View from the Loft 

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Saturday, January 24, 2004

And Still More on the Rebel Yell ...

Go read this great piece from a Kos commenter.

Get Ya "Yeeaaaghhh!" Merchandise Right Here!

Yeeaaaghhh! Let's take our country back!

Tips on How to Be Presidential

Thanks to Atrios for this link, wherein Howard Dean gets some advice.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Dean Scream

I've been avoiding talking about the Scream, also known as the Rebel Yell, but Frogs in Cold Water had some interesting things to say on the topic that inspired me to set down my thoughts as well.

I saw Dean's speech after the Iowa caucuses Monday night and had not an inkling of what he was about to face after his rallying cry to his supporters.

To me it was clearly that: a rallying cry, a promise that the fight would continue, a way to keep the troops motivated and the campaign in the running. I didn't see a thing wrong with it. I was on the phone with my daughter at the time, and she said, "He sounds like a WWF announcer!" to which I replied, "Yeah, he's been hoarse the last couple of days from all the campaigning."

The media and many, many pundits, campaign-watchers, and Dean supporters and opponents alike then expressed the opinion that this was the death knell for Dean's campaign, the beginning of the end. They said it showed that Dean was a maniac, a raving, angry man, someone who was not up to the role of President.

They said it was "not presidential," and that the Democratic candidate has to "look presidential."

Good grief. Are we to the point, then, where we will only take our candidates if they are completely scripted down to the last syllable? Do we really want a man (and it will be a man for quite some time, in my opinion, Hilary nothwithstanding) who never, ever acts from the heart, who never responds to the perceived needs of others, because the camera might be watching? A camera that can distort, de-contextualize, emphasize one thing and downplay another?

A man who judges every action, regardless of intended audience, by whether or not it will look good on TV?

Perhaps it has come to that. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the voters can't handle spontaneity in a candidate, that a candidate must try for some vague yet p/restrictive notion of "statesman" that's out there (seemingly, if Kerry is an example, a synonym for "dull," "boring," "wooden," "pompous," or the like). Perhaps the voters really do have to pretend that the president never goes to the john, burps, or hoots with sudden, unpredictable laughter.

Then again, perhaps the voters really could tolerate someone who seems to be an actual human being. Perhaps one can behave in a non-presidential way when one is, in fact, not actually a president? Perhaps sometimes, as Dean pointed out in the Diane Sawyer interview, even a governor or a presidential candidate behaves as a dad, or just as a human being.

In any case, I've been looking over some of the Internet offerings on the Scream, and I've come to the conclusion that others have reached: namely, that the Scream should be played as often as possible, especially as it appears in the numerous remixes out there. Play it enough and it'll lose its impact. Heck, play a few remixes before Dean appears onstage in college towns! Put 'em up on the Dean blog!

MaxSpeak advises us to "laugh along with everyone else, then refer people to Walt Whitman."

Over at Atrios's place, lots of comments on the Scream. Here are some of my faves:
We've just witnessed the Wellstoning of Dean.

Wellstoned: Having the press take down a populist, popular politician and cut off any political momentum that an emotional speech might create by ignoring the setting, the context and the crowd reaction, first quoting the opposition's meme that said emotion (in a POLITICAL SPEECH TO SUPPORTERS!?!? Oh, the HORROR!!) displayed an inappropriate level of emotion and then topped off with finding someone else to quote making a apology for creating the opposition's manufactured, overhyped negative reaction (this is the "Please don't hit me" apology/response Dems too often give that makes me insane). Once this cycle completes itself -- 24 hours seems to be enough time, a little less maybe -- begin quoting from people who bought the new spin: "I was always a loyal follower of [Wellstone/Dean/Democrats], but after hearing about . . ."

Lather, rinse, repeat. Who's next? [Thumb]

Insanity is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. There are those who would consider it a little odd to kill thousands of people in a futile attempt to locate nonexistent weapons. Maybe Krauthammer could weigh in on this question, with his usual objective analysis. [TownDrunk]

Having watched the robotically droning Kerry, the zombie-like Pelosi, and the wooden ventriloquist's dummy head that I am told was Tom Daschle, I have decided to stick with Howard Dean as my preferred representative of how a Democrat should behave in public.

"Give 'em hell, Howard!" [Yoda]

Let's see - Dean came in third, and he's still getting the most press coverage. Yeah - he definitely blew it.

Do the Funky Howard!

Throw ya coat off!
Roll up ya damn sleeves!
Put an emotion on the floor!
Dance your ass through the Oval Office door!

People, are we gonna make this a party or what?! [sumwon]

Yes, Dean has to try to be as boring as possible, that way maybe nobody in the press will notice him and he can just sneak into the white house. He could start by carefully sculpting his facial features into a painful grinning death mask, like Clark, Kerry, Daschle, Pelosi, etc. [dubyamds]

Damn - it's getting so hard to keep my memes straight. Now, let's see - it's OK to bash Howard Dean, but let's all be nice to Kerry. Is that right? And what else - Oh! Don't belittle the wooden Frankenstein like appearance of Kerry during his speeches, but, by all means, abandon Dean because his speech constitutes a "meltdown".

