Across the Ocean to Oslo: Part 2

September’s Viking cover story had some great advice from five young North American professionals who have moved to Norway. Earlier this month we shared Kara Eliason's extended interview with Elizabeth Moorhead Halvorsen. Read on to learn more about Lixian Cheng.

Lixian Cheng

Hometown: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Where she works in Oslo: I currently work as student advisor for the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo. In addition, I work with international student exchange and the department’s Ph.D. program.

Why she moved: I moved to Oslo in 2007 to do a Master’s at the University of Oslo, where I worked on issues of multiculturalism and integration in the Norwegian theater sector.

The best part about living and working in Norway: There’s a great respect in the Norwegian workplace for having a healthy work-life balance that I really appreciate. As an outdoors junkie, this means that I get ample opportunity to take advantage of Norway’s beautiful nature.

The most challenging part of relocating to Norway: As a foreigner one often arrives with few contacts—it’s integral to spend time getting yourself out there and building your network.

Favorite place to spend free time in Oslo: On a sunny day, the islands in the Oslofjord are the best place to be. You can swim, barbecue, even camp on one of the islands—all this just a short ferry ride away from downtown Oslo. If the weather’s bad (and hey, this is Norway after all), you can find me playing backgammon or curled up with a book in one of the cafés in Grønland, central Oslo’s most vibrant and diverse neighborhood. 

Advice for others considering a move to Norway: Learning Norwegian is key, even though the majority of the population speaks English at a high level. Much of the private sphere operates in Norwegian—so you’ll need the language as your ticket in! Learning Norwegian is also essential in increasing your job prospects. Lykke til! (Good luck!)

Photo by Nancy Bundt.

The Lincoln Series: Now What?

The original photo.
I painted my first portrait of the 16th president somewhere in the early nineties, I think. Studying the events surrounding the U.S. Civil War proved endlessly fascinating, beginning in the fourth grade, that age in which we first begin to get a grasp on time and history and how the past is back there somewhere in the distance from where we're sitting.

Blue Lincoln with Sunblock
Our initial review of history, while superficial, is still useful. It begins sinking home the names of people and places and makes us familiar with key events. As we revisit these events in junior high and high school history classes, we begin to see a greater complexity than our early minds could grasp. We begin to understand how how conflicts escalated into wars, how history is painted by personalities, how power is used and abused, and the challenges leaders face when trying to implement a vision that is unpopular to a large portion of the public.

Lincoln Gets Gnarly
The pictures on this page today show the stages one of my more recent paintings has undergone. Originally titled Blue Lincoln with Sunblock when shown at my Beaners opening in 2010, it's now been retitled Civil War. Then again, "Civil War" has been the working title of all my Lincoln paintings. Who knows where this will finally evolve to?

Digital Lincoln Blue
In the upper right is a screen shot that I snapped from the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War. I'm fairly certain the picture, like may or most of this president, are now in the public domain, which is why they are used to pervasively in history books and films.

The painting has been evolving though. And I can't say for certain what it will evolve to, but the effects have been interesting. To paraphrase some advice I received when I was first learning to draw, maybe it takes a thousand bad Lincoln paintings to get a good one.

The following shows our most up-to-date iterations.

Y'all have a good day now, ya hear?

Peer Pressure to Lose Weight (From Boys to Boys)

My younger son was approached by two boys in grade eight on the sports team. He was told he should lose weight but cutting his caloric intake to 1500 per day.

The team has a personal trainer who is a nutritionist. The nutritionist has reviewed nutrition, caloric intake, fat content, protein vs. carbs et cetera. My younger son is on a 3000 calorie a day diet to match his energy needs and calorie burning from 15 hours of intense practice a week.

I approached the nutritionist to discuss this matter and he said 1500 calories is dangerous. At minimum my son should have 2500. Being in grade 7 and not yet in puberty, his testosterone level is low so no matter how much weight lifting he does he will not be able to bulk up muscle. He can burn calories to burn off fat but he won't get ripped. My son has a body type that looks just like my husband's body: he is stocky and solid, and is built to be a football player, as my husband was.

I frankly am shocked that BOYS are discussing thin-ness, and in grade eight at that. I plan to have a conversation with the mothers, casually, to let them know of this so they may choose to do fact correction with their sons. I think they should know their sons are doling out bad nutrition advice and putting negative peer pressure to do a dangerous activity on their friend and teammate.

Saturday Night at the Movies --- You’re gonna have to serve somebody: "The Master"

Saturday Night at the Movies

You’re gonna have to serve somebody: The Master

By Dennis Hartley

Starring Montgomery Clift and Charles Laughton?

The characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarities to actual persons, living or dead are purely coincidental (Standard end of film disclaimer)

“Comparisons are not invariably odious, but they are often misleading,” Orson Welles once wrote, in reference to the long-running debate over whether or not the many parallels in his film Citizen Kane to the real life story of William Randolph Hearst and the rise of his powerful publishing empire were purely coincidental. It is quite possible that current and future generations of critics and audiences will engage in similar debate regarding the parallels in writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, The Master to the real life story of L. Ron Hubbard and the founding of his Church of Scientology. As of this writing, neither the church nor Anderson have officially confirmed or denied. I just wanted to get that out of the way first (of course, I can’t stop you from reading this).

Despite the number of erm, “coincidences”, the answer to the most obvious question is, “no”. This is neither a hagiography nor a smack down of any specific doyen or belief system (thinly disguised or otherwise). Anyone who would pigeonhole the film with such a shallow reading likely has not seen it (or is perhaps unfamiliar with certain prevalent themes running through all of PTA’s previous films). What he has crafted is a thought-provoking and startlingly original examination of why human beings in general are so prone to kowtow to a burning bush, or an emperor with no clothes.  Is it a spiritual need? Is it an emotional need? Or…is it purely a lizard brain response, embedded in our DNA?

