Archive for January, 2010

China taking a more muscular approach internationally

The Chinese government has responded angrily to a newly announced sale of American arms to Taiwan, imposing sanctions on U.S. companies involved and canceling some military exchange programs. As the New York Times reports:

The American decision to sell more weapons to Taiwan “constitutes a gross intervention into China’s internal affairs, seriously endangers China’s national security and harms China’s peaceful reunification efforts,” (Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei) said in the ministry’s statement.

The Obama administration notified Congress on Friday of its plans to proceed with five arms sales transactions with Taiwan worth a total of $6.4 billion. The arms deals include 60 Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot interceptor missiles, advanced Harpoon missiles that can be used against land or ship targets and two refurbished minesweepers.

And unfortunately, that bristling response fits into a larger pattern of behavior emerging in recent months, as the Washington …

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What’s the best new movie you saw in 2009?

Viggo Mortensen, left, and Kodi Smit-McPhee in "The Road".

Viggo Mortensen, left, and Kodi Smit-McPhee in "The Road".

Oscar nominations come out Monday, which is always one of the year’s big days in Hollywood. So … any thoughts on what will be Best Picture?

“Avatar” was a great accomplishment, but its weaknesses in story disqualify it from Best Picture in my mind. I enjoyed “Inglourious Basterds,” but it was good not great. “Up in the Air” was again good but not great. I have not seen “Precious,” but those who have speak very highly of it. (My daughter said she was very glad she saw it, and never wants to see it again.) “The Hurt Locker” is on pay per view so I’ll probably see that soon. The most powerful new movie I’ve seen this year was “The Road,” based on the Cormac McCarthy novel and starring Viggo Mortensen. It doesn’t get mentioned much for best picture, which isn’t surprising given its bleakness. But it’s very well done, and like “Avatar” creates a very convincing alternative world.

So at this point I would lean toward the …

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Feeling run down? A little ‘young blood’ might fix you right up

Dr. Amy Wagers. (The rumor that Wagers is actually 62 years old has not, repeat not, been substantiated.)

Dr. Amy Wagers. (The rumor that Wagers is actually 62 years old has not, repeat not, been substantiated.)

It sounds like something out of a bad movie. But Amy Wagers and other researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston have found a way to reverse signs of aging in older mice.

“They recovered functions not quite to ‘young’ levels but really quite significantly, and easily, easily distinguishable from older animals that didn’t see this ‘young blood’ within their tissues,” Wagers said.

From Technology Review:

In the experiment, Wagers and team surgically connected the circulatory systems of two mice, allowing older animals to be exposed to blood–and all the molecules and cells it carries– from young animals. They found that the procedure made the blood-forming stem cells in older animals act young again; the overall number of these cells decreased, and the cells generated different varieties of blood cells in more appropriate ratios. “In …

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A little travelin’ music from across the big pond tonight

Here’s a group that few if any of you have heard of, but if you give it a listen, I think you’ll like it. I first heard them back in the ’70s, when my dad was stationed overseas. The group is called Osibisa, based in London, and you might describe it as a grittier, rootsier version of Earth Wind and Fire. Osibisa had a bit of a cult following back then, and I still listen to their music today.

After wearing out a couple of their LPs, I finally got the chance to hear them play in a small dancehall in Munich, and boy did they bring that place to life!! Who knew those Germans could dance?

(Actually, they couldn’t.)

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Georgia, Oregon become economic test case

Ten years from now, it’ll be fascinating to look back and see who turned out to be right.

Across the country, falling tax revenues are forcing deep cuts in state budgets. Under Gov. Sonny Perdue’s proposed budget here in Georgia, for example, “per student state spending on k-12 education and the university system will fall to their lowest levels in a decade” after inflation, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute reports.

Some states have tried to soften such blows with strategic tax increases that will raise a total of $24 billion in new revenue, according to the National Governors Association. But at a press conference Thursday, Georgia legislative leaders announced plans to slash rather than raise state revenue by cutting business fees and taxes and the state capital gains tax.

Asked about the impact on an already ravaged state treasury, state Rep. Tom Graves turned the question around: “We don’t see this as a cost to the state, we see this as a savings to the …

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Barack Obama and the ‘blame Bush’ argument

At one point in his speech last night, President Obama tried to remind his listeners that many of the problems facing the nation had been inherited from his predecessor:

“By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.”

At which point, Sen. John McCain was seen turning to his seatmate Lindsey Graham and whispering “Blame it on Bush.”

It’s a point others have made as well. In a recent news story, for example, Fox News suggested that “one year into his administration, President Obama might want to consider dropping the ‘blame Bush’ page from his playbook.”

Before Obama’s speech, Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller were also joking about it. “Now, how many times do …

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Once they get it, people like universal health insurance

Buried in the results of last week’s poll of Massachusetts votersby the Washington Post was a number that explains a lot of the politics behind the health-insurance reform controversy.

The pollster asked the following question:

As you may know, Massachusetts has a law that is aimed at assuring that virtually all Massachusetts residents have health insurance. Given what you know about it, in general, do you support or oppose the Massachusetts Universal Health Insurance Law?

A startling 68 percent of voters in an electorate that seated a Republican said they support the state’s universal health care system, while only 27 percent oppose it. Even among Scott Brown voters, 51 percent supported the law and 44 percent opposed it.

Once implemented, in other words, universal health insurance became overwhelmingly popular (the Mass. law was passed in 2006). That’s the Republicans’ worst nightmare; that’s one big reason they are fighting this so hard.

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Ohmygoodness, Obama was ‘rude’ to those people in robes?

President Obama’s four-sentence dissent last night to the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Citizens United has drawn an awful lot of commentary and complaint.

Sen. Orrin Hatch says “I thought it was kind of rude” to say such things with justices in the chamber. A headline at CBS says “Obama Hammers Supreme Court;” a blog at Legal Times says Obama gave the court a “tongue-lashing.” He is said to have denounced the court, and to have committed “a breach of decorum (that) represents the worst of Washington politics.” Over at National Review, Marc Thiessen claims Obama “scolded the justices of the Supreme Court in front of their faces and led the entire Democratic side of the aisle into cheering his taunts.”


Citizens across the land swooned upon hearing the rude tongue-lashing inflicted upon the U.S. Supreme Court.

My oh my, I think we better hang a “No Vacancy” sign on all the fainting couches across the land.

Here’s what Obama said about the ruling in its entirety, word …

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Chris Matthews: ‘I forgot he was black tonight.’

Ladies and gentlemen, Chris Matthews. Apparently this was his way of saying he liked it. I can sympathize with the risks of talking on national TV for a living, but …. that’s disturbing. Not said with bad intent, perhaps, but strange that he thought he had to go there with so much else to be said.

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‘My fellow Americans, the State of the Union is …..’

A little while from now, President Barack Obama will stand before the U.S. Congress and deliver the most importantest, hugest speech ever in American or even Kenyan history, the speech that will either elevate Obama into the ranks of the greatest to ever hold his high office or doom him to spending the rest of recorded time listed among the utter failures such as what’shisname — no not the older one, his son. You know, the name that cannot be uttered unless you want to be accused of bringing up ancient history, even though the people who say that also spend the rest of their lives mumbling “JimmycarterJimmycarterJimmycarter…”

Or maybe it’s not such an important speech after all, says Gallup:

“As Barack Obama prepares to give his first State of the Union address as president, a review of Gallup historical data suggests these speeches rarely affect a president’s public standing in a meaningful way, despite the amount of attention they receive. Among recent presidents, only Bill …

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