Tuesday, October 31, 2006

freakin' finally! - article

aah. a nice follow-up to some recent thoughts.


New male contraceptive Pill with no side effects
Last updated at 22:00pm on 30th October 2006

Men could soon be able to use a 'male Pill' that has no side effects, scientists have revealed.

The chemical implant acts as a contraceptive but does not change the balance of a man's sex hormones.

Scientists have discovered a substance that can temporarily block the development of sperm without altering testosterone levels and without causing unwanted side effects.

They hope human trials of a new contraceptive for men based on their discovery could begin within a few years.

Other versions of the 'male Pill' are already in development but work by altering hormone levels in the man's body.

In trials so far these have produced no worrying side effects - however scientists think men may still worry about whether introducing female hormones could harm their virility in some way.

The new approach would therefore avoid this problem. The common perception is that few women would actually believe a man who said he was on the Pill.

However a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2000 found that only two per cent of women said they would not trust their partner to take a male Pill.

Several teams of scientists have therefore been working on trying to develop an equivalent of the female Pill for men.

Until now this has involved using hormones to try to prevent sperm production.

But the new approach reported in the latest edition of the journal Nature Medicine involves a substance called adherin.

It works by interfering with the way cells in the testes help nurture the development of mature sperm.

It blocks the normal bond which develops between immature sperm and tissue called Sertoli cells. This then stops the cells developing into mature sperm which are capable of fertilising an egg.

A study found that when given to rats, sperm production dropped to such low levels as to render them infertile.

However once the drug was stopped, the animals' sperm production soon returned to normal.

Lead researcher Chuen Yan Cheng of the Population Council in New York said this would be vital for any kind of pill to become acceptable to men.

"If you give the consumer the peace of mind that their fertility will be restored and that their hormones are not going to be affected, they may feel that it is safer to use this contraceptive," he said.

Adherin on its own is known to have toxic effects on the body, but the team overcame this problem by ensuring it would only attach to one cell in the body - the Sertoli cells.

The team tested it on vital organs such as the kidneys, liver, heart and brain, and found it had no harmful side effects.

Dr Cheng and his team hope their finding will lead to a male contraceptive - although say it is likely to be an implant rather than a pill as the tablet would be broken down in the digestive tract.

Dr Cheng said the approach taken by other researchers of using hormone-based contraceptives was not wrong. However he said it was important to give people a choice.

Earlier this year researchers working on a hormonal-based male contraceptive said an implant or injection could be available within five years.

Another study, published in the Lancet found that men given a hormonal-based contraceptive drug saw their sperm count return to normal just over three months after they stopped using it.

thanks kirk for the heads up on this one...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

tpfd? why, yes

so it occurs to me i've been very article-heavy lately in my blog.

jon always gives me a hard time that my longer posts slow down his compulsion to fully cyberstalk everyone he knows within a certain time frame -- he always has to save mine for later, like some heavy dessert waiting around for the right holiday or something.

but if he'd found the time to ping me lately, he'd be right. i've done a LOT of articles. sorry, all you bored figment of my imagination readers - or skimmers. so i decided to go with a smattering of my favorite toothpaste for dinner comics.

like cleansing your pallete before i hit you with a nyt article about how the NJ high court granted equivalent legal rights to gay couples. kidding! (but you can see it here. yay!)

"no underwater level"
love this one. took me a minute to get it.

great gamer joke.
ah. this one holds a special place in my heart.

"what's for lunch"
you know how you can point back to a specific moment in time when you fell in love?

i'm pointing at this comic.

no, i don't own them. go to the site. drew's a genius. drew, don't sue me. copyright drew, okay? look, linkys everywhere!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

the theatrics of government - article

this slate author dares to say that if, given the choice, democrats wouldn't take back the page scandal to spare the boys. brave stance.


Folier Than Thou
The po-faced contest between Republicans and Democrats.
By Michael Kinsley
Posted Friday, Oct. 20, 2006, at 6:49 AM ET

Here in Washington, we're all competing to see who can be more po-faced about Mark Foley and the congressional pages. Who can deplore Foley's behavior the most? Democrats, sensing a deeply wounded Republican Party, are going in for the kill. It's the final evidence that the GOP is terminally corrupt: A congressman was cyber-molesting teenage boys, and his party leaders evidently didn't even care. Republicans answer: Hey, we invented child molesting! As an issue, that is. We own family values, and we're not about to let the party of Monica Lewinsky and Heather Has Two Mommies outflank us on the sexual morality front. And then there are gay voices, eager to remind people that being gay and molesting children are two different things, which, of course, they are. But just to make the point clear, gays want everyone to know that they defer to no one in their distaste for Foley's behavior.