Riiight. Let's see, that's two Ys in "hypocrisy", right? [Yoda]


This shall be our mantra. Let the yellow-bellied yuppie half-caf big-D Dems whimper and cower behind the urine-soaked aprons of their bloodless candidates. This guy's got cojones and a pulse, and I'll stick by him no matter how many tut-tuts the chaste whores spit at him. [Septic Tank]

Me, I'm waiting for Dr. Dean to do the Xena Warrior Princess yell. Then he'll have my vote locked up.
There's more, but you'll have to check it out for yourself!

Thanks to the Food Industry, Your Diet May Be Killing You (Part 1: Food Pyramid Myths and How They Got There)

(The Intro is the previous post.)


The beef and dairy industries spend millions lobbying the US government for regulations (or lack thereof), policies, trade practices, and recommendations that enhance the profits of these industries. The beef industry is particularly cozy with the USDA:
Eric Schlosser, author of the hugely popular bestseller Fast Food Nation, notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's PR point person on mad cow disease, Alisa Harrison, flacked for the beef industry. "Before joining the department, Ms. Harrison was director of public relations for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the beef industry's largest trade group, where she battled government food safety efforts, criticized Oprah Winfrey for raising health questions about American hamburgers, and sent out press releases with titles like 'Mad Cow Disease Not a Problem in the U.S.' ... Right now you'd have a hard time finding a federal agency more completely dominated by the industry it was created to regulate. Dale Moore, Ms. Veneman's chief of staff, was previously the chief lobbyist for the cattlemen's association."
Given the incestuous relationship of the USDA and the cattle industry, it should come as no surprise that the USDA Food Pyramid lumps together as equals red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts, recommending two to three servings per day of this food category.

Two servings per day of red meat is probably pretty dangerous. Why? Because beef is full of saturated fat and bad cholesterol. (Considering that the Pyramid suggests using all fats sparingly, it's interesting that they contradict themselves by encouraging the consumption of so much red meat.) Red meat also may give you more iron than you can absorb, particularly if you're male or a postmenopausal woman. And too much protein--particularly animal protein--actually leaches calcium out of the bones!

Willett's "Healthy Eating Pyramid" (scroll down) puts red meat right at the tip, something to be used sparingly, if at all, whereas fish, poultry, and eggs are suggested zero to two times per day, while nuts and legumes should be consumed one to three times per day. Notice that even fish, poultry, and eggs are optional. That's because legumes have some advantages over animal sources of protein: fiber, vitamins, minerals, "good fats," and a zillion phytochemicals, substances just beginning to be understood in their roles as disease preventers.

But the beef industry has spent lots of money convincing us that red meat provides us with "superior" protein and implying that without meat, we somehow lose out nutritionally. Nothing could be further from the truth. By placing red meat in the category of proteins to be consumed two or three times daily, the USDA is promoting an unhealthy level of saturated fat that leads to heart disease and other problems.

The Calcium Fraud

Got milk? No? Then the dairy industry would like you to believe that you're not getting enough calcium. They tout milk as a nutritional necessity.

The implication is that there's some kind of emergency, that Americans are risking their health and cultivating osteoporosis and brittle bones because they're not getting enough calcium.

What a lot of hooey! There is no emergency: Americans get more calcium than the residents of every other country except for Holland and the Scandinavian countries. And there's no clear-cut evidence that increased calcium intake prevents bone breakage. In fact,
in countries such as India, Japan, and Peru where average daily calcium intake is as low as 300 mg/day (less than a third of the US recommendation for adults, ages 19-50), the incidence of bone fractures is quite low
suggesting that bone breakage may be due to some other factor, or, more likely, combination of factors.

High calcium intake actually has some disadvantages, one of the most striking being that it may be linked to prostate cancer. There may also be a link between drinking a lot of milk and ovarian cancer; Willett believes that galactose, a simple sugar released during the disgestion of lactose in milk, may be the culprit. While the studies so far haven't been conclusive, they do sound an alarm. Of course, if you drink whole or 2% milk, you're getting a lot of saturated fat, not a good thing.

Personally, I worry about the safety of most commercially available milk. The growth hormones and antibiotics to be found in our dairy products are a powerful incentive for me to look for organic milk and butter when I do buy dairy products. (I would dearly love to find a source of organic cheeses.) So it's a source of satisfaction to me to find that certain plants provide quite a bit of calcium: a cup of black beans, something I eat often, has around 100 mg of calcium, while a cup of cooked spinach has 240 mg. Yet you'll rarely find a decent list of vegetables included in tables of high-calcium-content foods, so thoroughly brainwashed are we by the unremitting propaganda of the dairy industry.

