That is why the founders of our nation put a civil servant in charge of the military. You are the decision-maker, not the follower.

Insight # 5: Give us vision: It’s your legacy

A good president, wrote 19th century historian Henry Adams, “resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek.”

The port you seek, Mr. President, is your vision. Those who take this lightly do so at their peril.

But even the most inspirational vision is just talk if not combined with action.

Now is the time to fill in the blanks, Mr. President. The excitement and newness of your presidency has worn off. Turn your vision into reality. Show us that you can deliver results.

It’s excellent advice, gently delivered. If only the President would listen.

This is an open thread.

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Cult Classics Open Thread.

Cult Classics are movies that were initially deemed box-office failures but attracted a devoted group of fans. One of the original cult classics was 1936’s Reefer Madness. Like many cult classics it falls in the category of “so bad it’s worth watching.” Ed Wood’s 1959 Plan 9 From Outer Space is probably the ultimate example of that type.

The Big Kahuna of cult classics is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It did poorly when first released in 1975 and was almost headed for oblivion when someone got the bright idea to run it at “midnight movie” screenings. With a few months fans began showing up dressed as their favorite characters and talking back to the screen. They also threw rice at the wedding scene.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show still plays in a small number of theaters, making it the longest running theatrical release in movie history at 34 years and counting. Produced for $1,200,000 it has grossed nearly $140,000,000 in box office receipts.

Prior to the video revolution fans of cult classics were at the mercy of the film studios and television programmers. Once VCR’s and later DVD’s became commonplace, many films that bombed in the theaters were resurrected in the home video market.

As I said before, some movies become cult classics because they are egregiously bad. Others are actually pretty good movies that just didn’t catch fire in their theatrical releases. One common factor in most cult classics is that the studios that originally released them didn’t spend very much promoting them. That’s not surprising, since most of them were low-budget productions in the first place.

Here’s a clip from my favorite cult classic:

What’s your favorite?

Nature’s Canvas: Breathtaking Autumn Colors in the Pine Creek Gorge

Pine Creek Gorge 1 10-24-09

Splashes of bright yellows, reds, orange, and green make Fall foliage in Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon a sight to behold

My husband and I decided to celebrate our anniversary with a relaxing getaway to Tioga County, PA.  We hadn’t visited this beautiful area for almost 2 decades and thought that it would be the perfect time of year to enjoy the breathtaking canvass of colors that Pine Creek Gorge in the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon is famous for.  We selected a lovely little Bed & Breakfast in this quaint little town, hoping to find some tranquility to accompany our autumn views. (By the way, what is it with people who wear their pajamas and fuzzy slippers to breakfast at a B&B? … but I digress.)

The Gorge did not disappoint.  So, while my husband naps I thought I’d share some photos of our morning at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

A lovely place for a picnic in Leonard Harrison State Park

A lovely place for a picnic in Leonard Harrison State Park

We approached the canyon via Leonard Harrison State Park.  Almost 20 years ago we sat here at one of these picnic tables with our daughter.  There is something about the sight of fallen leaves that calms me.

Bright Foliage amid the fog in Pine Creek Gorge

Bright Foliage amid the fog in Pine Creek Gorge

When we first arrived, a morning fog wafted through the canyon making for an interesting view.  Despite the prior weekend’s snow, and a report of full foliage on October 13th, the canyon remained striking in its hues.

Morning fog in Pine Creek Gorge

Morning fog in Pine Creek Gorge

The fog continued throughout the morning but began to lift around 11:00am when we reached the valley side look-out area.

Pine Creek Gorge Valley

Pine Creek Gorge Valley

Even though the weather report called for rain all day, we found ourselves amid all of this beauty as the rain abated and the sun peeked through.  It was a glorious morning in the canyon.

Even the hiking path was lined with spectacular and abundant color.

Even the hiking path was lined with spectacular and abundant color.

I hope your weekend is also enjoyable and relaxing.  And now I think I’ll join my hubby in that nap.

Happy Fall Y’all!