So, everyone claims to be terribly distressed. We glare at each other, looking as grim as possible, and the first one to break into a grin or a smirk or a snort loses. Stop it! It's not funny! But then, who are all the people watching Letterman and Leno, Stewart and Colbert, and laughing—laughing!—at Mark Foley's shenanigans? Who are the people cracking jokes on the Internet? They are so distressed that they can't stop giggling, and they find the whole subject so distasteful that they can't get enough of it. This is not a traditional case of politicians' hypocrisy. This is politicians accommodating the hypocrisy of voters.

Perhaps it would be a better world if everybody were as disgusted by the Foley episode as almost everybody claims to be. But the truth is that most people are enjoying this story and can't get enough of it. If you gave them the secret power to wish the whole thing away, they'd say, "Are you nuts? This is terrific!" Poor Dennis Hastert is suspected, probably falsely, of being willing to sacrifice a child for the good of his party, and now the other party reaps the benefit. Do you think that if the devil told Nancy Pelosi she could undo the scandal, save these 17-year-olds from the trauma of e-mail from a sicko congressman, and give up her hopes of being speaker, that she would find such an offer tempting? I don't. And I don't think Nancy Pelosi is callous or cruel. If she thought it through, she might conclude that the good that can come from a Democratic Congress exceeds the evil that a few randy e-mails may have done to a few teenage pages. Meanwhile, most Americans, I strongly suspect, would happily sacrifice a few more pages just to keep the story going for entertainment purposes.

Then there is Gerry Studds (who, by a weird coincidence, died suddenly last week). Studds was a Democratic congressman who, in 1983, was censured for having an actual, physical affair with a congressional page 10 years before that. After his censure, he continued to run in his district (in Massachusetts, natch), to win, and to serve in Congress until 1997. Compare and contrast Mark Foley: It develops that he may have had physical something-or-other with a page after all. But even before this came out, he had resigned under pressure on the basis of those e-mails alone. Doesn't that prove that Republicans are more serious about Protecting Our Children than Democrats are? Don't they win the po-faced contest?

The Studds case is troubling. Do the Republicans have a point? Maybe, but there are a few points in mitigation, as well. One is the huge random element in what becomes a Washington scandal. You don't need ideological conspiracies or grand cultural tectonic shifts. Whether something becomes a scandal depends on how close we are to an election, on what else is in the news, on what Michael Isikoff had for lunch, and so on.

The Studds case came paired with that of Republican congressman Dan Crane, who had an affair with a female page. In a mutual disarmament agreement, both miscreants were "censured," which was actually a ratchet up from "reprimanded," or "scolded," or "tickled," or some other term recommended by an outside committee. Speaker Dennis Hastert says that if Mark Foley hadn't resigned immediately, he would have been bounced. Maybe. But Crane, like Studds, was renominated by his party in the 1984 election. That would be the Republican Party. (Unlike Studds, Crane lost.)

Back in 1983, Studds took the position that the page had been over the age of consent in the District of Columbia, which is 16, and consent for the affair had, in fact, been mutual. This, of course, left out the question of whether, as a member of Congress, he had some special duty to protect even 17-year-old congressional pages from middle-aged men like himself. He probably did have such a duty, though he never paraded around as a protector of children, as Foley did.

A final difference between Studds and Foley is that the Foley case exposed the tawdry mechanics of a congressman trolling for action among teenage pages. No doubt the Studds affair involved the pre-e-mail equivalent of these mechanics, but they never became public. Obviously, that doesn't excuse Studds. But it also does not establish anything superior about Republican moral values.