As Inspector Clouseau once ruminated, “Well you know, there are leaders…and there are followers.” At its most rudimentary level, The Master is a two-character study about a leader and a follower (and metaphorically, all leaders and followers). It’s also a story about a complex surrogate father-son relationship (one of those aforementioned recurring themes in Anderson’s oeuvre; more on that in a moment). Anderson frames his narrative using the zeitgeist of America’s existential post-war malaise, in the person of ex-sailor Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix). Socially withdrawn, prone to dipsomania, odd sexual compulsions and unpredictable fits of rage, Freddie’s transition back to civilian life has not been a smooth one. His character embodies many traits of the quintessential “disillusioned vet” protagonist that fueled post-war noirs like Act of Violence, Thieves’ Highway, The Blue Dahlia, Ride the Pink Horse and High Wall (in fact, The Master vibes overall with the verisimilitude of a great lost genre film of the late 40s or early 50s).

Freddie’s laundry list of personality disorders has not endeared him to the 5 o’clock world; he drifts from job to job. He hits rock bottom after his indirect responsibility for a tragic mishap has him literally fleeing for his life from a work site. Desperate to get out of Dodge and headed for a meltdown, Freddy skulks in the shadows of a San Francisco marina, where he crashes a shipboard wedding party, hoping to blend in with the revelers and then surreptitiously stow away. It turns out that the ship, a converted cattle trawler rechristened the Aletheia, is captained by the father of the bride, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd is a self-described writer/doctor/nuclear physicist/ philosopher and “…a hopelessly inquisitive man.” (if he were to take up guitar and form a rock band comprised of fellow scientists, he’d be Buckaroo Banzai). He is also a burgeoning cult leader; the boat is chock-a-block with devotees in thrall with Dodd and his philosophy, referred to as “The Cause” (the tenets have been laid out in Dodd’s eponymous book).

Initially, the paranoid Dodd admonishes his uninvited guest (suspecting him to be some manner of government spook assigned to infiltrate and/or sabotage his organization); but instead of giving him the heave-ho, “something” compels him to do a sudden 180 and invite the twitchy and troubled Freddie along for an imminent (Homeric?) ocean voyage   with his family and followers to New York (some shades of The Stuntman). And so begins the life-altering relationship between the two men, which vacillates tenuously between master/servant, mentor/apprentice, and father/son (the latter recalling Philip Baker Hall and John C. Reilly in Hard Eight, Burt Reynolds and Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights, Tom Cruise and Jason Robards in Magnolia, and Daniel Day-Lewis and Dillon Freasier/Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood). It’s also the catalyst for two of the most fearless, intense and extraordinary performances that I have seen so far this year.

Not to denigrate Hoffman, who is mesmerizing as always (he continues to astound with every role he tackles); nor fine supporting performances from the likes of Amy Adams (as Dodd’s subtly controlling wife, who plays a sort of shrewd Livia to his mercurial Augustus), Laura Dern, or Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons (as Dodd’s son), but Phoenix in particular has really hit one out of the park, achieving an Oscar-worthy transformation. I don’t know if this was by accident or by design, but I swear he is channeling Montgomery Clift, not only replicating his acting tics and vocal inflection, but his physicality (right down to the hunched shoulders and sunken chest-it is downright eerie).

The film is beautifully shot in 65mm by DP Mihai Malainare, Jr. (try to catch it in a 70mm presentation if you can), and nicely scored by Jonny Greenwood. Those with short attention spans are warned: This film demands your full attention (and begs repeated viewings). It’s exhilarating, audacious, and while at times a bit baffling, it is never dull.

Previous posts with related themes:

There Will Be Blood

Saturday Night at the Movies review archives


Is torturing "material witnesses" constitutional?

Is torturing "material witnesses" constitutional?

by digby

I always get a sick feeling when I see DAs on cop shows blithely say they can hold a suspect as a material witness until they find the evidence to charge him. (They always "need" to because the suspect is "one of the really bad ones.") It's such a perversion of our constitution that it always brings home to me the fact that many of those who object strenuously to the idea of a "living" constitution are the ones who are the most willing to corrupt the Bill Of Rights whenever they get the chance.

After 9/11 this particular practice reached a peak, with horrors like this happening all over the country:

Abdullah al Kidd was on his way to Saudi Arabia to work on his doctorate in Islamic studies in March 2003 when he was arrested as a material witness in a terrorism investigation. An F.B.I. agent marched him across Dulles Airport in Washington in handcuffs.

"It was the most horrible, disgraceful, degrading moment in my life," said Mr. Kidd, an American citizen who was known as Lavoni T. Kidd when he led his college football team, the Vandals of the University of Idaho, in rushing in 1995.

The two weeks that followed his arrest, he said, were a terrifying and humiliating ordeal.

"I was made to sit in a small cell for hours and hours and hours buck naked," he said. "I was treated worse than murderers."

After that, a federal judge ordered him to move in with his in-laws in Las Vegas, where his wife was planning to stay until she joined him in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Kidd, who described himself as "anti-bin Laden, anti-Taliban, anti-suicide bombing, anti-terrorism," was never charged with a crime and never asked to testify as a witness. In June, 16 months after his arrest, the court said he was free to resume his life.

He was tortured. They strip searched him repeatedly and made him stay naked in his cell. No charges were ever brought. He wasn't the only one:

Osama Awadallah, a college student in San Diego, says he was badly mistreated while held as a material witness in New York. He has since been charged with perjury, which he denies.

In court papers, Mr. Awadallah described handcuffs so tight that his hands bled, a cell so cold his body turned blue, a series of humiliating strip searches and extreme hunger for lack of food that his faith allowed him to eat. He was, his lawsuit says, beaten by guards at the New York Metropolitan Correctional Center.

"He was so scared his chains were rattling," Mr. Hamud said of meeting his client in court. "He had bruises on his upper arms, torso, upper biceps. I saw them myself."

That is from a 2004 article. It was explained this way:

Mary Jo White, who supervised several major terrorism investigations as the United States attorney in Manhattan until she resigned in 2002, said the frequent and aggressive use of the material witness law in terrorism investigations was a recent development.

"It was really my idea to use the material witness warrant statute in appropriate cases to detain for reasonable periods of time people who might not appear for a grand jury with information related to the 9/11 attacks," she said. The law is, she said, an important tool, but one that must be used judiciously.

