Sunday, January 31, 2016

The state of our state the night before caucus

"Thank you, Iowa.” — Senator Barack Obama at a rally after his triumph in the 2008 Iowa caucuses 

TWENTY-FOUR hours from now it will all be over here in Iowa — or very close to it. I can remember delivering sealed envelopes to the Secretary of State in person at caucus headquarters close to midnight in 2008 and being surprised to see media from Japan and France and countries from around the world. But they'll all be catching flights out of here by Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Here are the latest poll results as reported by The New York Times.

Taken at a West Des Moines precinct caucus in 2008.

Donald Trump Leads Ted Cruz in Top Iowa Poll

By Alan Rappeport
January 31, 2016

DES MOINES – Donald J. Trump has widened his edge against Ted Cruz in Iowa, according to a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll on Saturday that shows the billionaire gaining momentum right ahead of Monday’s caucuses.

The survey, considered the most authoritative poll of Iowa caucus-goers, found that 28 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers support Mr. Trump, while 23 percent back Mr. Cruz. Trailing the two leading candidates are Senator Marco Rubio at 15 percent and Ben Carson at 10 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The results come as the Republican presidential candidates are crisscrossing Iowa in hopes of turning out their supporters and persuading remaining undecided voters to caucus for them.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders were battling for the lead position, with Mrs. Clinton getting the support of 45 percent of likely caucus-goers to Mr. Sanders’s 42 percent. Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, trails them with just 3 percent.

Of Democrats who are planning to caucus, 30 percent say they could still be persuaded, while 45 percent of Republicans remain open to changing their minds.

Backed by evangelical Christians and social conservatives, Mr. Cruz, Senator of Texas, had surged to the top of the Iowa polls a month ago only to see his momentum dampened under sustained attacks from Mr. Trump. A poll from the same group in mid-January showed Mr. Cruz with a three-point lead.

For months the candidates had been been publicly friendly toward each other, but Mr. Trump has recently raised questions about the eligibility of the Canadian born Mr. Cruz to run for president and has assailed his lack of popularity in the senate. Mr. Cruz has largely sought to remain above the fray, but has been urging Iowans not to be lured by a candidate without a conservative record who will “burn” them if chosen as the Republican nominee.

Some political analysts suggested that Mr. Trump might have blunted his momentum by skipping the Republican presidential debate earlier this week. However, Saturday’s results show that his gamble appears to have paid off.

Most voters said they did not care about Mr. Trump missing the debate. However, the survey did show that some of the candidates’ attacks appear to be resonating. A majority of respondents said they were bothered by Mr. Trump’s previous pro-choice views and his use of eminent domain as a businessman.

Voters were also perturbed by Mr. Cruz’s failure to disclose loans he took from big banks during his senate run, but they did not seem to care about his Canadian roots.

Among the lower-tier Republican, candidates, the poll showed Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky with 5 percent support, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey with 3 percent, and Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio each with 2 percent. Mr. Christie, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kasich have focused their efforts on winning New Hampshire, visiting Iowa only sporadically.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The NYT's Democratic primary endorsement

“Voting is the most precious right of every citizen, and we have a moral obligation to ensure the integrity of our voting process.” — Hillary Clinton

BELIEVE IT or not, I'm probably even more tired of hearing about the Iowa caucuses than you are since we're immersed in it 24/7. But because we live in Des Moines, the throbbing heart of it, I feel almost duty-bound to keep you apprised.

This post will no doubt gratify some HLSS readers and rankle others. The New York Times has endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. No surprise.

Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Nomination
Voters have the chance to choose one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.

By The Editorial Board
January 30, 2016

For the past painful year, the Republican presidential contenders have been bombarding Americans with empty propaganda slogans and competing, bizarrely, to present themselves as the least experienced person for the most important elected job in the world. Democratic primary voters, on the other hand, after a substantive debate over real issues, have the chance to nominate one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.

Hillary Clinton would be the first woman nominated by a major party. She served as a senator from a major state (New York) and as secretary of state — not to mention her experience on the national stage as first lady with her brilliant and flawed husband, President Bill Clinton. The Times editorial board has endorsed her three times for federal office — twice for Senate and once in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary — and is doing so again with confidence and enthusiasm.

Mrs. Clinton’s main opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, has proved to be more formidable than most people, including Mrs. Clinton, anticipated. He has brought income inequality and the lingering pain of the middle class to center stage and pushed Mrs. Clinton a bit more to the left than she might have gone on economic issues. Mr. Sanders has also surfaced important foreign policy questions, including the need for greater restraint in the use of military force.

In the end, though, Mr. Sanders does not have the breadth of experience or policy ideas that Mrs. Clinton offers. His boldest proposals — to break up the banks and to start all over on health care reform with a Medicare-for-all system — have earned him support among alienated middle-class voters and young people. But his plans for achieving them aren’t realistic, while Mrs. Clinton has very good, and achievable, proposals in both areas.