Michael Kinsley is American editor of Guardian Unlimited (London) and the founding editor of Slate.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2151859/

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

no more blaming pms for being bitchy - article

i've briefly covered this topic before, but medicine, like technololgy, is always changing:


Girl Talk
A new pill that stops your period.
By Sarah E. Richards
Posted Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2006, at 5:04 PM ET

If a new brand of birth control gets approved early next year, that time of the month could become the time of, like, the decade. Lybrel, a birth-control pill made by Wyeth, would be the first oral contraceptive to deliver an uninterrupted supply of hormones. Seventy percent of women who took it for six months were period-free, according to a preliminary study by the company.

Wyeth isn't the first pharmaceutical company to reimagine the menstrual cycle. In 1992, the FDA approved Depo-Provera, an injection that is repeated every three months. In 2003, Seasonale rescheduled the monthly period to four times a year. And in July, the government gave the go-ahead for Implanon, an implant that delivers a steady hormone stream for up to three years. But the pill is the favorite means of birth control of the nearly quarter of American women of childbearing age who take hormonal contraceptives. That means Lybrel—and the other brands that will surely follow—could change the menstrual cycle as we know it. The appeal is obvious: No more bloating, cramping, food cravings, and PMS jokes, not to mention the savings in unpurchased tampons and such. But in the end, for reasons both medical and cultural, it's not clear that putting the kibosh on the curse is a good idea.

Traditional pill packs contain a week of placebos for each monthly cycle, and, as a result, women who take them appear to menstruate. But it turns out that the bleeding serves no reproductive purpose. Since there's no egg to flush out, the bleeding is a symptom of withdrawal from progestin and estrogen, the hormones in the pill—in essence, it's a fake period. The inventors of the pill, which debuted in 1960, supposedly decided to mimic the menstrual cycle because they thought that would make women more psychologically comfortable with the product.

Western women today are estimated to average about 400 menstrual cycles over the course of their lifetimes. Pregnancy and nursing halt periods for a time, of course. And for years physicians have informally advised women with painful periods to practice "menstrual suppression" by taking hormonal contraceptives continuously. Birth-control medications tend to lessen menstrual and premenstrual symptoms to begin with, and some studies show that fewer periods may mean even more relief.

Now Lybrel is explicitly selling all of this, by prescription, at a drug store near you. Women can shut off their systems for law school, a trip around the world—even their entire 20s. Random spotting is common while using Lybrel, especially at the start. But in a study of another brand called Alesse, 90 percent of participants did not bleed at all after a year of use, according to Leslie Miller, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington. "We can manipulate menstruation," she says.

Life without getting your period, though, would be life without one of the touchstones of the female experience: a sisterhood of shared empathy, tampons and chocolate, and laundry lessons passed from grandmother to granddaughter. Liberation from premenstrual emotional peaks and valleys sounds great, but we would also lose the surge of creativity and libido that comes with the urge to strangle your houseplants. Would movies be as poignant, or garlic mashed potatoes ever taste as good?

In two different surveys of college women, Ingrid Johnston-Robledo, associate professor of psychology and women's studies at the State University of New York, College at Fredonia, found that women who were asked to name positive aspects of menstruation reported that it was a sign of health and fertility and that it helped connect them to other women and the rhythms of nature.* This may sound like an ode to the inner moon goddess, but it has relevance. Johnston-Robledo found that women who didn't like their periods were also more ashamed of their bodies.

At the same time, there may be some medical arguments for suppressing one's period, at least for a limited period of time. Hormonal contraceptives are known to decrease the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers, so some doctors think a continual dose of the pill would further reduce those risks. No blood loss also means less anemia. And then there is the provocative argument of Brazilian gynecologist Elsimar Coutinho. In his 1999 book Is Menstruation Obsolete? (co-authored with Sheldon J. Segal), he writes that modern women experience "incessant ovulation," in contrast to our ancestors, who started menarche later and had many fewer periods because they gave birth and breastfed far more frequently. Women's bodies may not have evolved to handle so many periods and would appreciate a break, Coutinho thinks.

But if modern menstruation isn't completely natural, by prehistoric standards, suppressing one's period by taking hormones is even less so. No one knows the health effects for menstruating women of long-term continuous exposure, especially the risks of blood clots and breast cancer and the effect on later fertility. The uncertainties are especially troubling for adolescents whose reproductive systems continue to develop after they start menstruating, explains Jerilynn Prior, director of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research in British Columbia. Nearly one in five teens uses a form of hormonal birth control. Given the unknowns, perhaps doctors should consider setting a minimum age requirement for Lybrel, or limiting how long women can stay on it.

