Republicans Should Have No Fear Of Swine Flu


Good news for Republicans. Ignore all the stories about swine flu (H1N1 influenza). Don’t bother to wash your hands or avoid sick people. If there is no evolution, then you don’t have to fear a new strain of flu evolving to be able to spread from human to human.

For the 79% of the country who are not Republicans, or for those Republicans who do believe in evolution, here’s some information posted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the NIH. Click on above diagram for a larger view.

SciFi Weekend: Surprises on Dollhouse and Lost (Penelope Widmore is Sally Harper!)


There were several surprises this week. Some of the surprises were actually anticipated but this isn’t necessarily bad as it could indicate that the writers did a good job of setting up the surprises as opposed to bringing in things out of left field. Spoilers released earlier in the season also made some more predictable.

Briar Rose, this week’s episode of Dollhouse, began with one surprise as Ballard dumped Mellie. At first I was surprised he would to this but the moment we saw Mellie back with her handler the reason became clear. I had no doubt that Ballard was following and that this would be how he found the location of the Dollhouse.

While Ballard was hunting for the Dollhouse, the obligatory Echo story showed yet another use for the Dollhouse’s technology as this was used to help an abused child. It was not clear how this organization, which generally sells their services to millionaires, wound up helping this child (or how they could find the Dollhouse when the FBI could not).


The real surprise of the episode was that Kepler turned out to be Alpha, but I actually expected that even before they made in inside of the Dollhouse. This guess was helped both by knowing that the season would end with a confrontation with Alpha and as Joss Whedon had already hinted that we would first see Alpha in a different identity.


The show started out with problems, probably because of the interference from Fox, but is ending the season strong from a creative if not ratings standpoint.  Briar Rose set up a the finale, which will hopefully be a season as opposed to a series finale, with Alpha taking Echo. It turns out that both Ballard and Alpha are obsessed with Echo/Caroline. Of course after her nude picture in Allure (above) , I imagine there might be lots of guys who are obsessed with Eliza Dushku.


Lost had its 100th episode, centering around Daniel Faraday. The Variable probably foreshadows the final episodes of the season as they move on from living with the Dharma people. The show could turn out to be a real game changer if it does turn out that people are variables which can change events, contrary to what we were previously told. The ultimate surprise could turn out to be that everything changes.

The surprise in this episode which came as no surprise was seeing Daniel Faraday get shot by his mother, Eloise Hawking, after going back in time before he was born. (It would have been far more interesting if instead he shot his mother before he was born, but presumably time could not be altered in that manner). We had already known that a major character would die before the end of the season and, being gone for a while, Faraday certainly seemed expendable. Seeing him enter the hostile’s camp after outright telling Jack and Kate that any one of them could be killed made his death so obvious that I told my wife that he was about to get killed with total certainty.

There are suggestions that there could be variables which change time, but it does not appear that changing Daniel’s fate is included. Eloise Hawking seems to know more about time travel and the island than anyone else. If she had sent Daniel back to the island, knowing that her younger self would kill him, she must be very certain that time could not be changed. Perhaps she had everyone else go back in the hopes someone else would be killed or events could have been chaged in a different way, but if she really thought she could change events the most sensible course would have been to keep Daniel from returning (unless there are other reasons this was not possible). It is conceivable that, like Ben, Daniel will survive the shooting but I will be very surprised if this is the case. What remains to be seen is whether Jack or anyone else does can change the sequence of events which have taken place on the island, leading to the crash of Oceanic Flight 815.


While somewhat contrived, they made use of a story featuring Daniel and Eloise to show that Desmond is all right in the future as Eloise met with Penelope Widmore at the hospital. We also found, in a relatively minor surprise, that Charles Widmore was Daniel’s father.


The biggest surprise of the week for me came when I obtained copies of the US version of Coupling. The show was based upon a BBC show which I previously discussed here.  The US version was intended to replace Friends but was actually a combination of Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex and the City. The BBC version, besides being one of the greatest comedies ever made, is notable for being written by Steven Moffat, who will be taking over as show runner for Doctor Who when it returns on a regular basis in 2010.

The show was a flop in the United States but now that I’ve seen the BBC version I wanted to give the US version another chance. Seeing what the series turned into in the BBC version, I was curious to see the entire US run, especially as only four out of eleven episodes were aired here.

One problem the show had in the United States was the protests about the amount of sex discussed in the show. It was also probably hurt by the shorter length of the US version due to commercials. Typical episodes of Coupling were like many episodes of Seinfeld in which different stories often came together at the end. Taking an excellent script by Moffat and cutting out several minutes would be likely to ruin it.


I’ve wondered if the problem could have been the quality of the actors. Here is where I had the surprise. Playing the beggining of an episode I found that in the US version Sally Harper was played by Sonya Walger. Walger also plays Penelope Widmore on Lost, was in the HBO series Tell Me You Love Me, and played Michelle Dixon on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The presence of Sonya Walger alone does not redeem the US version of Coupling, but after seeing her in Lost on Wednesday I was surprised to see her face when I started to watch Coupling. Although it has an ensemble cast, Sally was far less significant to the stories as compared to characters such as Steve and Susan. The actor playing Steve also looked familiar, and I later tracked him down to be Jay Harrington, who currently is doing an excellent job as star of Better Off Ted (shown here with Portia de Rossi of Allie McBeal and Arrested Development). Presumably he has improved his comedy skills since staring on Coupling.


H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu) Information

Here’s some of the latest government posts for information on the H1N1 influenza (swine flu):


Schools, Colleges, Child Care

Employers & Employees


Health Professionals


More documents from the World Health Organization are available here.

Republicans Flip-Flop On Government Checks and Balances

Maureen Dowd’s work has been of variable quality over the past year, but she does have an excellent column today. Dowd responds to the Republicans who have suddenly developed a concern for checks and balances in response to Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democratic Party:

This is quite touching, given that the start of the 21st century will be remembered as the harrowing era when an arrogant Republican administration did its best to undermine checks and balances. (Maybe when your reign begins with Bush v. Gore, a Supreme heist that kissed off checks and balances, you feel no need to follow the founding fathers’ lead.)

After so many years of watching a White House upend laws, I now listen raptly when President Obama plays the constitutional law professor. He was asked at his news conference Wednesday night about the Republican fear that he will “ride roughshod over any opposition” and establish one-party rule.

“I’ve got Democrats who don’t agree with me on everything,” he said. “And that’s how it should be. Congress is a coequal branch of government.” You almost thought the professor in chief was going to ask the assembled students to please turn to page 317 in their Con Law book.

He went on to reassure Republicans that his vision of the presidency is very different from the imperial view held by the Boy Emperor and his regents.

“I do think that, to my Republican friends, I want them to realize that me reaching out to them has been genuine,” the president said, adding, “The majority will probably be determinative when it comes to resolving just hard-core differences that we can’t resolve, but there is a whole host of other areas where we can work together” and “make progress.”

Of course the Republicans don’t want to work together. They would prefer to just say no, even if they have no meaningful policies of their own to offer, when the president and Congress are in the hands of the other party. When their guy was in office they supported the concept of the unitary executive and were willing to give the president virtually dictatorial powers. Now they have suddenly realized that the Constitution includes far more than the Second Amendment.

Dowd also pointed out how at least one person who is implicating herself further while trying to defend the policies of the administration which had done so much to harm the country:

Condi Rice, who plans to go back to being a professor of political science at Stanford, got grilled by a student at a reception at a dorm there on Monday.

I’ve often wondered why students haven’t been more vocal in questioning the architects of the Iraq war and “legal” torture who landed plum spots at prestigious universities. Probably because it would have taken the draft, like the guillotine, to concentrate the mind. But finally, the young man at Stanford spoke up. Saying he had read that Ms. Rice authorized waterboarding, he asked her, “Is waterboarding torture?”

She replied: “The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations, under the Convention Against Torture. So that’s — and by the way, I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency.”

This was precisely Condi’s problem. She simply relayed. She never stood up against Cheney and Rummy for either what was morally right or what was smart in terms of our national security.

The student pressed again about whether waterboarding was torture.

“By definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture,” Ms. Rice said, almost quoting Nixon’s logic: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

She also stressed that, “Unless you were there in a position of responsibility after Sept. 11, you cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that you faced in trying to protect Americans.”

Reyna Garcia, a Stanford sophomore who videotaped the exchange, said of Condi’s aria, “I wasn’t completely satisfied with her answers, to be honest,” adding that “President Obama went ahead and called it torture and she did everything she could not to do that.”

As Mr. Obama said in his news conference, it is in moments of crisis that a country must cleave to its principles. Asserting that “waterboarding violates our ideals,” he said he had been struck by an article describing how Churchill would not torture prisoners even when “London was being bombed to smithereens.”

“And the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking shortcuts and over time, that corrodes what’s best in a people,” he said. “It corrodes the character of a country.”

Edwards Under Investigation For Using Campaign Funds As Hush Money For Mistress

There are potentially more problems for John Edwards. The Charlotte Observer reports that federal authorities are looking into money spent by the Edwards’ campaign to see if any campaign contributions were spent on hush money for his mistress, Rielle Hunter. Edwards has acknowledged that the investigation is taking place and denies these allegations.

Proving these allegations might be difficult.  The Raleigh News & Observer turned to Sheila Krumholz, executive director of Open Secrets, which monitors campaign contributions. Krumholtz noted that “John Edwards is a leader in misleading the public.” Based upon his public life, as well as his career as a trial lawyer, if anything this is an understatement.

These allegations come soon after the publication of Elizabeth Edwards’ memoirs which discussed the affair. The book revealed that Elizabeth had advised her husband to quit the presidential race to protect the family.

This investigation is not the first time that Edwards’ finances have been questioned. Edwards has also been accused of using his poverty center as a means of financing the early stages of his presidential campaign while avoiding campaign finance laws.

The Identity Of Kindle Users Revealed

As I tend to buy lots of books and lots of gadgets all the stories about the Kindle have naturally caught my attention. While I find the concept interesting I have not actually purchased one.

One reason is technological. When I purchase a book I will always be able to read the book assuming no physical damage. I fear moving my library to a pretty much closed device and risk being locked into continuing to own the same technology or risk losing the books I have purchased. I would be more open to the concept if all the books were in a more open format such as pdf’s and I could be certain that I will be able to read purchased books on a wide variety of devices in the future.

Another reason is that I like books in their current physical form. I like holding a book when I read it, along with being able randomly open a book to any page. I like to see the length of a book, how the chapters are set up, and physically see how much of the book I have completed. I also like having books on the walls. I currently have three rooms in my house in which at least two walls are covered with book shelves, along with four other rooms and even a portion of one upstairs hallway, where there are also book shelves (along with another room in which the shelves are used for videos).

This isn’t to say I haven’t seen some benefit to the Kindle for certain people. It sounds terrific for people who travel frequently, or spend lots of time on subways or buses. The device allows them to have multiple books present to choose from, and many might not mind if novels they read while traveling are not available should they move to a different format a few years down the road. The ability to immediately download a book also sounds both fascinating and a dangerous way to greatly increase impulse buying every time a good book is mentioned on NPR or Oprah.

I had previously thought that many of my objections to the Kindle and preference to physical books were a matter of my age. I wondered if younger people, who are already accustomed to keeping their music libraries on iPods, would see moving their book libraries to such a device as a natural progression. On the other hand, there is far more reasons to have music on an iPod than to have books on a Kindle. People only need a limited number of books with them, while they might want to listen to a large portion of their music library repeatedly. The ability to randomize songs from one’s entire music library on an iPod gives an advantage over listening to CD’s but there is no comparable advantage to randomizing chapters in books.

It turns out that at present Kindle’s aren’t primarily attracting younger readers as I suspected they might. Instead they are selling more to those who are older. Tyler Cowen presents the breakdown by age:

0 – 19: 5%
20 – 29: 10%
30 – 39: 15%
40 – 49: 19.5%
50 – 59: 23%
60 – 69: 19.5%
70 – 79: 6%
80+: 2%

Comments in the cited discussion revealed reasons for this:

So many users said they like Kindle because they suffer from some form of arthritis that multiple posters indicate that they do or do not have arthritis as a matter of course. A variety of other impairments, from weakening eyes and carpal-tunnel-like syndromes to more exotic disabilities dominate the purchase rationales of these posters.

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The Failure of The Republican Party And How They Might Recover

Writing obituaries for the Republican Party, or predicting how they might recover, has become a very popular topic. As Bob Barr told CNN, “The Republican Party is in very deep trouble right now.” Bruce Bartlett has written about The Dismal Failure Of The GOP for Forbes.

Bartlett took a historical view of the two major political parties, showing how their relative power has varied over the years. After looking at eras which have little relevance to our current political situation, Bartlett discussed how the Republicans became the majority party after the Democrats became “a more purely liberal party no longer restrained by a conservative Southern wing.” What the Republicans failed to recognize is that you can either have a majority party or a party which consistently supports a single ideology. You cannot have both. Bartlett wrote:

After winning control of Congress and the White House in 2000, Republicans were as full of themselves as Democrats had been after achieving the same goal in 1976 and 1992. Cooperation with the other party was viewed as a sell-out by partisans of the party in control. The dominant element of each party–liberals in 1977 and 1993, and conservatives in 2001–moved quickly to implement long-cherished measures that had been blocked by a lack of unified control of the executive and legislative branches.

As the Republicans moved to the extreme right and purged those who did not follow the party line, the Democrats built the big tent:

At this point, Democrats finally accepted that applying ideological litmus tests was self-defeating. If some moderate or conservative wanted to run in a district that would only elect a moderate or conservative, then it was stupid to insist that they endorse every liberal item in the Democratic agenda. Moderates and conservatives were permitted to dissent from the party line on issues such as gun control if that was what it took to win.

This “big tent” approach was highly successful and greatly helped Democrats retake control of Congress in 2006. What probably hurt congressional Republicans the most, however, was their down-the-line support for every action by George W. Bush, no matter how ill-conceived, poorly implemented or at odds with the party’s basic philosophy, such as when he insisted on a massive expansion of Medicare in 2003.

As a consequence, the Republican brand was destroyed. The party is now widely viewed as corrupt, incompetent, ideologically rigid and out of step with the American mainstream. It should be engaging in self-examination, developing an agenda that addresses the real problems faced by Americans and reaching out to the millions of voters who have left the GOP in recent years. Instead, Republicans are pushing out the last of the party’s moderates as if that will somehow make them more popular with the very moderates whose votes are essential if they are to regain power.

I think Republicans desperately need a group that will do for them what the DLC did for the Democrats. Unfortunately, I see no such organization or any resources available for those that might start one. Those with such resources are either turned off by Republican pandering to its right wing and have left the party or they agree with it. Either way, no one in the Republican Party seems to have any interest in victory, and they prefer to wear defeat as some kind of badge of honor.

Eventually, Republicans will tire of being out of power just as Democrats did, and they will do what it takes to win. But I fear that Republicans will have to at least lose in 2010 and again in 2012 before they start to come to their senses. Perhaps by 2014, some leader with maturity, resources, vision and discipline will find a way of leading the GOP out of the wilderness. But I see no one even in a position to start that process today.

I have often argued that the Republicans must either change their views or go the way of the Whigs. While there is no guarantee of this happening, I also tend to think that at some point we will have a restoration of a two party system, either by the Republicans coming to their senses and recovering or by a new party developing from splits in the Democratic majority.

There are a number of potential ways to see the Republicans coming back into power. Hopefully this will be from them coming to their senses and moving back from the extreme far right. There are also other possibilities.

The Democrats might commit political suicide by following the path of the Republicans should they move to the far left and act to oust those who fail to show ideological purity. At present this is contrary to the direction the Democrats have been moving in, but there are some who do show such tendencies. As I noted a few days ago, it is also possible that Democratic successes could also lead to people no longer having the same reasons to vote Democratic in order to achieve plans offered by the Democrats such as increased access to health care once this is accomplished.

Conditions in the country and the world will play a part in the fortunes of the two political parties. Democratic prospects will be far better if the economy improves over the next few years. Often unpredictable events have a tremendous influence over politics. When George Bush was (questionably) elected in 2000 we could not have predicted that the Republicans would benefit from a terrorist attack in 2001, despite the fact that they mishandled it so badly. When Bush was reelected in 2004 we also could not have predicted that his poor response to Katrina would so quickly demonstrate the incompetence of the Republicans even to many former Republican voters.

Time could work to the benefit of the Republicans. An increasing number of Democratic House and Senate seats are now from areas which have been Republican until recently, making them harder to defend. Historically the party out of office does better in off year elections. Americans tend to both have a short memory and a tendency to grow tired of the party in power. At present this might not help the Republicans as they continue to remind people of why they were voted out as they claim they lost because they were not conservative enough.

Republicans might also return to power based upon their rhetorical ability and tendency to distort the truth. As people forget the disasters of past Republican rule, Voodoo economics might again look attractive. While Republicans policies don’t work in the real world, it sure does sound attractive to be able to cut taxes and simultaneously bring in more revenue. While Republican scare tactics about what Democrats will do are repeatedly contradicted by reality, there’s also a sucker born every minute. There are still many who believe that Democrats want to take away their guns and Bibles, with some conservative claims, such as those spread by Glenn Beck, becoming even more paranoid

The best chance for the Republicans would be, as Bartlett says, to “come to their senses.” At present Bartlett is right that this appears difficult. The general trend of history has been towards freedom and reason while the Republicans try to fight these trends. A party which has many members which support creationism over evolution and modern biology, fights stem cell research on religious grounds, and denies the scientific consensus on climate change will not be taken seriously by most educated and intelligent people in the 21st century.

In order to survive in the modern world, the Republicans must acknowledge both that abortion rights is a settled issue and that the state has no right to tell a woman what she can do with her body. Republicans must realize the government should not intervene in other personal decisions, ranging from contraception to end of life decisions (as in the Terri Schiavo case). Republicans must realize that although they were able to capitalize on homophobia in 2004 with votes to prevent gay marriage, the attitude of the country is rapidly changing on gay marriage and other social issues.

Republicans must realize understand the significance of the decision of the founding fathers to create a secular government characterized by separation of church and state, as opposed to promoting a revisionist history which denies this and falsely claiming that the United States was established as a Christian nation.

Some Republicans would claim that saying Republicans should abandon these views is to say they should not be Republicans as they consider these views to be essential components of conservatism. In actuality there is no contradiction between rejecting the extremism of the religious right and conservatism. Doing this would be a return to the philosophy of Barry Goldwater, which many contemporary conservatives falsely claim to be following.

Jack Kemp Dies at 73

AP reports:

Jack Kemp, the ex-quarterback, congressman, one-time vice-presidential nominee and self-described “bleeding-heart conservative,” died Saturday. He was 73.

Kemp died after a lengthy illness, according to spokeswoman Bona Park and Edwin J. Feulner, a longtime friend and former campaign adviser. Park said Kemp died at his home in Bethesda, Md., in the Washington suburbs.

Kemp’s office announced in January that he had been diagnosed with an unspecified type of cancer. By then, however, the cancer was in an advanced stage and had spread to several organs, Feulner said. He did not know the origin of the cancer…

Through his political life, Kemp’s positions spanned the social spectrum: He opposed abortion and supported school prayer, yet appealed to liberals with his outreach toward minorities and compassion for the poor. He pushed for immigration reform to include a guest-worker program and status for the illegal immigrants already here.

At the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, he proposed more than 50 programs to combat urban blight and homelessness and was an early and strong advocate of enterprise zones.

In 1993, along with former Education Secretary William Bennett and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick, he co-founded Empower America, a public policy organization intended to promote economic growth, job creation and entrepreneurship.

His choice as Dole’s 1996 running mate was seen as a way for the Republican Party to reach groups of voters that Dole could not. And it came even after Kemp endorsed Steve Forbes for the nomination — a move many considered political suicide — and declared himself a “recovering politician.”