For the past painful year, the Republican presidential contenders have been bombarding Americans with empty propaganda slogans and competing, bizarrely, to present themselves as the least experienced person for the most important elected job in the world. Democratic primary voters, on the other hand, after a substantive debate over real issues, have the chance to nominate one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.

The third Democratic contender, Martin O’Malley, is a personable and reasonable liberal who seems more suited for the jobs he has already had — governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore — than for president.

Mrs. Clinton is a strong advocate of sensible and effective measures to combat the plague of firearms; Mr. Sanders’s record on guns is relatively weak. Her economic proposals for financial reform reflect a deep understanding of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform act, including the ways in which it has fallen short. She supports changes that the country badly needs, like controls on high-frequency trading and stronger curbs on bank speculation in derivatives.

Mr. Sanders has scored some rhetorical points against Mrs. Clinton for her longstanding ties to Wall Street, but she has responded well, and it would be comical to watch any of the Republican candidates try to make that case, given that they are all virtually tied to, or actually part of, the business establishment.

One of the most attractive parts of Mrs. Clinton’s economic platform is her pledge to support the well-being and rights of working Americans. Her lifelong fight for women bolsters her credibility in this area, since so many of the problems with labor law hit women the hardest, including those involving child care, paid sick leave, unstable schedules and low wages for tipped workers.

Mrs. Clinton is keenly aware of the wage gap for women, especially for women of color. It’s not just that she’s done her homework — Mrs. Clinton has done her homework on pretty much any subject you’d care to name. Her knowledge comes from a commitment to issues like reproductive rights that is decades old. She was well ahead of Mr. Sanders in calling for repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which severely limits federal money to pay for abortions for poor women.

As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton worked tirelessly, and with important successes, for the nation’s benefit. She was the secretary President Obama needed and wanted: someone who knew leaders around the world, who brought star power as well as expertise to the table. The combination of a new president who talked about inclusiveness and a chief diplomat who had been his rival but shared his vision allowed the United States to repair relations around the world that had been completely trashed by the previous administration.

Mrs. Clinton helped make it possible to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, which in turn led to the important nuclear deal now going into effect. She also fostered closer cooperation with Asian countries. She worked to expand and deepen the dialogue with China and to increase Washington’s institutional ties to the region. Mrs. Clinton had rebuked China when she was first lady for its treatment of women, and she criticized the Beijing government’s record on human rights even as she worked to improve relations.

In January 2011, before the Arab Spring, Mrs. Clinton delivered a speech that criticized Arab leaders, saying their countries risked “sinking into the sand” unless they liberalized their political systems and cleaned up their economies. Certainly, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis deepened during her tenure, but she did not cause that.

Mrs. Clinton can be more hawkish on the use of military power than Mr. Obama, as shown by her current call for a no-fly zone in Syria and her earlier support for arming and training Syrian rebels. We are not convinced that a no-fly zone is the right approach in Syria, but we have no doubt that Mrs. Clinton would use American military power effectively and with infinitely more care and wisdom than any of the leading Republican contenders.

Mrs. Clinton, who has been accused of flip-flopping on trade, has shown a refreshing willingness to learn and to explain, as she has in detail, why she changed her mind on trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She is likely to do more to help workers displaced by the forces of trade than previous presidents have done, and certainly more than any of the Republicans.

Mrs. Clinton has honed a steeliness that will serve her well in negotiating with a difficult Congress on critically important issues like climate change. It will also help her weather what are certain to be more attacks from Republicans and, should she win the White House, the possibility of the same ideological opposition and personal animus that President Obama has endured. Some of the campaign attacks are outrageous, like Donald Trump’s efforts to bring up Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity. Some, like those about Mrs. Clinton's use of a private email server, are legitimate and deserve forthright answers.

Hillary Clinton is the right choice for the Democrats to present a vision for America that is radically different from the one that leading Republican candidates offer — a vision in which middle-class Americans have a real shot at prosperity, women’s rights are enhanced, undocumented immigrants are given a chance at legitimacy, international alliances are nurtured and the country is kept safe.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lying liars who lie: he-who-shall-not-be-named

“The world is not fair, and often fools, cowards, liars and the selfish hide in high places.” — Bryant H. McGill, American author, speaker and activist 

I CAN'T shake the feeling that I have awakened in an alternate reality, a dystopian planet Earth, and the pulsing, ugly heart of it is my own home country. 

That he-who-shall-not-be-named has been given more than five minutes of our collective awareness is incomprehensible to me! 

In my ongoing series of Lying Liars Who Lie, I'm certain that HWSNBN warrants a thousand chapters, but I'll stick to this one — for now. The below article is from NBC News.

Tennessee Williams quote

Trump Foundation Has Given Little To Vets Groups

By Leigh Ann Caldwell and Charlie Gile
January 28, 2016

Donald Trump has vowed to donate the donations he receives tonight to the Trump Foundation to veterans groups. But a look at The Donald J. Trump Foundation's history of giving shows that the organization has given a small percentage of its donations to veterans groups.

Since 2010, Trump has donated just $35,000 to veterans groups, according to the foundation's 990 forms that donated $5 million during the same time.

