Goodbye, TV Dinners: New Study Says Technology Improves Family Interactions

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 3:24 PM EDT

laptops.jpgThe image of four family members sitting silently around their living room and tapping on their keyboards does not exactly evoke a Norman Rockwell evening. Conventional wisdom has it that everyone in the family is absorbed in his or her own online life—and that the real people in the room are probably not part of it.

But a new report suggests that the situation may be more complex than we think. The internet, after all, is an interactive medium, and using it is not the passive experience of watching television.

The study, conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, found that roughly 95% of married-with-children households—the traditional nuclear families—own at least one cell phone and at least one computer with internet access. That's compared to around 80% for the country overall. And nearly half the people surveyed said that all the technology actually encourages communication—the "hey, look at this!" phenomenon that makes YouTube so successful.

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The Candidates' Health Mysteries

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 2:58 PM EDT

Take a look at this New York Times article about the unprecedented lengths both campaigns have gone to conceal the health histories of their candidates. It's worth reading in full, but here are the Cliff Notes:

McCain: Granted a limited number reporters brief access to over a 1,000 pages of medical documents. Questions remain on the severity of his melanoma, which has reoccurred a number of times.

Obama: Released only a one-page letter from his doctor testifying to "excellent" health. Appears to nurse an on-again, off-again smoking habit, the full extent of which is unknown.

Biden: Campaign-approved doctors have been interviewed about Biden and records pertaining to his 1988 brain aneurysm have been released. According to the Times, "it is not known whether Mr. Biden has had recent brain imaging scans or has been evaluated by a neurologist or neurosurgeon recently."

Palin: No medical records of any kind have been released, keeping persistent rumors about the birth of her youngest son from being dispelled.

McCain Picks Tailhook Sexual Harassment Scandal Vet To Oversee Transition

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 2:57 PM EDT

On October 29, 1991, Senator John McCain went to the floor of the US Senate. The former Navy pilot was angry and disgusted. In recent days, the news had broken that the previous month Navy airmen and others had gone wild—engaging in sexual molestation, out-of-control drinking, and other misconduct—at the Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas, an annual gathering of retired and active-duty naval aviators. "I cannot tell you," McCain proclaimed, "the distaste and displeasure that I have as a naval aviator…concerning this incident." He bemoaned the fact that senior ranking naval officers and civilian leaders had been at the meeting. He called for an investigation and urged the Navy to suspend its traditional participation with the Tailhook reunions. "There is no time in the history of this country that something like this is more inappropriate," McCain said, "and we cannot allow it. It is unconscionable. And we in the military...should be ashamed and embarrassed...that this kind of activity went on. And there is no excuse for it."

Now, McCain has placed one of the men responsible for permitting—and encouraging-- loutish activity at the Tailhook meetings in a powerful position: heading up his transition team.

McCain recently named John Lehman to oversee his transition effort and figure out how a McCain administration ought to get started—and whom it ought to hire for the most senior jobs—should McCain win the November 4 election. Lehman, now an investment banker, was secretary of the Navy during the 1980s, and he played a R-rated role in the Tailhook scandal.

Lehman was no longer Navy secretary when the Tailhook scandal exploded. But in 1991 and 1992, as military investigators and journalists probed what had happened at the 1991 convention—which included the so-called Gauntlet, a line of rowdy and drunk junior officers who harassed and assaulted women passing by--they learned that the events at the Tailhook convention of 1991 were predated by similar behavior in early years. And they discovered that Lehman, as Navy secretary, had been an enthusiastic participant.

In his 1995 book, Fall from Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy, Greg Vistica, the San Diego Union-Tribune reporter who broke the Tailhook scandal, described a scene from the 1986 Tailhook meeting:

When the door to the suite at the Las Vegas Hilton opened, a prominent member of President Ronald Reagan's administration and a naked woman were clearly visible. He was lying on his back, stretched out in front of a throng of naval officers. There were probably one hundred men watching him, laughing with him….

Why Amy Poehler Was the Real Winner of SNL's Sarah Palin/Tiny Fey Palin-Off

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 2:31 PM EDT

When McCain's VP pick showed up on Saturday Night Live this weekend, was it funny or excruciating? Either way, SNL won—drawing the show's highest ratings in 14 years.