"Some of the criticism that has been leveled at it is not wholly unjustified," said Ms. White, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. "Was enough done to clear the status of the person? Did you hold the person longer than you needed to? Does it really sort out to being in one sense preventive detention? Yes, it does, but with safeguards."

No word at the time on whether it was "justified" to torture the "material witness" but I doubt anyone cares. Very few people care about any of the torture that routinely goes on in the American prison system.

The good news is that after all these years, al Kidd will finally get a chance to legally protest what was done to him:

A federal judge in Idaho has ruled that the United States, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, wrongly imprisoned an American under a law designed to keep trial witnesses from fleeing and that since there was evidence that the government may have willfully misused the law against him, his case should go to trial.

Judge Edward J. Lodge, who was appointed by President George Bush, issued his rulings late on Thursday in the longstanding case of Abdullah al-Kidd, an American who was seized at an airport in 2003, imprisoned for 16 days, repeatedly strip-searched and left naked in his cell. The Justice Department had sought to have his trial request summarily dismissed and denied having misused the law in detaining him.

Mr. Kidd’s lawyer, Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union, welcomed the ruling, saying, “It will finally put the government on trial for its post-Sept. 11 practices.”

America owes a debt of gratitude to al Kidd and his lwayers for doggedly sticking with this. It's extremely important that we at least try to determine if our Bill of Rights has any legal meaning anymore. It very well might be over for all but the 2nd Amendment, but I think it's better to know it than live in denial.


QOTD: Chuck Grassley

QOTD: Chuck Grassley

by digby

And no, I have absolutely no idea what it means.

h/t @chrislhayes

St Paul really was kind of a Republican

St Paul really was kind of a Republican

by digby

We knew that Glenn Beck's favorite historian, the right wing fabulist David Barton, was completely dishonest about American history. (Even his super conservative publisher was forced to withdraw his latest book under a barrage of criticism from other Christian historians.)

Here he is lying about Obama lifting the work requirement for welfare and using the Bible as justification for his anger at this non-existent act:

[I]t was on a biblical principle; the Bible says if you don't work, you don't eat and he removed the work requirement. He says "well, you can eat without working."

See, that's another area where I could say he is biblically hostile because the Bible says if you don't work, you don't eat and he says "well, not in this country, we're not going to do that." So not only is it anti-Constitutional, it's anti-biblical and that's a real problem.

He's right. The Bible does say that in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13:

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

We talked about that in Sunday school once. The teacher really pounded it in that if you didn't have a job, you would starve and I always remembered it. My Dad was between jobs at the time. I stopped going to Sunday school not long after.

But the Bible is full of contradictions and complications and nothing if not subject to interpretation. I think most people are more familiar with this:

Acts 20:35

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

But then Jesus was that kind of guy.

But all of this misses the point. Even if the Bible said "Thou shalt not lift the work requirement in the welfare reform bill of 1996" if wouldn't mean thing. We are a secular democracy and it doesn't matter even one little bit what the Bible says about anything.


GOP vote suppression: the fringe and the establishment sittin' in a tree

GOP vote suppression: the fringe and the establishment sittin' in a tree

by digby

This little tid-bit should be of interest to mainstream reporters who are following the "Voter Fraud" stories but I suspect it's going to fall under the radar:

Conservative activist James O'Keefe plotted a potential voter fraud sting of the Service Employees International Union in 2010 in Massachusetts — a sting that, had it been carried out, could have been funded by Rick Santorum patron Foster Friess.

The plot is elaborated on and eventually ruled out in an email chain started by conservative writer John Fund, who emailed Republican National Lawyers Association executive director Michael Thielen that the union was "contracting for buses on election day."

"If you're black or brown they'll rope you in and take you to the polls, registration can be worked out," Fund wrote, per his "Boston source." His email was forwarded on to others, forming the basis for the plans.

The email exchange, parts of which may be missing, is below. Read from the bottom. The last email is from James O'Keefe to associates Stan Dai and Nadia Naffe, who later filed harassment charges against O'Keefe.

Others on the thread include Heather Higgins, the founder of the conservative Independent Women's Voice and the late Andrew Breitbart.

Naffe told BuzzFeed she flew to Boston to investigate, but that they never uncovered anything of interest and the project fizzled.

This is a perfect illustration of the conservative establishmentand the lunatic fringe working hand in glove. O'Keefe and Breitbart proved beyond a doubt that they were both unstable and dishonest. Fund is a longtime Villager, undoubtedly considered quite a decent fellow by the likes of Dana Milbank since he's "been around town" for years. The Republican National Lawyers association has been engaged in Vote Suppression since the 1980s, when they were engaged by the GOP to game the system in the wake of the Jesse Jackson campaign which registered many new voters. Foster Friess is just one of the dumb as dirt zillionaires they tap for whatever hare-brained scheme they come up with.

There are always the Floyd Browns and the David Bossies and the Andrew Breitbarts out there doing the dirty work. And they are always financed and directed by establishment characters like Wall Street Journal editors, wealthy ideologues and conservative institutions. Toss in Fox News and you've got a very efficient propaganda machine that works constantly to infect the public with lies. And it often works. A good many people in this country believe that African Americans and illegal aliens are stealing elections and that half the country is on welfare. That's quite an achievement.

Recall that this conservative Vote Suppression effort has been underway a long time. Since the 1960s. And in the 80s they went national. But it was after 2000 that they realized they were going to need it if they planned compete. I wrote about Karl Rove speaking to the Republican National Lawyers Association back in 2007:

QUESTION: The question I have: The Democrats seem to want to make this year an election about integrity, and we know that their party rests on the base of election fraud. And we know that, in some states, some of our folks are pushing for election measures like voter ID.

But have you thought about using the bully pulpit of the White House to talk about election reform and an election integrity agenda that would put the Democrats back on the defensive?

ROVE: Yes, it's an interesting idea. We've got a few more things to do before the political silly season gets going, really hot and heavy. But yes, this is a real problem. What is it -- five wards in the city of Milwaukee have more voters than adults?