In 2014, the year his foundation donated the most amount of money to vets groups, the foundation gave $10,000 to the Green Beret Foundation, $5,000 to K9s for Warriors and $5,000 for Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Trump is skipping Thursday night's Fox News debate and instead hosting his own rally also in Des Moines where he said he's going to raise money for veterans. He launched the website to collect the donations.

At a previous CNN debate, Trump told the network that they should donate all of their profits to veterans.

Trump often says at this campaign rallies, "We're gonna take care of veterans."

While Trump's foundation has given little to vets, he did donate $1 million to New York City's The Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Plaza in 2008, according to the New York Times.

During those years, Trump's foundation gave $10,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation and $100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

His foundation also gave $100,000 to Citizens United, the organization that spurred the 2010 Supreme Court case that led to the proliferation of money in politics. Trump often denounces super PACs, the groups that proliferated after the Citizens United decision.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New study lets caffeine off the hook

“I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake.” — Lewis Black, American comedian, author, playwright, social critic and actor

I DON'T drink coffee. Never have. I tried it once and my taste buds said, "Well, this tastes bad" — and I believed them. I also figure that the world probably doesn't need me on caffeine. 

According to various studies, caffeine conveys certain health benefits. Now a recent study questions long-held beliefs about the risks of caffeine consumption. The below article is from NBC News.

Caffeine Doesn’t Give You Heart Palpitations, Study Finds

By Maggie Fox
January 26, 2016

Drinking coffee, tea or chocolate does not appear to cause heart palpitations, heart fluttering and other out-of-sync heartbeat patterns, researchers reported Tuesday.

The report challenges a widely held belief that caffeinated drinks cause irregular heart rhythms that can lead to heart failure or dangerous heart rhythm disorders and is another vindication for coffee as a safe drink.

It might be time for doctors to lighten up on coffee, says Dr. Gregory Marcus, a cardiologist at the University of California San Francisco, who led the study.

"Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart's cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits," Marcus said in a statement.

"Given our recent work demonstrating that extra heartbeats can be dangerous, this finding is especially relevant."

It used to be believed that premature cardiac contractions, which usually cause no symptoms or mild symptoms such as heart palpitations, 'skipped' beats or fluttering, were harmless. But studies now show they're associated with heart failure, atrial fibrillation and other dangerous conditions.

And doctors are widely taught that caffeine can cause these heart disturbances.

To check, Marcus and colleagues examined 1,388 people, with an average age of 72, taking part in a larger heart study.

About 60 percent said they drank some sort of caffeinated product every day. The team looked specifically at coffee, tea and chocolate and did not ask about super-caffeinated energy drinks.

They measured instances of premature ventricular contractions and premature atrial contractions.

They could not find any differences in instances of these heart disturbances, no matter how much coffee or tea or chocolate people had.

"Therefore, we are only able to conclude that in general, consuming caffeinated products every day is not associated with having increased ectopy or arrhythmia but cannot specify a particular amount per day," Marcus and colleagues wrote in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

They said it is possible that people who noticed heart flutters or other symptoms from coffee or tea may have cut back - they did not ask them.

But they also noted that it's yet another finding in favor of moderate coffee drinking.

"Coffee is among the most commonly consumed beverages in the United States and is the main source of caffeine intake among adults," they wrote.

"Regular coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and other cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity and depression," they added.

"Furthermore, large observational studies have found that habitual coffee drinkers have lower rates of coronary artery disease and of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality."

The cutoff seems to be around five cups a day, and kids shouldn't be drinking too much caffeine.

Higher doses of caffeine can be deadly. The Food and Drug Administration has warned about sales of powdered caffeine, One teaspoon delivers as much caffeine as 28 cups of regular coffee. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Climate vs. weather = Democrat vs. Republican

"Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?” — Republican US Representative for California's 48th congressional district

THOSE OF YOU who are patient and loyal enough to read Hey Look at least semi-regularly know that I often share the work of premier writers from The New York Times, NBC News, The New Yorker, Mother Jones and other sources I trust and admire.

As luck would have it — actually not luck, because I've chosen carefully — there are many clear thinkers and stellar writers within my very own Facebook virtual village. 

One of them, Paul LeValley, wrote a succinct piece on global warming, and with his permission, I'm sharing it with you.

By Paul LeValley
January 24, 2016

Hunkered down by the fire, dreading the shoveling, pondering whether or not to cancel everything tomorrow, it would be easy to think that this whole global warming thing must be a hoax. But it isn't. We have to remember not to confuse weather with climate (and global with local for that matter). Last year was the warmest year on record (as was the year before) — by a lot.

Every candidate for the Republican nomination for president denies that global warming is the result of human activity, if they even acknowledge warming at all. Ninety-nine percent of all climate researchers are convinced that it is the result of the release of carbon into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning.

Republicans, in true conspiracy-theorist form, suggest that the Chinese invented this hoax to cripple American manufacturing, or climate researchers have invented this hoax to keep the grant money flowing, or liberals have invented this hoax because we're the scum of the earth, or the media has invented this hoax because they hate America or just plain old BENGHAZI! (It works for everything!).

