samedi, février 23, 2008

A fact you might never need to know

Stolen from today's edition of AOl WebMD

"Studies of small rodents called prairie voles show oxytocin hastens attachment in mating voles and may even have the power to make non-monogamous voles act monogamously.

But burrowing beneath the superficial layer of this story, we find...

"But it isn't clear if what's known about voles applies to the love affairs of adult humans."

vendredi, février 22, 2008

Predictably, the conservatives have united in one of their favorite sports-bashing the New York Times. Whew-now John McCain can say he's got some rightwing friends.

Liberals, also predictably, don't think the story was gutsy enough. Many assert that newspapers are so afraid of what the administration could do to them, not to mention of "public opinion," that the New York Times actually held up the story, diluted it, or wasn't brave enough to be more direct about McCain's alleged romantic involvement with a lobbyist.

We Americans are infatuated with our conspiracy theories-and this story, with its unnamed sources, and ethereal allegations, has provoked a ton of them.

As a writer, I am very aware of how truly subjective the business of journalism can be.

I'm not referring to an article's particular slant. That is a neccessary quirk(there is no way of quantifying objectivity).

On the other hand, bias seems to be truly in the eye of who is beholding it.

An article like the McCain story went through so many layers of editing and writing before it was allowed to appear that it's almost impossible to say that one person's point of view, or even the "newspaper's point of view" is reflected in the published piece.

But the sources to which the reporters have access, their hidden biases, the information someone has been smart enough to stow in a back room somewhere, who will react to the article, whether new information comes to light that challenges the basic story-these are factors beyond the writer's control. All they can do is be open about what they know-and about what they do not know.

jeudi, février 21, 2008

Raising McCain

We have our first full-fledged scandal of the political season. McCain fans would like to make this about the NYT and its coverage of an alleged relationship between him and a (younger, much younger) female lobbyist. The paper stands by today's story. Linked above see The New Republic story detailing some of the back stage arguments and fallout.

All I want to say before all the the facts are out, such as they are, is: don't take the easy way out and blame the Times-unless and until you find out there is a good reason.

The parent thing

As a journalist, perhaps as a person, I'm skeptical about putting people into boxes-Republican or Democrat, neat or disorganized, theist or atheist, Yankees or Red Sox fan (yeah, I don't believe that one, either).

But one category defines me, and has defined me, for almost 30 years-that of mother. Back in my late teens and early twenties, I was an aspiring mother. The idea of raising kids lay in the future, a hope that carried with it an ache of sadness, because there was no man anywhere in my present. As time went by, I wrapped up those longings and left them in a back closet for a "someday" when I should meet a life companion.

Eventually, a companion... a future spouse arrived. And, later than many women, I was granted the gift of children. I knew, after that initial bumpy time, that I was born to be a mother. It is a vocation that gives me a sense of solidarity with women (and men) most unlike me, and of difference, of a gap of experience with women much more like me on the surface.

Although my spouse and I eventually separated, and we now co-parent (such a bureaucratic term for the gritty realities of divorce) we are bound together in this fundamental calling. Like many of you, I feel that everything in my life past was leading me down this path, and that being a parent defines, to a greater or lesser degree, my future dreams.

Yanno? I can't rationalize this, analyze it, or even make sense of it. Really. But I sure as heck keep trying!!!

mercredi, février 20, 2008

Magicians and jugglers

Take a look at Samuelson's story (linked above) in today's Washington Post.

For those of us who are crying out for something new in politics, it's hard to grapple with the sense that Senator Obama (roughly the same point David Brooks is making in the New York Times) is a classic liberal.

Samuelson notes that his ideas are so similar to Hillary Clinton's that her campaign has said he is plagiarizing.

Where this will get really interesting is when and if Obama faces the Republican candidate presumptive, John McCain. The old 'tax and spend' charges will fly-although Obama can respond, fairly, that McCain wants to keep tossing billions into the Iraq sinkhole.

We are in such very poor shape economically that no candidate will get a lot of these ideas past Congress. But the fact that no one, except perhaps McCain (occasionally), dares to address the need for austerity makes our Democratic candidates look like they are juggles and clowns rather than magicians.

mardi, février 19, 2008

No cigar

Well, here's an interesting change of power-no blood or revolution!

The banner headline today on the home page today of the New York Times was intriguingly plebian: Fidel Castro resigns.

Questions that ran through my head:

Will his brother Raul be as effective without the beard?

When he speaks of allowing the younger generation more authority, does he mean 76-year-old Raul?

What will happen to Hugo Chavez now that his mentor is retiring? Will he tone down or ramp up the rhetoric?

Will President Bush consider Cuba as a vacation spot now that his enemy is no longer President?

And if the Bush family makes a pilgrimage to Cuba... will 43 and Castro have lunch together in Havana?

They have more in common than Bush would ever admit. All he lacks is Castro's charisma

dimanche, février 17, 2008

Au revoir les Enfants

There is an enormous dialogue going on in France right now over a topic that has long been a sore point with the French: their role in the Holocaust. This time the catalyst is a command by President Nicolas Sarkozy that every child study the life, and death of another French child-one who died during the Holocaust.

Some, including some Jews, are terribly upset, in their Gallic fashion: how dare you impose this trauma on young kids?

Various psychologists agree.

An anti-racism organization demands to know why students should not study non-French children and other persecuted minorities.

Others believe this is a wonderful notion, promoting a sense of shared empathy and solidarity that will help prevent other horrors.

Sarkozy, who is outspoken in his belief in God, is also twice divorced and married three times. It is hard to figure out what the French think is more offensive-his faith or his lifestyle.

This kind of scenario would be almost impossible to imagine here-which is what makes the French both endlessly provoking and fascinating-at the same time.