With all due respect to the City of Brotherly Love, Norcross Roanblank's (ph) home turf, I do not believe that 100 percent of the living adults in this city of Philadelphia are registered, which is what election statistics would lead you to believe.

I mean, there are parts of Texas where we haven't been able to pull that thing off.


And we've been after it for a great many years.

So I mean, this is a growing problem.

The spectacle in Washington state; the attempts, in the aftermath of the 2000 election to disqualify military voters in Florida, or to, in one instance, disqualify every absentee voter in Seminole county -- I mean, these are pretty extraordinary measures that should give us all pause.

The efforts in St. Louis to keep the polls opened -- open in selected precincts -- I mean, I would love to have that happen as long, as I could pick the precincts.

This is a real problem. And it is not going away.

I mean, Bernalillo County, New Mexico will have a problem after the next election, just like it has had after the last two elections.

I mean, I remember election night, 2000, when they said, oops, we just made a little mistake; we failed to count 55,000 ballots in Bernalillo; we'll be back to you tomorrow.


That is a problem. And I don't care whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, a vegetarian or a beef-eater, this is an issue that ought to concern you because, at the heart of it, our democracy depends upon the integrity of the ballot place. And if you cannot...


I have to admit, too -- look, I'm not a lawyer. So all I've got to rely on is common sense. But what is the matter? I go to the grocery store and I want to cash a check to pay for my groceries, I've got to show a little bit of ID.

Why should it not be reasonable and responsible to say that when people show up at the voting place, they ought to be able to prove who they are by showing some form of ID?

We can make arrangements for those who don't have driver's licenses. We can have provisional ballots, so that if there is a question that arises, we have a way to check that ballot. But it is fundamentally fair and appropriate to say, if you're going to show up and claim to be somebody, you better be able to prove it, when it comes to the most sacred thing we have been a democracy, which is our right of expression at the ballot.

And if not, let's just not kid ourselves, that elections will not be about the true expression of the people in electing their government, it will be a question of who can stuff it the best and most. And that is not healthy.

QUESTION: I've been reading some articles about different states, notably in the west, going to mail-in ballots and maybe even toying with the idea of online ballots. Are you concerned about this, in the sense of a mass potential, obviously, for voter fraud that this might have in the West?

ROVE: Yes. And I'm really worried about online voting, because we do not know all the ways that one can jimmy the system. All we know is that there are many ways to jimmy the system.

I'm also concerned about the increasing problems with mail-in ballots. Having last night cast my mail-in ballot for the April 11 run-off in Texas, in which there was one race left in Kerr County to settle -- but I am worried about it because the mail-in ballots, particularly in the Northwest, strike me as problematic.

I remember in 2000, that we had reports of people -- you know, the practice in Oregon is everybody gets their ballot mailed to them and then you fill it out.

And one of the practices is that people will go to political rallies and turn in their ballots. And we received reports in the 2000 election -- which, remember we lost Oregon by 5000 votes -- we got reports of people showing up at Republican rallies and passing around the holder to get your ballot, and then people not being able to recognize who those people were and not certain that all those ballots got turned in.

On Election Day, I remember, in the city of Portland, Multnomah County -- I'm going to mispronounce the name -- but there were four of voting places in the city, for those of you who don't get the ballots, well, we had to put out 100 lawyers that day in Portland, because we had people showing up with library cards, voting at multiple places.

I mean, why was it that those young people showed up at all four places, showing their library card from one library in the Portland area? I mean, there's a problem with this.

And I know we need to make arrangements for those people who don't live in the community in which they are registered to vote or for people who are going to be away for Election Day or who are ill or for whom it's a real difficulty to get to the polls. But we need to have procedures in place that allow us to monitor it.

And in the city of Portland, we could not monitor. If somebody showed up at one of those four voting locations, we couldn't monitor whether they had already cast their mail-in ballot or not. And we lost the state by 5,000 votes.

I mean, come on. What kind of confidence can you have in that system? So yes, we've got to do more about it.

You'll recall that most of the US Attorneys involved in the firing scandal were fired for refusing to use the power of their office to interfere in these very same states' electoral systems. And when that blew up in their faces, they just switched gears and took it to the individual states. Like sharks, they never stop moving.


Words I never thought I'd read

Words I never thought I'd read

by digby

The NY Times on the debate prep:

Mr. Obama is not particularly fluid in sound bites, so his team is aiming for a workmanlike performance like his speech at the Democratic convention.

Four years of hell will do that, I suppose.

But I have to say, this promises to be wildly entertaining:

Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August.

I think we can all agree that the one personality trait that defines Mitt Romney is his sense of humor. Like that time he held down the kid and cut his hair.

I'm sure the far right would love it if he did that to Obama, but I have a sneaking suspicion his verbal skills aren't quite sharp enough. He's more of a "get the crowd together to gang up on the weak kid" kind of guy. I don't think that's going to work one-on-one.


The Village Fix is in on Cutting Medicare, by @DavidOAtkins

The Village Fix in in on Cutting Medicare

by David Atkins

Careful watchers of Hardball yesterday should have picked up on something remarkable and terrifying from Howard Fineman. Listen closely starting at the 2-minute mark:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

FINEMAN: "And if we're going to be cutting Medicare at some point, which I think most voters understand, I thin kright now looking at these alternatives they'd rather have a Democrat they know than a Republican who never supported the program to begin with."
Do most voters really "understand" that we're going to be cutting Medicare? Or has the Village decided that we're going to cut Medicare, and that it's going to happen no matter what the American people actually want?

Let's be clear on two things: first, from a policy stand there is no need for any cuts to Medicare. What is needed is universal insurance so that the wasteful profit motive is removed from the healthcare system. But granted the political impossibility of accomplishing that, if Medicare does become insolvent then the gradual cuts will take place automatically--no need to frontload them in advance with austerity measures. If one does want to be proactive as one should, then the program can be made solvent by slightly raising the maximum cap on which Medicare taxes are assessed. If all else fails, an alternate funding stream could be developed. There are numerous possibilities that do not involve cutting Medicare. To continue funding corporate welfare, wasteful wars and tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy while telling voters that Grandma should eat cat food is insane and immoral.