Democrats trust the science.

Republicans trust their friends in the fossil fuel industry who write them huge checks to say things like, "Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?” 

This bit of wit and wisdom is brought to you by Republican Dana Rohrabacher who apparently thinks that the oxygen that trees produce is a greenhouse gas. Rohrabacher isn't unique to the Republican Party by any means. He's just the first one that came up when I Googled "the dumbest things Republicans have said about global warming." Believe me, the list is long and would be hilarious if it weren't so terrifying.

The Republicans have become the anti-science party. They don't trust climate scientists, who have no stake in the data other than to make sure it's as accurate as possible so some other scientist doesn't make them look stupid with better data. Instead, Republicans trust the fossil fuel industry, whose very existence depends on denying the science. Notice I didn't say, "proving it wrong." The fossil fuel industry doesn't try to prove anything. Their strategy has been just to deny, insult, threaten, and buy politicians who'll do the same.

I often hear deniers go on and on about how the evil, global-warming-scientist empire won't let anyone disagree with them and that they routinely shut down dissenting voices. Baloney! 

Researchers live to prove each other wrong. It's what makes careers. It's what wins Nobel Prizes. It's what gets an article published. It's what keeps a scientist from perishing. 

Proving bad data wrong is the essential element in why science works. When researchers publishes a study, they agree to make the raw data available to other scientists — in effect daring them to prove it wrong. Other scientists are only too happy to take them up on it in an effort to prove themselves a little bit smarter. This principle of falsifiability is how science improves our understanding of the world and creates technologies like computers and microwaves and cell phones and automobiles and space stations.

Maybe someday some scientist somewhere will prove false what 99% of climate researchers are currently showing to be true. It seems unlikely, but you can bet that thousands of researchers would love to be that person! And when she publishes her findings, she'll publish her raw data, too, and dare all other scientists to prove HER wrong. That's science.

It's a better system than taking a fat check from the coal industry and then going on TV and saying, "the science isn't settled."

Democrats trust the science. Republicans trust the money. Who do you trust?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Bernie or Hillary

"Sanders may be a dreamer, but he’s not dishonorable. Trying to sully him in this way only sullies her." — Charles M. Blow

I'M THRILLED that I'm not in charge of my precinct's caucus this coming Monday night. Nevertheless Paul and I have volunteered to help Vern and Joyce Naffler, who are. They're going to need it; it will be a madhouse.

(For those of you who want a rundown on what this strange beast, the Iowa caucuses is all about, here's a link.)

Vern is a retired minister with the gentlest of countenances, Joyce is feisty and spirited. Both of them radiate goodness and are indefatigable workers for peace and justice. Whenever I'm around them, I want to follow them home like a puppy and beg them to adopt me. Seriously!

When I called Joyce to offer our help, I asked her what her thoughts are on the Hillary vs. Bernie dilemma. She said she felt the Des Moines Register summed it up pretty well when it opined that Hillary appeals to the head, and Bernie the heart.

Below is a column from by New York Times writer Charles M. Blow that expands on the point the Register made and raises valid concerns both ways.

Hillary Clinton Stumbles

By Charles M. Blow
January 25, 2016  

In October, when Hillary Clinton made a spectacle of the congressional Benghazi committee during a marathon interrogation that seemed designed to make a spectacle of her, she emerged stronger than ever. Her polls numbers surged.

That performance had come on the heels of a strong debate performance the week before in the first Democratic presidential debate.

She had bolstered the image she wanted to project: strong, smart, capable and battle-tested.

But now, on the verge of Monday night’s Democratic town hall in Iowa — the last time the candidates will face off before the caucuses in that state — and with Bernie Sanders’s poll numbers climbing not only in Iowa, but also in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign seems increasingly desperate and reckless.

I noticed the turn in the last debate as Clinton seemed to me to go too far in her attacks on Sanders, while simultaneously painting herself into a box that will be very hard to escape.

She wrapped herself in President Obama’s legacy so tightly that she could hardly breathe, and then built an image of herself as a practical politician who could build on Obama’s accomplishments by taking small steps and negotiating tough deals.

But practicality and incrementalism, as reasonable as that strategy and persona may be, are simply no match for what animates the Sanders campaign — a kind of kinetic, even if sometimes overblown, idealism. His is a passionate exposition of liberalism — and yes, democratic socialism — in its most positive light.

But, let me be clear and unequivocal: I find his earnest philosophic positions to be clear and often laudable, but also somewhat quixotic. I think that he is promising far more than even he knows he can deliver, and the electability question is still a real one, even though polls now show him matching up well against possible Republican opponents.

For instance, Sanders’s plan for universal health care is an admirable ambition of any true liberal, but as presented seems to me unworkable, and the prospect of getting it passed through this Congress or any Congress that vaguely resembles it is nil. Congress has voted to repeal Obamacare, which is far shy of Sanders’s proposal, more than 60 times. Suggesting that it would pass something even more expansive is mere fantasy.