Nor is the pharmaceutical industry's track record on birth control exactly reassuring in weighing the risks and benefits. In 2002, the implant Norplant was pulled from the market after questions about its effectiveness and lawsuits by women claiming they were not adequately warned of side effects. In 2004, the FDA required that Depo-Provera include a label warning of risk to bone density. And last year, the FDA warned that the high levels of estrogen found in the Ortho-Evra patch increased the risk of blood clots after about a dozen young women died from clotting believed to be related to it. Maybe Lybrel will prove to be a dream drug with none of these problems; at the moment, we don't have the data to know. Periods, on the other hand, are time-tested. They tell you that you're not pregnant, and they're a sign that your body is working as it should. That's worth some fuss.

Sarah E. Richards is a freelance writer based in New York City. She can be reached at sarah@saraherichards.com.

Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2151746/

Saturday, October 21, 2006

i truly, truly believe in this - article

Friends for Life: An Emerging Biology of Emotional Healing
Published: October 10, 2006

A dear friend has been battling cancer for a decade or more. Through a grinding mix of chemotherapy, radiation and all the other necessary indignities of oncology, he has lived on, despite dire prognoses to the contrary.

My friend was the sort of college professor students remember fondly: not just inspiring in class but taking a genuine interest in them — in their studies, their progress through life, their fears and hopes. A wide circle of former students count themselves among his lifelong friends; he and his wife have always welcomed a steady stream of visitors to their home.

Though no one could ever prove it, I suspect that one of many ingredients in his longevity has been this flow of people who love him.

Research on the link between relationships and physical health has established that people with rich personal networks — who are married, have close family and friends, are active in social and religious groups — recover more quickly from disease and live longer. But now the emerging field of social neuroscience, the study of how people’s brains entrain as they interact, adds a missing piece to that data.

The most significant finding was the discovery of “mirror neurons,” a widely dispersed class of brain cells that operate like neural WiFi. Mirror neurons track the emotional flow, movement and even intentions of the person we are with, and replicate this sensed state in our own brain by stirring in our brain the same areas active in the other person.

Mirror neurons offer a neural mechanism that explains emotional contagion, the tendency of one person to catch the feelings of another, particularly if strongly expressed. This brain-to-brain link may also account for feelings of rapport, which research finds depend in part on extremely rapid synchronization of people’s posture, vocal pacing and movements as they interact. In short, these brain cells seem to allow the interpersonal orchestration of shifts in physiology.

Such coordination of emotions, cardiovascular reactions or brain states between two people has been studied in mothers with their infants, marital partners arguing and even among people in meetings. Reviewing decades of such data, Lisa M. Diamond and Lisa G. Aspinwall, psychologists at the University of Utah, offer the infelicitous term “a mutually regulating psychobiological unit” to describe the merging of two discrete physiologies into a connected circuit. To the degree that this occurs, Dr. Diamond and Dr. Aspinwall argue, emotional closeness allows the biology of one person to influence that of the other.

John T. Cacioppo, director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, makes a parallel proposal: the emotional status of our main relationships has a significant impact on our overall pattern of cardiovascular and neuroendocrine activity. This radically expands the scope of biology and neuroscience from focusing on a single body or brain to looking at the interplay between two at a time. In short, my hostility bumps up your blood pressure, your nurturing love lowers mine. Potentially, we are each other’s biological enemies or allies.

Even remotely suggesting health benefits from these interconnections will, no doubt, raise hackles in medical circles. No one can claim solid data showing a medically significant effect from the intermingling of physiologies.

At the same time, there is now no doubt that this same connectivity can offer a biologically grounded emotional solace. Physical suffering aside, a healing presence can relieve emotional suffering. A case in point is a functional magnetic resonance imaging study of women awaiting an electric shock. When the women endured their apprehension alone, activity in neural regions that incite stress hormones and anxiety was heightened. As James A. Coan reported last year in an article in Psychophysiology, when a stranger held the subject’s hand as she waited, she found little relief. When her husband held her hand, she not only felt calm, but her brain circuitry quieted, revealing the biology of emotional rescue.