But second, Fineman is disastrously wrong on the politics. For a Democrat to cut Medicare would be politically disastrous.

If the Congress and the President take up Simpson-Bowles during the lame duck session or the new year and enact minor tip money tax increases for the wealthy in exchange for cuts to the most vulnerable, a majority of Republicans will oppose the deal. Democrats will be left holding the bag, insisting on being the "bipartisan adults in the room."

Voters will hate the deal. Republicans will run successfully against Democrats for the next twenty years, accusing us of cutting Medicare and raising taxes. And when Republicans easily win that argument and gain Executive and Legislative power, President Christie and Speaker Ryan will voucherize Medicare, restore the funding for current seniors, and act as the cavalry riding to America's and Medicare's rescue.

The Village Consensus is awful, immoral policy. It's also suicidal politics. And Howard Fineman and friends appear to be walking into it with open eyes and open arms.



At the risk of sounding terribly self-indulging.....let me share several things that 'made my day' yesterday....

Before I do.....for anyone local who is reading this...don't forget the Asheville Quilt Show is ongoing now through Sunday at the WNC AG Center, across from the Asheville Airport.  It won't disappoint you!!  But of course you'll want to see the show early enough to allow you to get home and watch the Packers on national TV late Sunday afternoon!!!

 Besides the obvious opportunity for inspiration at a quilt show and of course shopping, the Asheville Guild offers several daily free lecture/demos presented by our members.  Yesterday afternoon I presented one.  At the end of my chat...Janet Ginn of Greer, SC, MADE MY DAY!!  

She introduced herself and shared with me that every morning, without fail, the first thing she does is read my blog.  OH MY!!!  Now, that's a lot of pressure.....and as I told her.....I was sure there were more worthy things to do!  However, I'm very, very flattered.....thank you Janet.  It's great to know I have friends out there enjoying a cup of morning coffee with me!

The following two quilts are on display at the Asheville Guild Quilt show.....much to my surprise they both earned ribbons. That too, 'made my day'!  This will be a great way to remember each of them since they are both going to new homes shortly!

2nd Place

Judges Award
(I've given out dozens of judge's awards over the years in my role as quilt show judge, but I've never received one....thank you to Scott Merkin who awarded this quilt with that honor!)

I took numerous photos yesterday of some of my favorite quilts in the show and will get them downloaded and hopefully post them for you to enjoy tomorrow.  

See you tomorrow Janet!!!

Autumn is here...

A few weeks ago I took some photos of Lillie and Lola. I don't think I've taken any setup type photos of them together since last fall and they've grown so much since then. Lillie is wearing our Briar hat, made by my sister, Dana. We are hoping to have them available again later this fall.
Lola's hat was a gift from Jon's parents for Lillie when she was little. It's from a store in Indiana called Lola Rue. My mom made Lillie's plaid jumper. Lola's dress, little jacket and shoes were also Lillie's. I guess that's what happens when you are the second child. =)  The dress is from Gap and her little jacket and shoes are from Joyfolie. 

Our neighbors, Chloe and Bayley came along too and wore the Briar hats in gray.

I also wanted to introduce you to our newest sponsor:

Vinyl Wall Decals

Head on over to their website for a wide variety of vinyl decals at great prices!

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!


Quizlet is another studying website similar to Study Stack.

We started to use this as it is used by the alternative school - homeschool thing my younger son is enrolled in.

If you are looking for other options for memorization help, go to Study Stack and scroll to the bottom to look for a list of links to other free sites.
Song Share is moved to Saturday this week because I had too many posts to get in :)

I LOVE this song, This Isn't Everything You Are, by Snow Patrol mainly because of the lyrics.  I think that it is so easy for us to take a bad situation and turn it into a bad life.  But, in all reality, when bad things happen to us, we would be better served by trying to breathe and hold onto those around us who offer support.  Just because something bad happens, that doesn't make your life that way as well.

And in one little moment
It all implodes
This isn't everything you are
Breathe deeply in the silence
No sudden moves
This isn't everything you are
Just take the hand that's offered
And hold on tight
This isn't everything you are

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Innocent Life

Innocent Life

by digby

This will be said to be a sign that the system worked. But it's not:

A man who has been on death row for 15 years for the rape and murder of his 14-year-old step cousin was exonerated with the help of DNA evidence on Friday, according to the Innocence Project. He is the 300th person to be released due to this type of evidence.

He was convicted on the basis of a false confession. And it took years of volunteer effort on the part of top flight forensic scientists to prove he didn't. It also took a DA who was willing to look at the evidence and act, which is not always the case.

We don't know how many innocent people have been executed or how many more will be. But every exoneration like this proves that we are employing a barbaric form of punishment that quite easily ensnares the innocent as well as the guilty. It's a moral travesty.


"The wealthy are people too"

"The wealthy are people too"

by digby

I've been chronicling the psychological breakdown among the sad, put-upon 1% since the beginning of the financial crisis and I'm thrilled to see that it's become obvious to everyone else. I think we owe Mitt Romney a big thank you for that:


Todd Akin, irrational cult leader. And that's from his own pollster.

Todd Akin, irrational cult leader

by digby

Back in the glory days of impeachment and penis talk, Kelly Ann Conway was a constant presence on TV and a big wheel in GOP circles. She was up there with Victoria Toensing, Barbara Olsen and Ann Coulter on the prosecutorial blond wingnut circuit. Look what she's been reduced to:

Perkins: The distance between them is narrowing, Todd Akin has bounced back up, and the evidence of that is pretty clear because now you see other Republicans who abandoned him are now taking a second look at the race and realizing just how important this seat is.

Conway: They are and they’re following your lead Tony. You saw former speaker Gingrich there on Todd’s behalf at a fundraiser on Monday, saying it’s just “conventional idiocy” that’s preventing people from backing Todd, and he predicts that come mid-October everyone will be following yours and his lead back to Missouri, with their money. Of course, former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Senator Jim DeMint came out just yesterday to support Todd.