When Sanders is pressed on how he will accomplish his ambitious goals, he often responds with the nebulous answer that it will require a “political revolution,” which seems to mean energizing and engaging an unprecedented number of new voters who would not only ensure his election but flip control of the Senate and possibly the House.

Interesting, but also unlikely. Go talk to all the Blue Dog Democrats who lost their seats in the wake of Obamacare passage. Go talk to all the voters who are being disenfranchised by new voter suppression laws. Go talk to all the poor people who live in states where conservative voters ensure Republican leadership, and therefore prevent Medicaid from being expanded in their states.

There are political realities that exist in America that can be changed sometimes, and often are, but that are not often subject to sea changes.

Furthermore, Sanders likes to tout that he doesn’t have a “super PAC” and doesn’t want one. That is a principled position. But the Republican candidate will have the support of many super PACs, awash in hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money, and the Republican nominee himself might even be a billionaire. They are going to beat Sanders like he is a nail with the “socialist” label and his proposal on new taxation. Middle of the spectrum Middle America is likely to be very susceptible to this negative messaging.

But instead of Clinton finding a way to express that her plans are more tangible than Sanders’s, and her chances in the general election are stronger than his, she and her campaign have made some incredulous inferences about Sanders’s honor.

The swipes at him as being soft on the gun industry as some way of cozying up to it, or of being anti-Obama because he wanted Obama to be stronger in pursuing a liberal agenda, or that he wants to scrap Obamacare, simply do not connect.

Sanders may be a dreamer, but he’s not dishonorable. Trying to sully him in this way only sullies her.

There are a tremendous number of echoes starting to be heard between the way Clinton ran against Obama, and the way she is running against Sanders.

Clinton has what political insiders call the “firewall”: Overwhelming support among black and Hispanic voters in Southern and some Western states. But a win by Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire could supply a boost of momentum that could greatly erode the Clinton firewall.

If Clinton can’t find a positive, energetic message to project, and soon, she is going to be swept away by Sanders.

Some part of Sanders’s proposals and even his vision for this country may indeed be a fairy tale. But in the 2008 race, Bill Clinton criticized Obama and his position on the Iraq war as a “fairy tale.” Well fairy tales sometimes come true, particularly when Hillary Clinton stumbles.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

More information for introverts

"I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone." — Lord Byron

I'VE OFTEN mentioned that contrary to what most people who know me in real life seem to think — I'm an introvert. Introversion and shyness are different, and like all personality traits we possess, they're not on-or-off values. They exist on a continuum. 

One of the major introversion determinants is whether a person finds social interaction energizing or wearying. By way of a hint as to where I am on the spectrum, here's a short excerpt from a previous Hey Look post written a couple of years ago:

"When I get really stressed out, I have two bailout fantasies. My completely anti-social choice is living in a cabin in the woods by myself where the only human contact I have is someone who brings me meals once a week. (Apparently my fantasy self isn't any more interested in cooking than I am in real life.) My semi-social scheme is living in a town, population less than 100, in the middle of nowhere where the sum of conveniences and societal connections consists of a one-room post office and a two-aisle grocery. In this slightly friendlier version, I venture out to get provisions and receive mail."

Attached is an article from ABC News which originally appeared on

15 Ways Being an Introvert Can Affect Your Health

By Amanda MacMillan

January 23, 2016

When do you tend to feel the most energized: after a party with lots of friends and strangers, or after a day of solitude and quiet reflection? If you chose the latter, you may consider yourself an introvert—someone who feels easily exhausted by social interaction and feels most content being left alone.

Introverts are often seen as shy, introspective, or antisocial, but the reality is more complicated than that—most people aren't fully introverted or extraverted, and actually fall somewhere in between. Whether you lean toward introversion or extraversion doesn't just affect your social preferences, either; here are 15 ways it can also affect your physical and mental health.

Social situations may stress you out

"Introverts can get overstimulated easily, so if there's a lot going on around them, it can cause anxiety," says Laurie Helgoe, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Davis & Elkins College and author of Introvert Power. Even just the pace of conversation can be demanding and mentally draining, she adds. "When I'm talking to extraverts, sometimes they're five thoughts ahead of me because I'm still processing the first thing they're talking about."

Not all introverts hate big parties and networking events, but most tend to prefer smaller gatherings with close friends. "It's a misnomer that all introverts globally are stressed by social situations," Helgoe says. "But I would say that it's not usually 'the more the merrier' for us—it's usually 'the more, the more stressful.'" (The good news? If you do have social anxiety, research shows that people probably like you more than you think.)

You may have less FOMO

Introverts may be more immune to different kinds of social stress—specifically, the pressure to make an appearance at every event they're invited to, or the "fear of missing out" (also known as FOMO). They don't feel the need to always be "on" with other people, and may not be as insulted if they're not included in something.

"One strength of an introvert is the ability to somehow withstand some of those pressures to be engaged all the time," says Helgoe. "We just aren't as tempted by happy stimuli; our brains don't get revved up as easily. Of course we can feel left out too, but somehow we're able to shut it off a little more easily."