Ironically, as noted above under "Beef," high animal-protein intake can leach calcium from the bones, so drinking a lot of milk can actually work against optimal calcium levels!

Next post: potatoes.

Thanks to the Food Industry, Your Diet May Be Killing You (Intro)

I'm not talking about mad cow disease, e. coli, GMOs, or the questionable chemicals added to foods to give them a longer shelf life.

I'm talking about basics, like the revered USDA Food Pyramid, or the notion that we in the US are suffering a calcium emergency (witness the successful "Got Milk?" campaign).

I live with a scientist whose first words, should one make a claim about anything, are "Where's the proof?" Where are the data? he wants to know. Give me some facts!

When such a person contemplates dieting, he doesn't just grab the trendiest diet book out there. He wants reasons why a particular diet should be effective--and safe. Without going into a detailed description of how he got there, let's just say that the (loathsomely-named) South Beach diet made sense to him. But he was dissatisfied with the book because the author failed to present that all-important data.

A recent article in Discover magazine (sorry, the full article is available only to subscribers) seemed to substantiate some of the claims made by Arthur Agatston, cardiologist and designer of the South Beach diet. The article discussed the ideas presented at greater length in Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating, by Walter Willett.

The book, which I ordered immediately after reading the Discover article, is no-nonsense, reasonable, and persuasive. Willett presents evidence in the form of clinical trials, decades-long cohort studies, and physical and chemical processes. (You can find most of the book's information here.)

Here's the thing. Diet books and guides to eating (I differentiate the two on the basis of whether they are meant to be weight-loss oriented or simply advice on what to eat for optimum health) almost always emphasize personal choice: each of us is responsible for what we ingest. Of course, this is perfectly true--to an extent. And yet ...

And yet we do our shopping at supermarkets, buying processed foods containing ingredients we don't even know are in there. If we do notice, we aren't necessarily aware of what those ingredients can do to us. If we're somewhat health-conscious, we look to the government's Food Pyramid and RDAs for guidance, or maybe we turn to the American Heart Association for advice on how to have a healthy heart. So our choices are very much affected by larger forces, particularly if we have some level of awareness of the issues.

Unfortunately, the food industry doesn't care a whit about consumers' health. What they care about is shelf life, cost, appearance, and appeal. And the USDA is an agency that promotes the interests of the agricultural sector, particularly the meat and dairy industries. As Willett points out, it's too bad that the National Institutes of Health aren't responsible for the Food Pyramid. The USDA is, as he says, trying to serve two masters with its Pyramid, and the result is that consumers lose out.

The upshot of all this is that the average American diet, even for those of us who try to search out guidance on what to eat, is based largely on (1) what is available and convenient for people who lead busy, pinched-for-time lives; and (2) a Food Pyramid that, as Willett says, "offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice on an absolutely vital topic--what to eat."

He goes on to say
At worst, the information contributes to overweight, poor health, and unnecessary early deaths. In either case it stands as a missed opportunity to improve the health of millions of people.
Strong words, but based on solid scientific evidence. Future posts will address some of the myths promoted by the USDA.

Monday, January 19, 2004


Just go read it.

New WMD in Iraq: Pop Music

Pop music was always meant to be subversive but in Iraq it is proving to be too subversive for the coalition.

As Americans flood Iraq’s airwaves with radio stations playing harmless Western and Arab pop tunes, the young are turning elsewhere for their musical inspiration.

They turn to artists like Sabah al-Jenabi who sings: "America has come and occupied Baghdad. The army and people have weapons and ammunition. Let’s go fight and call out the name of God."

Banned from the air, such songs are proving increasingly popular in the CD and tape shops of Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi.
The CPA has made illegal any public expression that encourages violence against Americans. So far this hasn't prevented the subversive CDs and tapes from selling like hotcakes.

A Soldier's Work Is Never Done

Not that we needed any further proof that our military is overextended, but here it is, anyway:

As the Pentagon digs deeper into its pool of civilian soldiers, retired reservists are being notified that they may be reactivated for duty in Iraq. ...

There are 800,000 Reserve retirees. The Pentagon is asking them to provide updated address and contact information.

In addition, the Army has issued 7,000 stop-loss orders to soldiers in Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq to prevent their departure at the end of their enlistments.

And if that weren't enough, another 1500 soldiers who will have been deployed in Iraq for a year have been told that their deployment will be extended--for how long, they don't yet know, although Pentagon officials have said it could be anywhere from 5 to 60 days. The extensions are to bridge gaps in the huge rotation of troops soon to be underway. Needless to say, their families are very unhappy.

Thousands more were nearly given the same fate when Centcom asked that at least 50 units be kept beyond their year-long deployment; the DoD slashed the list by three-fourths.

We're indeed moving away from a volunteer army when people are kept on beyond the period for which they enlisted, as with the thousands of stop-loss orders that have been issued, or when retired reservists are told they might be called up at any time. Sounds like involuntary servitude to me.

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