But as all too many people with severe chronic diseases know, loved ones can disappear, leaving them to bear their difficulties in lonely isolation. Social rejection activates the very zones of the brain that generate, among other things, the sting of physical pain. Matthew D. Lieberman and Naomi Eisenberg of U.C.L.A. (writing in a chapter in “Social Neuroscience: People Thinking About People,” M.I.T. Press, 2005) have proposed that the brain’s pain centers may have taken on a hypersensitivity to social banishment because exclusion was a death sentence in human prehistory. They note that in many languages the words that describe a “broken heart” from rejection borrow the lexicon of physical hurt.

So when the people who care about a patient fail to show up, it may be a double blow: the pain of rejection and the deprivation of the benefits of loving contact. Sheldon Cohen, a psychologist at Carnegie-Mellon University who studies the effects of personal connections on health, emphasizes that a hospital patient’s family and friends help just by visiting, whether or not they quite know what to say.

My friend has reached that point where doctors see nothing else to try. On my last visit, he and his wife told me that he was starting hospice care.

One challenge, he told me, will be channeling the river of people who want to visit into the narrow range of hours in a week when he still has the energy to engage them.

As he said this, I felt myself tearing up, and responded: “You know, at least it’s better to have this problem. So many people go through this all alone.”

He was silent for a moment, thoughtful. Then he answered softly, “You’re right.”

Daniel Goleman is the author of “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

it's almost like you're asking for it

thought of this today - married celebrities who have reality tv shows about their marriage are dropping like flies.

nick & jessica

whitney & bobby

shanna & travis...

is the only one left, like, britney & kevin??

the family shows (osbournes, hogans) seem to be doing a bit better, but still...when will you people learn?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

what will you capture?

You'll learn that even the one person who wasn't supposed to ever let you down, probably will.

You'll have your heart broken and you'll break others' hearts.

You'll blame a new love for things an old love did.

You'll fight with your best friend, you'll cry because time is flying by, and you'll eventually lose someone you love.

So take too many pictures, laugh too much, forgive freely, and love like you've never been hurt, because every second you spend angry or upset is a second of happiness you can never get back.

~ a words submission to the faith category of an electronic anthropology collection... ^_~ an e-time capsule.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

the end of an era? hopefully - article

this is a long article from time magazine, but it's really worth the read. hopefully the forecast is dead-on.

note - it's not just the content that makes this worth it; i think this is quite elegantly worded as well. enjoy.


Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006

End of the Revolution
Sex, lies and power games are just the latest symptoms of a Republican party adrift from its ideals

Every revolution begins with the power of an idea and ends when clinging to power is the only idea left. The epitaph for the movement that started when Newt Gingrich and his forces rose from the back bench of the House chamber in 1994 may well have been written last week in the same medium that incubated it: talk radio. On conservative commentator Laura Ingraham's show, the longest-serving Republican House Speaker in history explained why he would not resign despite a sex scandal that has produced a hail of questions about his leadership and the failure to stop one of his members from cyberstalking teenage congressional pages. "If I fold up my tent and leave," Dennis Hastert told her, "then where does that leave us? If the Democrats sweep, then we'd have no ability to fight back and get our message out."

That quiet admission may have been the most damning one yet in the unfolding scandal surrounding Florida Congressman Mark Foley: holding on to power has become not just the means but also the end for the onetime reformers who in 1994 unseated a calcified and corrupted Democratic majority. Washington scandals, it seems, have been following a Moore's law of their own, coming at a faster clip every time there is a shift in control. It took 40 years for the House Democrats to exhaust their goodwill. It may take only 12 years for the Republicans to get there.

If you think politicians clinging to power isn't big news, then you may have forgotten the pure zeal of Gingrich's original revolutionaries. They swept into Washington on the single promise that they would change Capitol Hill. And for a time, they did. Vowing to finish what Ronald Reagan had started, they stood firm on the three principles that defined conservatism: fiscal responsibility, national security and moral values. Reagan, who had a few scandals in his day, didn't always follow his own rules. But his doctrine turned out to be a good set of talking points for winning elections in a closely divided country, and the takeover was completed with the inauguration of George W. Bush as President.

But after controlling both houses of Congress and the White House for most of Bush's six years in office, the party has a governing record that has come unmoored from those Grand Old Party ideals. The exquisite political machinery that aces the elections has begun to betray the platform. To win votes back home, lawmakers have been spending taxpayer money like sailors on leave, producing the biggest budget deficits in U.S. history. And the party's approach to national security has taken the country into a war that most Americans now believe was a mistake and that the government's own intelligence experts say has shaped "a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives."