Dating can be harder

If you're an introvert looking for love, you may feel like the deck is stacked against you. "We just don't put ourselves out there as much as extraverts; and even when we do, we aren't as quick to make friends of strangers," writes author Sophia Dumbing in her book "Introverts in Love." But she argues that once introverts get past that hurdle, they actually have some advantages over introverts—like the desire to make deep one-on-one connections.

Helgoe agrees: "We are very selective; we aren't going to waste our time in relationships that don't draw us in," she says. Online dating has been a huge help for introverts, she adds, "because often we can skip the small talk and start those conversations at a more real level. In a way it's leveled the playing field."

You may be less happy overall

Not all introverts are depressed and not all depressed people are introverts, but there is a connection. "There are certain characteristics of introverts that line up with depression," says Helgoe. "We're reflective and we can get caught up in rumination. We also tend to be more realistic: We look at the whole picture, rather than just picking up on happy stimuli."

Research has shown that when people act extraverted or outgoing, they tend to feel happier overall. In fact, says Helgoe, even introverts can get a mood boost by acting like extraverts for short periods of time. "I don't think the answer is always that introverts need to get out there and socialize," she says, "but I do think we should be aware that sometimes we are so protective of our comfort zones, we don't take advantage of opportunities we might really enjoy."

It may affect where you're happiest

Introverts tend to prefer living in the mountains, which are seen as calming and peaceful, while extraverts would rather live in open, flat regions, like near the ocean, which they perceive as more sociable and stimulating according, to a 2015 study by Shigehiro Oishi, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.

These types of preferences may affect where people will be happiest, says Oishi, which could in turn have an affect on mental or even physical health. That doesn't mean all introverts should move to the mountains, he says. Instead, no matter where you live, seek out secluded spaces where you feel comfortable, whether it's the library, a quiet park, or even a special area in your house.

Trendy fitness classes may not work for you

CrossFit and boutique studio classes are so hot right now in part because their workouts double as social events. But for introverts, group classes may actually turn them off to exercising. In a 2011 study on personality type and body weight, researchers noted that "lifestyle and exercise interventions that are done in a group setting may be more effective for extraverts than for introverts."

"The assumption is that we're all extraverts and we will all benefit from the same activities, and that can really mess up our game as introverts," says Helgoe. "I've learned that it's easier for me to stay committed to my own running, which gives me time to myself in my own space. (Introverts can still benefit from someone holding them accountable, she adds, so it can help to ask a friend to keep tabs on your progress.)

You form strong friendships

You may not have as many friends as someone who's very extraverted, but that's because you value quality over quantity. "Introverts have some qualities that are conducive to intimacy," says Helgoe. "We can tolerate silence and pauses, and allow time for a conversation to deepen. We're less likely to engage in small talk, but that's not because we don't like people—it's because we don't like the barrier it creates to sharing real thoughts and ideas."

Some introverts do have trouble bonding with anyone at all, and may truly be isolated—a risk factor for health problems and even a shorter lifespan. But you don't need a huge social network to ward off loneliness, say experts; a few good friends who are always there for you can be enough to keep you happy and healthy.

It could impair your immunity

Extraverts may have stronger immune systems than introverts, according to a 2014 joint study from the University of Nottingham and the University of California, Los Angeles. Extraverts tended to have increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes associated with the body's immune response, while people who scored high in "conscientiousness" had reduced expression of these genes. In other words, extraverts appear to have immune systems that can deal effectively with infection—perhaps because their socially oriented nature exposes them to more germs overall. Oishi says that introverts' immunity may also be hampered because they tend to feel positive emotions less frequently than extraverts. But whatever the reason, he adds, the effect of personality on immunity is likely pretty small.

Your brain is wired differently

Introverts tend to have larger and thicker gray matter in the area of the brain responsible for abstract thought and decision making, according to a 2012 Harvard University study. This could explain why they are more likely than extraverts to ponder over things for longer, rather than making impulsive decisions and living in the moment.

Previous research has also suggested that introverts have higher levels of "cortical arousal," which means they respond stronger to outside stimuli like sights and sounds. Experts think this may be why they become overwhelmed in loud or crowded environments—and why extraverts may seek out those same situations to raise their own arousal levels.

You may handle sleep deprivation better

Introverts may be better at pulling all-nighters than extraverts, according to a 2010 study on the effects of sleep deprivation from the Walter Reed Army Institute. After being kept awake for 36 hours—including 12 hours of social interaction—extraverts tended to have lower scores on tests for alertness and reaction times than introverts.

Social stimulation can be exhausting for regions of the brain that deal with attention and wakefulness, and so it increases the need for sleep. But introverts seem to have some resistance to that need, the authors concluded, perhaps because they have higher cortical arousal. In other words, those brain regions are more active in the first place, so they're not tired out as easily.

You may not be much of a risk-taker

Brain differences may also help explain why introverts are less likely to engage in risky behavior. Research has shown that extraverts' brains light up more when gambling, for example, and that extraverted children tend to overeat more than their introverted peers.