Palin's brief performances yielded a couple chuckles—after Alec Baldwin went off on an anti-Palin rant, she responded with "I must say, your brother Stephen is my favorite Baldwin."

But most of the humor heavy-hitting came from Amy Poehler, who did an Alaskan rap while Palin bobbed along, and Fey. Indeed, with her exaggerated Alaskan twang, wink, and smirks, Fey made for a far more entertaining Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin.

See the videos here:

Are Black Athletes Obligated to Support Obama?

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 1:37 PM EDT

Do black athletes, among the most visible and well-paid members of their communities, have a responsibility to support Obama? Perhaps the better question is: Did it ever even occur to them to?

How many of them thought it through and decided to remain silent (rather than officially oppose the brother), and how many just never saw the connection to themselves? I'm willing to bet most of them will vote for Obama (though I'm not willing to bet most of them will vote). So why not play a role in the biggest opportunity facing the community that supports them so fervently (too fervently, IMnotsoHO)?

Turns out that few in this group have either donated to his campaign or publicly endorsed him.
From News One:

McCain vs. Bush

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 1:25 PM EDT

McCAIN vs. BUSH....Atrios sez:

I've never been a fan of John McCain. I never had a mancrush on him as most of the "liberals" in the media once did. But there was a time not all that long ago when I thought that a McCain presidency would at least be a marginal improvement over the Bush presidency. Now I believe it would be much, much worse.

This pretty much describes me too. I was never a fan of McCain, even in his 2004 semi-liberal incarnation, but I did have at least some respect for his positions and his character. As Republicans went, especially compared to the sad sack crew they put up for the presidency this year, he wasn't too bad.

But now? If you put a gun to my head and forced me to pull the lever for either McCain or Bush, I'm not sure who I'd choose. Getting the Cheney/Addington crew out of the White House might be worth it no matter what, especially if I could convince myself that McCain is hale and hearty and Sarah Palin would never have any duty more important than attending foreign funerals. But then again, compared to McCain's barely suppressed rage and erratic, free-form bellicosity, the 2008 model George Bush almost seems like a statesman. It takes a very special talent to make people like Atrios and me come to that conclusion. John McCain is obviously a very special talent.

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| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 1:13 PM EDT

SLEAZE....Josh Marshall says John McCain's campaign is the sleaziest we've seen for a very long time:

You may say, wait, Willie Horton? The Swift-boat smears? What about those?

But here's the key point, one that is getting too little attention. President Bush's father didn't run the Willie Horton ad. And this President Bush, however much they may have been funded by his supporters and run with Karl Rove's tacit approval, didn't run the Swift Boat ads. These were run by independent groups. Just how 'independent' we think they really are is a decent question. But even the sleaziest campaigns usually draw the line at the kind of sleaze they are wiling to run themselves under their own name.

This is basically what's struck me about McCain's campaign too: his sleaze has been done in his own name, not kept at arm's length, as it was in 1972, 1988, and 2004.

But although that was my initial reaction to events of the summer and fall, I'm pretty sure it isn't right. Yes, the Willie Horton ad in 1988 was officially an independent expenditure, but the "Revolving Door" ad was very much a Bush-Quayle production. Lee Atwater promised to make Horton a household name, and he did just that. Bush Sr. spoke about him frequently in speeches. And Dukakis's patriotism was a major theme too, as the Bush campaign hit him over and over and over about his stand on the Pledge of Allegiance.

In fact, I'd say 2008 is a surprisingly faithful replay of 1988. On the Republican side it's been sleazy, it's been issue free, and its biggest feature has been a young, attractive, unqualified, base-pleasing conservative vice presidential choice. The big difference is that Obama is a better candidate than Dukakis and 2008 is a far more Democratic year than 1988. On the sleaze-o-meter, however, I think it's pretty much a draw. Anyone with sharp memories of 1988 is invited to agree or disagree in comments.