One of the problems is that after the Republicans got into power, the system began to change them, not just the other way around. Among the first promises the G.O.P. majority broke was the setting of term limits. Their longtime frustrations in the minority didn't necessarily make them any better at reaching across the aisle either. Compromise, that most central of congressional checks and balances, has been largely replaced by a kind of calculated cussedness that has left the G.O.P. isolated and exposed in times of crisis.

The current crisis arrived with a sex scandal that has muddied one of the G.O.P.'s few remaining patches of moral high ground: its defense of family values and personal accountability. Although Hastert and other Republican leaders say they heard last fall about the "overfriendly" approaches of a not-so-secretly-gay Congressman to a 16-year-old former page

Both majority leader John Boehner and campaign chairman Tom Reynolds say they brought it up with Hastert as long ago as last spring—they insist they never imagined anything like the more graphic instant messages that subsequently came to light. But shouldn't they have got chills at learning that a 52-year-old man had sent a teenager a creepy e-mail asking for a "pic of you"? Certainly the page understood what the e-mail meant, which is why he forwarded it in August 2005 to the office of Louisiana Congressman Rodney Alexander, who had sponsored him for the page program. "This freaked me out," the teenager wrote. "Sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick."

The House response was political from the start. Last November, Jeff Trandahl, then clerk of the House, told John Shimkus, the Republican head of the board that oversees the page program, about the less incriminating e-mails. But nobody bothered to inform the board's lone Democrat. Shimkus and Trandahl appear to have done nothing more than give Foley a private warning. When Alexander expanded the circle of those aware of the e-mails the following spring, one of the two people he chose to loop in was Reynolds, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, whose job is managing the election. Foley wasn't even stripped of his co-chairmanship of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children.

Even after a batch of truly sleazy instant messages was discovered by abc News, Reynolds' chief of staff Kirk Fordham, who was also a former aide to Foley, tried to solve the political problem by attempting to talk the network out of publishing the worst of the messages. Fordham resigned last week, but he didn't go quietly, the way House leaders had hoped. On his way out, he threw fuel on the political fire by announcing that he had warned Hastert's staff of Foley's "inappropriate behavior" at least three years ago—a charge that Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, denied.

All this suggests that the Republican leaders were motivated much more by fear of electoral fallout than concern for the young pages in their care. And if they were worried that the revelation would hurt their chances of holding on to the House, they turned out to be right. Before the scandal broke, they were beginning to believe that the clouds were finally clearing for them. Their fabled get-out-the-vote and fund-raising operations were nearing full stride just as gas prices were dropping and the national debate was refocusing on their home-court issue of terrorism.

It seems likely that the party will instead need to reckon with sex and scandal throughout the final weeks of the election. As conservative George F. Will, writing in the Washington Post last week, put it, the Foley affair is "a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats' delectable sundae of Republican miseries." In the latest Time poll, conducted the week after the news broke, nearly 80% of respondents said they were aware of the scandal, and two-thirds of them were convinced that Republican leaders had tried to cover it up. Among the registered voters who were polled, 54% said they would be more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress, compared with 39% who favored the Republican—nearly a perfect reversal of the 51%-40% advantage the G.O.P. enjoyed as recently as August. There was even worse news in a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center that showed a precipitous drop in Republican support among frequent churchgoers, one of the most important and loyal elements of the G.O.P. base. There's no indication that they are clamoring to be Democrats, but the risk is that they will simply stay home on Election Day.

One of the victims may turn out to be campaign chairman Reynolds, who suddenly found himself running as many as 8 points behind in his upstate New York House-seat re-election bid, which had appeared fairly safe a week earlier. Hastert's job seems secure for the moment, barring any big new revelations, in part because the House Speaker is not merely a party leader; the role was established under the Constitution. It would be difficult to replace Hastert without summoning Congress back into town from the campaign trail. Nor would an ugly fight over who would succeed him be good for the party's prospects in November. Still, Republicans are not particularly eager to be seen with him. His campaign schedule is starting to look a lot lighter, as House candidates across the country are turning down his offers to do fund raisers for them. Even the leadership's much vaunted discipline seems to be in tatters. Majority leader Boehner defended himself last week by attacking Hastert: "My position is, it's in his corner, it's his responsibility." And the third in command, whip Roy Blunt, suggested that things would have been different if he had been informed. Not incidentally, both men are expected to consider making a bid for the top job if Hastert ultimately steps down—and maybe if he doesn't. But by then the job description may be House minority leader.