"Introverts are, on average, less risk-taking than extraverts," says Oishi—a quality he says can protect against potentially harmful behavior. Helgoe agrees: "Extraverts are more prone to impulse-related distress," she says. "They tend to have more externalizing disorders, while introverts tend to internalize things."

It could affect your driving

When horns and sirens start blaring, introverts may have trouble behind the wheel, according to a 2015 Iranian study. Researchers tested reaction times in various traffic situations, and although reaction times slowed for both introverts and extroverts when noise was introduced, it was quite a bit worse for introverts.

Oishi says he's not surprised by these findings. "Introverts tend to like a quiet place, so it could be a familiarity issue here," he says. "Extraverts are more used to being in a noisy place, and therefore [may be] less affected by noise."

You may be skipping important conversations with your doctor

When you're worried about something going on with your body, do you ask your doctor about it? Introverts may be less likely to bring up questions or problems, says Helgoe, which may lead to health problems that could have been prevented. "Doctor's visits today are so quick, you really have to be very assertive if you want to voice your concerns," she says. "Under that kind of pressure, it can be very hard for introverts to volunteer information."

Helgoe recommends that introverts prepare by writing down questions and concerns before medical appointments. "If you bring in a list, your doctor will pay attention and make sure everything on your list is answered—and you'll be less likely to panic or forget what you wanted to ask," she says.

It can affect your self-worth

It's true that introversion can be associated with depression, but that's not always the case. Sometimes, though, introverts can be labeled as unhappy simply because they don't express their joy outwardly, says Helgoe. This isn't just an unfortunate misunderstanding, she says; it can sometimes become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"When studies define happiness, they don't usually include feelings like tranquility, peacefulness, and calm," she says. "If introverts are reflective or nostalgic or melancholy, society labels us as depressed or aloof. Then we think there's something wrong with us, and we start feeling depressed."

It's perfectly healthy...if you embrace it

The most important thing introverts need to know, says Helgoe, is that there's nothing wrong with them. "When people recognize that introversion is not an impairment, they become much happier and are able to accept themselves for who they really are," she says.

Embracing your introverted side also means you can start to make better decisions about your lifestyle, your career, and your friendships, she says. (For example, Helgoe realized that seeing patients all day was exhausting her energy, but that she loves writing and public speaking.) "I encourage introverts to look at what their happy means, instead of trying to judge themselves against some society image or some sitcom image of what your life should be like," she says.

This article originally appeared on

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hey Mom, what's a caucus?

“I have never understood the Iowa caucus.” — Larry King

THAT'S OKAY, Larry, neither do we, and we've lived here most of our lives.

As you know, Paul and I reside in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation caucus. I've said before that I don't think we deserve our special status, but we have it for at least one more go-round anyway. 

To save you from having to ask:

  • Of course we will be caucusing.
  • With the Democrats.
  • For Bernie Sanders.

The caucus process on the Democratic side is interesting, to say the least . . . and complicated! 

I'll give you a brief rundown: After credential verification — attendees must be US citizens, live in the precinct and be registered (or register there on the spot) as Democrats. This is an extremely labor-intensive, time-consuming step in the process because when it's a presidential year, many residents will be inspired to participate for the first time, and many voters will have moved into the precinct during the preceding four or eight years. 

At the predetermined (and advertised) time, an attendee count is made, and that becomes the governing number. At this point, no one else can join in. 

Attendees are allotted a certain length of time to divide into candidate preference groups, and a speaker is elected in each who is authorized to give a brief, timed, persuasion speech to the body at large in hopes of swaying those in other preference groups to defect.

That's followed by another timed period where all verified participants are allowed to roam and engage members of other preference groups in an effort to persuade them to switch to their candidate. When that period has elapsed, exact tallies are taken to determine whether a candidate is viable or not. Viability is calculated by a complex formula based on the total number of attendees. 

I was precinct chair, and Paul my able assistant, in two non-incumbant presidential election years — in other words when there was no sitting president running for reelection, and my oh my, what a circus!! The last time I chaired was when President Obama ran the first time around; it was a mad house! 

In an off-election year, we might get three people showing up for my precinct's caucus, but in 2008 we had 200 plus — way more than the room could accommodate or was even safe — all of whom had to be checked in one by one. Beforehand, Paul and I had created 
designated candidate-preference gathering areas so there wouldn't be a free-for-all in claiming parts of the room, we'd printed multiple copies of the rules and agenda — though as it turned out, not enough — and put out cookies, coffee and water. It would be a long night.

There are rules about how much candidate signage can be displayed per candidate, and campaigning by candidates, staffers, volunteers and all other non-participants is permitted only outside the premises. The press and other interested parties are allowed to observe inside during the process, but must be cordoned off to prevent interference. They can not participate in any way unless they happen to actually be registered to vote in that precinct — so FYI: the scene in The Good Wife where Alicia and the kids are inside a precinct caucus in Iowa trying to persuade participants to rally for Peter is completely bogus! 

Meanwhile, the clock is running. Letters from officials have to be read, delegates elected, counts made, forms filled out properly, signed and witnessed. 
Results must be called into a special number set up for the purpose using a secret security pass code by a designated bewitching hour so that reporting can be timely. 