The Upcoming GOP Civil War

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:44 PM EDT

THE UPCOMING GOP CIVIL WAR.....After every election, the losing party conducts a civil war. Sometimes it's a big war, sometimes it's a small one, but the subject is usually the same: Did we lose because we failed to appeal to enough moderates? Or did we lose because we failed to uphold our heritage and give the voters a real choice? The arguments are so similar on both sides that even the terminology is often the same. Liberals refer to their party's centrists as DINOs (Democrats In Name Only) and Republicans refer to theirs as RINOs. Republican conservative stalwarts say, "If the choice is between a Democrat and a Democrat-lite, the public will choose the real thing every time." Switch the party affiliation and you get the same thing from liberal Democrats.

So what happens this time around? It's a little hard to keep this in mind at this point, but John McCain was widely considered the most electable Republican this year because of his mavericky politics and appeal to independents. He had moderate cred on immigration, campaign finance reform, and judicial nominees, and though he had a conservative voting record he had never been a committed culture warrior. If you thought that moving toward the center was the right strategy for the Republican Party after eight years of George Bush, McCain was your man.

So if he loses, what happens? Conservatives will have the upper hand, no? We tried a moderate, they'll say, and he crashed and burned. After all, if the choice is between a Democrat and a Democrat-lite etc. etc.

And that in turn suggests that instead of undergoing a long, slow moderation of their positions after this year's election, they'll go in the other direction. Their argument will be simple and compelling: the McCain strategy didn't work. The country is hungering for real conservatism, and that's the only way we can win. Hell, the only thing that even gave McCain a chance this year was his selection of Sarah Palin, the only real conservative on the ticket.

So this suggests an eye-popping state of affairs: after eight years of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove making them into the most unpopular party in recent history, the GOP will decide that the best response to this is to become even more conservative. I can hardly wait to see how this plays out.

The "Voter Fraud" Fraud: The GOP's Last-Ditch Strategy for Winning an Unwinnable Election

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:23 PM EDT

Make no mistake: At this point, it's clear that the voter fraud chimera, and its potential to keep thousands or millions of Obama voters out of the final count, is becoming the central Republican strategy for winning this election. The party doubts it can win if every legitimate vote is counted, so they aim to make sure that some of them aren't. False allegations of voter fraud, which can serve to both intimidate voters and challenge ballots, is their means to this end.

As David Corn wrote last week, the right's "desperation is showing" as they scramble to reverse John McCain's free-fall by smearing Barack Obama with every scary label they can find. (As David summarized it: "Obama is a Black Muslim, Anti-Christian Socialist Plotting with an Evil Jewish Billionaire.") But in case this fails to frighten off enough voters to close Obama's lead, vote suppression is the Republicans' last-ditch tactic for snatching a tainted victory from the jaws of defeat.

This is a strategy that's been developing for years within the Republican Party. But it's really taken off during the Bush administration—maybe because W (or, more likely, Dick Cheney) remained conscious that he only got into the White House through vote suppression, and could only stay there through more vote suppression. The administration's zeal to advance the myth of voter fraud was key to what has become one of its biggest scandals: the politically motivated firings of nine U.S. attorneys by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2006.

Powell on Being Muslim in America

| Mon Oct. 20, 2008 12:16 PM EDT

I thought the most interesting thing about Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama, other than the indictment of the current state of the Republican Party, was his heartfelt defense of something that really shouldn't have to be defended: being Muslim in America.

Here's what he said:

I'm also troubled by — not what Senator McCain says — but what members of the Party say, and it is permitted to be said: such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian; has always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, "What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?" The answer's "No, that's not America." Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be President? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own Party drop the suggestion he's Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery. And she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards -- Purple Heart, Bronze Star; showed that he died in Iraq; gave his date of birth, date of death. He was twenty years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross. It didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Kahn. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey, he was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he could go serve his country and he gave his life.

That photo can be found here. As a country, we've let anti-Muslim bigotry run rampant these last 12 months. And part of the blame rests with the left: it has been politically expedient to say "Barack Obama isn't a Muslim" but it hasn't been politically expedient to defend Muslims themselves, and so we haven't done so nearly as much as we should. I'm glad Colin Powell took this stand on so public a stage, and I hope others follow.