I believe that the establishment will have to look at this race and they will have to hold their nose because the first days—and I've expressed this to Todd as my client for a while now, I’ve expressed it to him directly—the first day or two where it was like the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams and the helicopters and the bad Nancy Sinatra records. Then here comes day two and you realize the guy’s not coming out of the bunker. Listen, Todd has shown his principle to the voters.

I suppose in wingnutland comparing your Senate candidate to David Koresh is good politics. But doesn't she remember what happened in the end? Not a good metaphor I'm afraid.


Coming Together. Not. by tristero

Coming Together. Not.

by tristero

My cynicism about Republicans runs so deep that it really borders on paranoia, my friends said when I claimed, several weeks after the 9/11 attacks, that if Gore had been in the White House, he would have been impeached and forced to resign.

"No!" My friends said, "that's crazy talk." Of course the country would have come together around whomever was president in the face of an attack on our shores. Republicans, too, would have rallied around Gore for sure.

Yeah, right.

Adding: As I've mentioned before, I was astounded then, and remain astounded, that Bush wasn't forced to resign within hours of 9/11. So it makes sense to talk about the level of responsibility Obama and his administration should take for this recent incident. But I'll be goddammed if I'll do so as long as Michael Huckabee's greasy, corrupt, opportunistic thumb is a'tippin' the scales.

There but for the grace of ... Harold Pollack on medicaid

There but for the grace of ...

by digby

Jonathan Cohn:

Like all good public intellectuals, Harold is a policy omnivore—as comfortable discussing the latest thinking on anti-poverty efforts as he is talking about the intricacies of Medicare. But Harold offers some truly unique insights, because he knows the social welfare state as a user, as well as a scholar.

Several years ago, he and his wife became custodians for his adult brother-in-law, who is intellectually disabled and has various medical problems. Harold has written about this experience before, movingly—and what it’s taught him about the value of programs like Medicaid. Now he’s decided to put his thoughts on a video.

It's quite a contrast to this, isn't it? Both ideas are as American as apple pie, but one is decent and one isn't.

Read this piece by Pollack too, about a young 18 year old mother who was suddenly homeless and trying to figure her way through the system to get some emergency help. It's terrifying.

(Oh, and by the way, imagine illegal immigrants traversing that byzantine system. It just doesn't happen.)


Punitive austerity: making the parasites pay

Punitive austerity

by digby

Krugman today:
So much for complacency. Just a few days ago, the conventional wisdom was that Europe finally had things under control. The European Central Bank, by promising to buy the bonds of troubled governments if necessary, had soothed markets. All that debtor nations had to do, the story went, was agree to more and deeper austerity — the condition for central bank loans — and all would be well.

But the purveyors of conventional wisdom forgot that people were involved. Suddenly, Spain and Greece are being racked by strikes and huge demonstrations. The public in these countries is, in effect, saying that it has reached its limit: With unemployment at Great Depression levels and with erstwhile middle-class workers reduced to picking through garbage in search of food, austerity has already gone too far. And this means that there may not be a deal after all.

Much commentary suggests that the citizens of Spain and Greece are just delaying the inevitable, protesting against sacrifices that must, in fact, be made. But the truth is that the protesters are right. More austerity serves no useful purpose; the truly irrational players here are the allegedly serious politicians and officials demanding ever more pain.
He goes on to explain. once again, that Spain had no budget deficit until the crash and that while there is no way to escape a period of hard times without leaving the Euro (which hes says nobody wants) the cruel austerity measures the bankers and European officials are insisting upon are purely punitive --- and unnecessary. In fact, because they are putting such stress on the populace, which is understandably agitated, the country is having trouble borrowing to pay its bills --- because bankers are worried about the political instability they are causing.

It's a mess.

Why, then, are there demands for ever more pain?

Part of the explanation is that in Europe, as in America, far too many Very Serious People have been taken in by the cult of austerity, by the belief that budget deficits, not mass unemployment, are the clear and present danger, and that deficit reduction will somehow solve a problem brought on by private sector excess.

It sounds as though if you were to compare the US to Europe in this matter (always a very dicey proposition) you would call the Germans the Villagers:

Beyond that, a significant part of public opinion in Europe’s core — above all, in Germany — is deeply committed to a false view of the situation. Talk to German officials and they will portray the euro crisis as a morality play, a tale of countries that lived high and now face the inevitable reckoning. Never mind the fact that this isn’t at all what happened — and the equally inconvenient fact that German banks played a large role in inflating Spain’s housing bubble. Sin and its consequences is their story, and they’re sticking to it.

Worse yet, this is also what many German voters believe, largely because it’s what politicians have told them. And fear of a backlash from voters who believe, wrongly, that they’re being put on the hook for the consequences of southern European irresponsibility leaves German politicians unwilling to approve essential emergency lending to Spain and other troubled nations unless the borrowers are punished first.

Of course, that’s not the way these demands are portrayed. But that’s what it really comes down to. And it’s long past time to put an end to this cruel nonsense.

All of our political and financial elite believe this garbage too. And they are selling this 47% trope as a way to divide this country in similar ways. Keep in mind that the Grand Bargain is predicated these days on "avoiding Europe." You know, we'll avoid it by doing it.

And if we aren't lucky enough to avoid another recession, they'll do the same thing that the Europeans are doing to Spain. This is a global illness and we've got it too.

But it'll all turn out ok in the long run, so no worries. The wealthy will maintain their fortunes, which is the most important thing. And as Andrew Mellon told Herbert Hoover:

"liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people."

See? It's all good.


50 shades of wrong, by @DavidOAtkins

50 shades of wrong

by David Atkins

Remember back when the weak August jobs report was supposed to be the death knell of the Obama campaign? It turns out that, as many intelligent people noted at the time but were drowned out by many on both the right and the left, those numbers had yet to be revised. And it turns out that those figured underestimated actual job growth by about 400,000 jobs.

Here what John Boehner had said at the time, wrongly attempting to capitalize on incomplete data:

We need a president and a Senate with the courage to let go of the failed ‘stimulus’-style policies of the past and work with Republicans on proven pro-growth measures to tackle our debt, address high prices, and create a better environment for jobs.
A beautifully performed, poll-tested pile of meaningless gobbledygook. Also, wrong.

And Mitt Romney, arguing that the Fed could no longer do anything to help the economy:

“What we really need is to have policies coming from Washington that are fiscally sound and that get America back on track to having the kind of financial stability and foundation of economic growth that puts people to work.”
Is there a universe in which a statement like this can be taken seriously by reasonable people?

There isn't a single economist or politician who can make a persuasive case for why that statement makes any sense. Yet such things are continually said by economists and conservative politicians as an almost religious mantra.

The national debt isn't hurting the American economy at all. Unemployment and low economic demand is. If corporations aren't investing in American jobs, it's because there is no reason for them to. If there's an uncertainty problem, it has much more to do with the stupidly imposed "fiscal cliff" than anything having to do with U.S. debt.

That's not to say that debt can't become a problem. It can become a problem if debt drives up borrowing costs. But it hasn't done that by a long shot. Treasury bonds are still incredibly cheap. Debt can become a problem if paying down the interest on the debt starts to squeeze out spending on needed programs. But we aren't there yet, either. And that itself is only a problem if there is danger of printing more currency leading to an inflation crisis--which as Paul Krugman incessantly notes is a baseless worry at this time. Besides, if the debt is a real concern, by far the easiest and best way to reduce the deficit is to put Americans back to work while leveling the tax playing field, as the People's Budget does. Ending needless overseas wars and Pentagon spending would help as well.

Destroying the safety net and enacting austerity policies, on the other hand, will do nothing but increase economic pain, while shrinking the economy and increasing the debt--for whatever that's worth.

So there were Mitt Romney and John Boehner, sitting there in early August shortly after the Democratic National Convention, spewing wrong nonsense about jobs numbers that had yet to be revised, arguing for bizarrely wrong economic policies based on bizarrely wrong economic assumptions.

The press has actually done a good job this year of calling out the Romney campaign and its allies for their lies and its ineptitude. But it would be nice if the press, especially the oh-so-serious economic and financial press, would also point out just how many prismatic variations on wrong they are as well. Of course, it would also help if the President and the neoliberals didn't buy into so many of those wrongheaded assumptions on their own account.


Albatros chair

Albatros chair made of carbon fiber and fibeglass

Don't Miss Master MEME Tonight at the PRØVE

Dan Hansen (left) with Lucas Anderson

Fans of the local Twin Ports visual arts scene have had plenty to buzz about in recent years. And it just keeps getting better. Tonight, the PRØVE Collective and Lizzard's Gallery offer two great excuses for heading downtown. And if you're checking out one, there's no need to move the car because the other is just around the corner. 

Master MEME: Art by Daniel Hansen and Lucas Anderson

Daniel Hansen is a local disabled artist exploring pop culture, '80s pixelation, and contemporary issues. Lucas Anderson teaches art locally at Marshall Academy. The show features individual work and art they have created collaboratively. This is the capstone show for the PRØVE's first year, and it's nothing short of a "must see", even if only for the spirit in which the work has been generated and generously shared with our community.

I met Anderson this past spring through the DAI-sponsored film series Shock of the New. Last night I met Hansen for the first time as they dynamic duo were putting the finishing touches on what will be tonight's event, which is primarily Hansen's work.

I had asked Hansen how he'd become interested in art as a profession. He explained, "My interest is because it's time to get my art out there. I've been drawing since I was 3. My story is that I've had a progressive neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2 (or SMA). The onset was at infancy so I've always been confined to a wheelchair."

This handicap has not restrained Hansen from pursuing his passions. In advance of our meeting I asked him to briefly share his story.

"I grew up in Grand Marais the son of Mark Hansen who founded North House Folk School. I've been at the sidelines observing everyone living and achieving normal things that were absurdly complicated or impossible to pull off. Every aspect of my life requires innovation and mastery on account of gradual muscular weakening. It just so happens art is merely a side affect of my paradigm shredding circumstance. The burning desire to defy all conventions and set new precedences is my morning cup of coffee! My medium is digital. The world of illusions are my inspiration. Fun, trans-mutational, fascination are the undercurrents of everything I do...the rest is open to interpretation." 

Last night as I looked at Hansen's work it became that fun really is the operative word in much of what he pulls off here. For example, the large piece titled Chico Strikes Back is a humorous portrayal of the forgotten Marx brother who had not gotten the recognition of his other siblings. Chico is at the piano, but the stock market index atop the instrument shows a declining market value. One wonders what he's doing with that loaded gun in his hand.

Upon entering the gallery one is struck by the scale and vivid color in Hansen's pieces. On the left ad you enter is a picture titled Cheyenne. Cheyenne is a girl Hansen met via the internet whom he has talked with on the phone for seven years. The picture reflects some of the chaos in Cheyenne's life. He says she has been a great influence on him.

Another piece, titled Cake or Pi, Hansen describes as "me jamming out."

Time: 7 - 11 p.m.
Free admission, refreshments by donation
If you've never been, the PROVE is located downstairs from the Sons of Norway Hall on Lake Avenue across from the Technology Center.

Chico Strikes Back

Art About Stories... paintings by Tom Tyler

Lizzard's Art Gallery at 11 West Superior Street (across from the MN Power Building) is hosting an opening reception tonight for their new exhibition of paintings by Minneapolis artist Tom Tyler. The work in this collection is primarily based on quotes or literature, books by Hemingway, Melville, Jack London, Joseph Conrad and even Greek mythology. Though the themes in his work vary, the written word serves as a common thread.

Considering the selection of writers cited, I am already drawn to this artist and look forward to seeing tonight's show.

Tyler's work has texture and movement, undoubtedly influence by the 20th century German Expressionists whom he admires. A full-time painter, he has a BA in studio art from the University of Minnesota, where he studied with painters Jo Lutz Rollins and Cameron Booth. His work has been exhibited in Minnesota, California and New Mexico. 

Can't make it tonight? Tyler's work will be on the walls at Lizzards through November 10. Check it out.