Because so much is riding on the outcome of our first-in-the-nation caucus, strict procedures are in place to prevent tampering or rigging including having the result call-in witnessed by caucus attendees. All the documents are then placed (and again witnessed) into sealed and double-sealed envelopes, and something around a two-day window is allotted to get the physical results to the county chairs and from there to the Secretary of State

Since our precinct is located at most just a 20-minute drive from the special SOS receiving station set up for the night, we always drove there and handed our documents over in person immediately.  

From prep to bed, it was like running 16-hour marathon, grueling, utterly exhausting, and I freely admit that I am thrilled, overjoyed, delighted, ecstatic, pleased as punch, in seventh heaven, on cloud nine, giddy — well, you get the idea — to not being doing it again!! 

I'm glad I had the experience, and in retrospect, I'm rather proud of myself for caring enough and being brave enough to step into the ring and wrestle this beast of a process down to the ground, but this time around it's someone else's turn. I will enjoy being just a participant.

I said all that to say this: below, according to the New York Post, are the latest polls in Iowa

I can tell you one thing for sure from experiencing it; Bernie Sanders has a heck of a volunteer army here. Someone from his campaign calls Paul or me about every other day, and last night one of his volunteers door-knocked in no-degree weather to make sure we were caucusing. He has so many volunteers, they're almost tripping over each other.

Trump and Sanders hold big leads in Iowa polls

By Geoff Earle 

January 21, 2016

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump is thumping Ted Cruz by double digits in a new Iowa poll, while Bernie Sanders has grabbed a significant lead from Hillary Clinton among Democrats likely to caucus in the state.

Trump, who has been neck-and-neck with Cruz in recent Iowa GOP surveys, now leads the Texas senator 37 percent to 26 percent, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at with 14 percent, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Thursday.

Republican Ben Carson dropped to just 6 percent.

Sanders cracked a majority in the poll, leading Clinton 51 percent to 43 percent in the Democratic primary – presenting Team Clinton with a unsettling rerun scenario of 2008, when she ended up a disappointing third in Iowa.

A month ago, Clinton was running away from Sanders, beating him 54 percent to 36 percent in the state.

A series of recent Iowa polls have had the Republican race closer than the newest survey — including the Des Moines Register, which showed Cruz narrowly edging Trump 25 to 22 percent in a poll issued Jan. 13.

To win, Trump will need to turn out people who haven’t showed up to caucus in the past.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The safest and least safe airlines in the world

“Qantas. Qantas never crashed.” — Raymond Babbitt, played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man

HEY, this seems like useful information. It's from Time magazine which reprinted the story from Travel + Leisure.

These Airlines Have the Lowest Safety Ratings

By Anya Hoffman / Travel + Leisure  
January 13, 2016

Along with a list of safest carriers around the world

When thinking about the range of qualities we look for in an airline, the ability to deliver us to our destination alive is at the top of the list (just slightly edging out leg room). Safety is primary when flying: we want to travel on airlines that are rigorous about safety inspections, use innovative navigation technology, and adhere to basic best practices, like making sure the plane is heading in the right direction and closing all doors before taking off.

Unfortunately, some airlines—as per the ratings listed on—have some work to do. The aviation safety–focused website performs a comprehensive analysis of data from several international aviation and government sources and gives every airline they monitor a numerical rating from 1 to 7. 

Airlines that receive a 7 are considered the safest; those that receive a 1 are the least safe. The ratings are based on several factors, including whether or not the airline is FAA-endorsed, if it meets International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards, and whether it operates only Russian-built aircrafts (which, apparently, automatically earns an air carrier a demerit).

So which airlines flunked this evaluation? Here’s a list of all the carriers and how likely we’d be to fly on them:

That’s Okay, I’ll Pass (Rating: 3)

Air Bagan
AirAsia Thailand
AirAsia Zest
Avia Traffic Company
Bangkok Air
Cambodia Angkor Air
Drukair Royal Bhutan
Felix Airways
Garuda Indonesia
JetStar Pacific
Libyan Airlines
Nauru Airlines
Orient Thai Airlines
Polynesian Airlines
Somon Air
Tajik Air

Definitely Not (Rating: 2)

Airlines PNG
Ariana Afghan Airlines
Blue Wing
Daallo Airlines
Kam Air

Not If You Paid Me (Rating: 1)

Batik Air
KalStar Aviation
Lion Air
Nepal Airlines
Sriwijaya Air and Nam Air
Tara Air
Wings Air
Xpress Air

On a brighter note, just released their annual announcement of the world’s 20 safest airlines. At the top of the list for the third year in a row is Australian carrier Qantas, which has never had a fatality. 

The World's 20 Safest Airlines (in alphabetical order)

American Airlines
Alaska Airlines
All Nippon Airways
Air New Zealand
Cathay Pacific Airways
Emirates, Etihad Airways
EVA Air, Finnair
Hawaiian Airlines
Japan Airlines
Scandinavian Airline System
Singapore Airlines
United Airlines
Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Australia

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure