Michael Wolraich's picture

    New York State to Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

    While researching Blowing Smoke, I subscribed to a newsletter from the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, a non-profit organization "whose purpose it is to become the first-in-mind champion of Christian religious liberty, domestically and internationally, and a national clearing house and first line of response to anti-Christian defamation, bigotry, and discrimination."

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    Escaping Below the World

    There is much to be said for vanishing. Short escapes from the frenzied tumult of modern life help to calibrate the soul and maintain perspective.

    I've learned that proper escape requires more than disconnecting electronic devices and traveling to faraway lands. Though people may not follow you on your journey, your thoughts are more tenacious. Anxieties, memories, hopes, and fears stow away in your crowded cranium, accompanying you across the globe like irritating travel companions.

    But not under the water.

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    Why Americans Live Shorter Lives

    A new study reveals that US life expectancy is falling even further behind other industrialized countries. As of 2007, the life expectancy of Americans is 75.6 for men and 80.8 for women, which puts us in 37th place internationally. On average, Americans live three years less than citizens in the top ten longest-lived countries, and those countries pull further ahead of us every year.

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    Republican Debate Shocker! No One Turned Into a Werewolf


    Herman Cain discusses Islam

    Political experts across the nation burbled approvingly after Monday's Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire. The candidates surpassed expectations by maintaining human form and refraining from howling, salivating excessively, or biting moderator John King on the leg.

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    For congressional tweeting, Weiner's got competition

    This much we know. Over Memorial Day weekend, someone used U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner's Twitter account to publish a photo of an underwear-clad male crotch apparently in a sexually excited state.

    The New York Democrat denies posting the photo, claiming that his Twitter account was hacked, but he has deflected persistent inquiries into whether he is the owner of the offending (apparent) genitalia.

    "But Congressman, you would remember if you were to take a photograph of yourself like that," insisted MSNBC's Luke Russert in one interview. In another, CNN's Wolf Blitzer pressed, "You would know if this is your underpants."

    As journalists clamor for Weiner to come clean about his underpants, I was struck by an intriguing, if less titillating, question: What does Weiner usually tweet?

    Read the full article at CNN.com.

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    Bluffing for Dummies: Republicans Hit Their Heads on the Debt Ceiling

    Word to the wise: Don't bluff when your cards are on the table.

    (I learned that the hard way.)

    Apparently, House Speaker John Boehner has yet to learn the lesson. On Monday, he truculently pledged, "Without significant spending cuts and the way we spend Americans' money, there will be no debt limit increase."

    But there will be a debt limit increase. John Boehner knows it. Barack Obama knows it. Everybody knows it.

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    Republicans Back Away from Medicare Cuts

    Last week, I called the Republicans' budget "a dead plan walking." I was referring in particular to the proposal to "reform" Medicare by replacing direct payments with vouchers for private insurance. Most Americans are not pleased by this proposal, which they correctly regard as a benefits cuts, and many of them have said so angrily at town hall meetings across the country.

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    Dead Bin Laden Photos Surface

    In the wake of Osama Bin Laden's death, pictures of his corpse have become the most sought after photographs since Britney Spears sans panties.

    President Obama's arrogant, pussyfooting refusal to hand over the pictures to the deserving public has spawned a competition among the world's top news publications to obtain the photos.

    I'm pleased to announce that dagblog's crack paparazzi ninja-spy, William K. Wolfrum, with his trustee sidekick, his own ego, have succeeded where all others have failed. I hereby present to you the real dead Osama photos:

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    Republicans' Medicare Blunder

    In town hall meetings being held across the country during Congress' two-week recess, American citizens are filling the ears of Republican legislators with objections to the party's budget plan, particularly proposed changes to Medicare that would replace direct coverage with subsidies for private insurance.

    Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pennsylvania, quoted in a New York Times article Tuesday, tried to play down the objections, but his explanation inadvertently exposed the flaw in his party's political strategy.

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    And Now for Something Completely Different

    A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested that it would be nice to have a reference tool to find stuff related to other stuff. Type a movie title, and get the actors. Type a state, and get the capitol. Type in golf, and get a list of famous golfers.

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    In Israel, the Roadmap to Peace is Not Paved with Goldstone

    Israel supporters rejoiced on Friday after international jurist Richard Goldstone recanted some conclusions from his investigation into Israel's military actions during the Gaza war two years ago.

    "If I had known then what I know now," Goldstone wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, "The Goldstone Report would have been a different document."

    ...

    The Israeli government and its supporters have long denounced the Goldstone Report as deeply flawed and complain that it has tarnished Israel's reputation. On Sunday, in fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans "to reverse and minimize the great damage that has been done by this campaign of denigration against the state of Israel."

    But while Israel's supporters and detractors alike often take the importance of the Goldstone Report for granted, it's worth considering the extent of the "great damage" done to the state of Israel since the report was released and questioning what such investigations, accusations and condemnations actually accomplish.

    Read the full article at CNN.com

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    Middle East Out of the Box: Schrodinger's Cat is Dead

    There is a cat in a box with a flask of poison. The random decay of a radioactive isotope is rigged to shatter the flask and kill the cat. We don't know if the cat is alive or dead.

    According to the well-known quantum paradox of Schrodinger's cat, the cat is neither alive nor dead (or both alive and dead) until someone opens the box to find out, which disrupts the quantum uncertainty and resolves the cat's fate.

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    Genghis on the Radio...Again

    Tomorrow, I'll be discussing Blowing Smoke with host Tim Danahey on Castle Rock Radio from 2 to 3pm ET, Wednesday, March 16th.

    Please listen in at http://castlerockradio.com.

    Also, for those of you who missed my television appearance on C-SPAN last month, you can watch it online at http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/BlowingS.

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    Democrats, Don't Run Away

    Democratic state legislators have begun fleeing their respective capitals as if the plague has broken out. Perhaps they see it that way. Republicanism has gone viral, and it seems that no state is safe, no matter how unionized.

    But this plague is called democracy, and the cure is worse than the disease.

    Read the full article at CNN.com

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    Liberals Don't Persuade

    I've spent a lot of time studying the tactics of the right wing. While I've expended a great deal of energy disparaging them, I have also developed a certain respect for the right's ability to recruit millions of Americans to its side. In a few decades, the conservative movement has transformed itself from a faction within the once vastly outnumbered Republican Party to the most powerful voting block in the nation.

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    Book Review: The Great Stagnation

    The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better by Tyler Cowen

    The Great Stagnation, a short yet ambitious e-book by economist Tyler Cowen, has been generating a lot of buzz lately. It has been recommended by Matthew Yglesias (ThinkProgress), Ezra Klein (Washington Post), Tim Harford (Financial Times), and Nick Schulz (Forbes), to name a few.

    I bought the book on the suggestion of EmmaZahn here at dagblog. I found it to be clear, original, and so engrossing that I missed my subway stop. But I did not ultimately find it persuasive.

    In the book, Cowen argues that America's spectacular growth of the past 200 years has been driven by the consumption of "low-hanging fruit" which we have now exhausted. In particular, he cites cheap land, advances in education, and technological innovation. He argues that since we can no longer rely on these drivers, our economy will stagnate for the foreseeable future.

    But you don't have to be an economist to see that the evidence Cowen relies on to bolster his low-hanging fruit theory has been derived from some aggressive cherry picking.

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    Israel vs the United Nations: The More Things Change, the More They Don't

    The U.N. Security Council is poised to vote on a resolution that would condemn Israeli settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territory, calling the construction "illegal" and "a major obstacle to the achievement of peace."

    The White House is trying to block the resolution, but Obama has not indicated whether the U.S. would veto it. Predictably, American politicians and pundits from across the political spectrum are furious that Obama would "sell out" Israel.

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    Marching on Pittsfield

    Williams College was never Berkeley. Founded in 1793 among the minor mountains of western Massachusetts, the red brick buildings of this tiny liberal arts college housed generations of white, Protestant elites from the East Coast. In 1961, the New York Times Magazine described Williams as "a gentleman's school -- fashionable, mildly snobbish, not too obtrusively intellectual."

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