G.O.P. leaders are so desperate to find someone else to blame that they have been reduced—with no indication that they see the irony—to blaming a vast left-wing conspiracy. "The people who want to see this thing blow up," Hastert told the Chicago Tribune, "are abc News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros," the liberal financier who has become a bogeyman of the right. Hastert went on to say, without producing any proof, that the revelation was the work of Bill Clinton's operatives. But that line of argument, of course, suggests that Republicans would have preferred to keep Foley's secrets locked away, presumably at the pages' peril. And the Democrats for once are showing the good sense to stay out of the way when the other side is self-destructing. Sighed one of the younger House Republican aides who sits in on key meetings: "Foul play on the Democrats' side? If that is the only card left to play, then we are in serious trouble."

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Problem

As Hastert and his forces have been trumpeting their charges against the Democrats, a whisper campaign has been launched in Washington to blame an internal culprit: a "velvet mafia" at the upper levels of G.O.P. leadership on Capitol Hill. Foley, that line of argument went, had been protected by gay staff members like Fordham, Trandahl and others whose names were being widely circulated. Says a top aide: "It looks like they may have tried to handle this among themselves because they were similarly situated."

In many ways, that story line is the product of the strains within the party over homosexuality. It's a tension nearly as deep and tortured as those the Democrats grappled with over race a half-century ago, when they tried—unsuccessfully—to keep an uneasy coalition of Southern segregationists and Northern civil rights advocates from tearing their party apart. Even though many of the G.O.P.'s policies have been hostile to gay rights, its leaders have long followed a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy with what pretty much everyone in Washington knows is a sizable number of closeted Republicans among members of Congress, upper-level staff and top party operatives. Says Patrick Sammon, executive vice president of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans: "There are a lot of gay Republicans who are working behind the scenes to advance the priorities of this party."

Until now, Republicans were able to manage the conflict. And they managed it by ignoring it. That even became part of an electoral strategy dating back to the 2000 election that suggested there was nothing to be gained by moderation. In a memo he wrote to Karl Rove, Bush pollster Matthew Dowd estimated that truly independent voters had fallen to a mere sliver of the electorate. There were, Dowd concluded, not enough percentage points in being "a uniter, not a divider." The key to winning in a polarized country was mobilizing the conservative base. That year, Bush refused to meet with the Log Cabin Republicans, choosing instead to see a handpicked group of gay Republicans, but only after the party's nomination was secured. In 2004, even as Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Mary was a potential symbol of the party's openheartedness, Republicans put anti-gay-marriage measures on 11 state ballots to drive voter turnout.

But the Foley scandal is making it difficult for the party to look the other way. Last week some conservatives went so far as to insinuate that Foley proves that every gay person is a pedophile waiting to happen. "You don't need 'gaydar' to understand he has certain dispositions," Utah Congressman Chris Cannon told the Deseret News. Televangelist Pat Robertson recommended that G.O.P. leaders simply explain the situation this way: "Well, this man's gay. He does what gay people do."

The resignations of Foley and Fordham sparked fears that other gay Republicans would also soon be forced out of both their closets and their jobs. "Kirk is the fall guy," says gay-rights activist Hilary Rosen. "It's going to be open season on gay Republicans. It's the right wing's perfect storm. They never wanted gays in their party anyway."

Ruling with an Iron Fist

Oddly enough, it was a sex scandal in 1998 that brought Hastert from obscurity to the Speaker's chair in the first place. Gingrich had been ousted because his brand of fiery leadership had become such a drag on the party that it lost seats rather than gained them amid the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But his anointed successor, Robert Livingston of Louisiana, suddenly backed out amid revelations of an extramarital affair. That's when the party turned to Hastert, a former high school wrestling coach whose affability and low-key demeanor seemed to guarantee calmer times ahead. He was, after all, the man who said he was too humble to brag about being humble. And yet the way the House has operated under Hastert has been anything but humble. He quickly came to be viewed as little more than a genial front for then majority leader Tom DeLay, whose nickname—the Hammer—pretty much summed up his leadership touch.

"There has been no institutional rule, means, norm or tradition that cannot be set aside to advance a partisan political goal," says Brookings Institution political scientist Thomas Mann, co-author of the recently published book whose title describes Congress as The Broken Branch. In 2003, instead of fashioning a compromise that might woo a few Democrats, Hastert and DeLay held what was supposed to be a 15-min. vote open for three full hours as they squeezed the last Republican votes they needed to pass a bill to provide an expensive prescription drug benefit to the Medicare program. Far more than in the past, they brought bills to the floor with no chance of amendment and allowed the normal appropriations process to be circumvented so that pet projects could be funded without scrutiny. When DeLay faced indictment by a Texas grand jury, Hastert changed the Republican rules so that DeLay could stay on as leader—though in the ensuing outcry, he had to reverse himself. Hastert was successful, however, in purging the ethics committee of its chairman and two Republican members who had reprimanded DeLay for misconduct. Stretching the limits of arcane House rules and shuffling committees around may not seem like earthshaking offenses, but they are the same type of procedural strangleholds and power plays that the G.O.P. had hoped to excise from the body politic 12 years ago.

"The Republican Party of 2006 is a tired, cranky shell of the aggressive, reformist movement that was swept into office in 1994 on a wave of positive change," Frank Luntz, one of the strategists of the G.O.P. takeover, wrote this week in a column for Time.com. "I worked for them. They were friends of mine. These Republicans are not those Republicans."

On policy matters, Hastert's leadership approach has been to act as though the Democrats—and sometimes the Senate—simply do not exist. He squeezes hard-edged partisan bills through the House to please the G.O.P. base, even though they have no chance of ever getting through the Senate and reaching the President's desk. "There have been numerous occasions when bipartisan approaches, which would have benefited our conference more than Democrats, have been rebuffed by the Speaker," complains a senior Republican aide, who says he likes and respects the Speaker. "His strategy seems to be, 'Well, don't worry about it. We'll blame [Democratic Leader Nancy] Pelosi.' That might work in isolated circumstances, but when your party's numbers start to tank, and people want to see that you can govern, that approach is not a solid one."

Party leaders concede the point that their revolution hasn't lived up to everything they promised. But they say voters still see the difference between where the parties stand. Former Republican chairman Ed Gillespie—one of the authors of the Contract with America, on which House Republicans ran in 1994—says, "Our party is still better when it comes to spending than the Democrats, stronger on national security than the Democrats and more likely to share concerns about the coarsening of our culture that a majority of Americans share than the Democrats are." Strategists are putting an optimistic face even on the effects of the Foley scandal, saying their internal polling shows little movement against the G.O.P. Will the Democrats behave any differently if they retake Congress in November? Some would undoubtedly try to use their majority power to exact revenge for Republican overreach. And history has shown them to be just as capable of the type of ideological drift that is tearing at the G.O.P.

For now, though, the question on everyone's mind is, How do the Republicans find their way from here? A number of conservatives have begun to wonder aloud if it wouldn't be better for the party to lose the House or Senate in November. If the revolutionaries have become the redcoats, then perhaps it's time for another uprising. Send the Republicans back into the wilderness so they can forage for the kind of fresh ideas and guerrilla tactics that made them such a force during their previous march on Washington. They could very well be ready in time for the presidential election in 2008. And while they're out there on the campaign trail, they just might rally around their old general, who will be looking to cap his own hardscrabble journey from political pariah to rehabbed revolutionary. That general, of course, is none other than former Speaker Gingrich, who has been spotted in Iowa, New Hampshire and other battleground states for more than a year now, taking potshots at the Establishment he helped create and rearming himself to storm the next barricade.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

i want to feel this way again

from post secret

-------Email Message-------
Sent: Saturday, September 30, 2006 8:30 PM

My boyfriend and I knew we had to do something important or else our relationship would fall apart. So we took markers and wrote our deepest secrets on the backs of each other.

I never read his secrets, and he never read mine, but the perilousness of such close contact between us and the other's demons was what we needed to save our relationship.

doesn't that sound beautiful?