Meantime, life goes on. See you on the beat.


All Done.....  Learning when to stop is difficult for a bead maniac like me.....but more is not always better. This piece needed only a few details to complement the resist dyed design.  So, I put my needle down, finished the backing, added a hanging device and now it's ready for a new home!

 DOTS  6" x 5" 
Resist dyed & felted wool, hand embroidered & beaded.
Available here  (and most of these little guys are selling quickly)


Cerrada Reforma 108


Villa Extramuros


New York style warehouse apartment

213 750x562 New York style warehouse apartment


Fantasmagorle by htmn

fantasmagorle 750x571 Fantasmagorle by htmn


Casa en Dunaujvaros


Learning to Take Notes

As a homeschooling family who used alternative education, taking notes was never a priority.

I have reached a point where I realize that notetaking is not intuitive and natural. This disappoints me greatly. Apparently this is a learned skill, at least for some kids, and my two are both in that category.

I now regret not having required my kids to take notes earlier in their lives.

I resent stories of unschoolers who told tales of teens who suddenly took on more serious academic work all under their own guidance. I only know one kid that fits this category of all the kids I have known over the years. That kid only learned the skill as it was mandated and necessary to get good grades in "outside classes" he took. That kid also is one who is motivated highly by grades and wants acceptance and accolades from his teachers.

For my kids notetaking is going to be a learned skill that is only started under duress. I hate that they don't want to take notes and that they feel this is a negative experience in their lives. We had many great fun years of homeschooling and my kids are both resenting doing the nitty gritty no matter how mainstream and common it is. It is an uphill battle for me. Since both plan to go to college they have to learn to learn by reading boring textbooks and listening to lectures. Since they do not have photographic memories they will have to take notes. Period.

26 Week Bumpdate!

(Check back in this weekend for the song share link-up, and then next week starts the Mommy Makeover Challenge on Monday!)

We made it to 26 weeks!!!  I am really excited to say that there are less than 100 days left in this pregnancy; we are in the double digits, and as I'm writing this, I will hit the third trimester in less than 5 days.  

I was completely hoping to come here for my next update and write all about how wonderful and amazing it was to finally be released from Maternal Fetal Medicine's care... sadly, that is not the case.

We went in for our 26 week ultrasound check up at 26 weeks and 3 days, as a last check in on the placenta and the problems they'd seen at our 18 week ultrasound.  The placenta and uterine wall looked great.  Baby girl's head size and shape, as well as abdomen/stomach size and shape were completely normal at this point.  Baby girl's weight was at 1 lb 15 ounces, so almost hitting 2 lbs, again right within normal limits.  While everything else looked completely normal, the MFM doctor came in after the tech and told us that at the 18 week ultrasound, baby's arm and leg bone length was in the 40th and 50th percentile, but now they were in the 8th and 10th percentile.  She mentioned that while those measurements can be completely normal, because each baby does not develop like a textbook curve says they should, it could also be a sign of dysplasia, and that they'd like us to return for another ultrasound in 4-6 weeks to reassess at that point.

The doctor didn't seem to be worried- she said that she was sorry to even have to tell us that information, after everything else we've been through in the pregnancy thus far, because this is such a little thing- but that she'd want to see us back again for one more check.

Have I mentioned yet that I really, really hate ultrasounds at this point?  

In about 5-6 weeks, I'll do another bumpdate (probably around 32 weeks pregnant) with an update from that ultrasound and also check back in on the rest of the pregnancy information.  Now, onto the fun stuff.

When they did the ultrasound this week, they mentioned that baby girl was lying breech at this point, which I could have told them without the fancy equipment.  She has been, for most of the time since I've been able to feel her, feet and bum down, legs kicking into my bladder and right hip area.  At the ultrasound, she was in the exact same position, with her face looking out to my right side.  This is definitely a completely different feeling from little man, who was head down for the entire pregnancy.  When he kicked, it was into my ribs and could literally knock the breath away from me for a few seconds.  It is a totally different feeling when they kick into your bladder and you feel like you're going to lose control down there for a few seconds, lol!  

I feel about as big as I did last time around at this point, but really feel as if it has come on all of a sudden.  There are still some days where I can wear a blousey top and people give me a little side eye but don't comment on my bump.  But the days in which I wear something tighter or fitted I have been receiving a lot of comments.  At one of my jobs the other day, I was asked (while wearing a more fitted shirt) if I thought I was going to make it until December.  (I will be posting sometime soon-ish on all the lovely comments I've heard so far this and last pregnancy- make sure you tune in for that post, it's going to be fun times had by all as we celebrate the lack of pragmatic skills in our general society.)

I haven't really been getting specific food cravings lately, but I feel hungry all.the.time.  There are days at work where I can barely make it until 10 and I'm looking for a snack (after eating at 6a).  And as hungry as I am, my goodness am I twice as thirsty.  There have been days in which I've drunk over 100 ounces of water like it was nothing, and still been thirsty.  I've been keeping one of two 32 ounce jugs of water around constantly, whether at home or at work.  

Thankfully, the issues with my blood pressure have seemed to resolve and my blood pressure is back in the normal range.  I believe at my last doctor's appointment (not at the MFM appt, thankfully they don't take my blood pressure- I'm sure it'd be really high before the ultrasounds) my blood pressure was somewhere around 115/70.  

My body seems to be handling the pregnancy well, although there are certainly times where I've needed to stop and rest, even though I always push too hard to get things done.  I've also had to don my compression stockings for my 10 hour shifts at work or else my legs and ankles are huge and aching by the end of the day.  I think I can justify it now to myself though, as our temperatures here have been dropping, and it is almost October.  ;)

One last and major update I'd like to share is that we have officially secured our doula again for this baby's birth, and DH & I could not be more excited.  Since she became a midwife in between little man and this babe (she was in training while she was our doula for little man), we weren't sure if she'd be able to join us.  We found out just this week that she will be joining us for baby girl's birth and it really puts a sense of calm in my heart knowing that I will have the same support team of DH and our doula present during this birth, just as I did last birth.

To all my pregnant mama friends, how are you ladies feeling?

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