Friday, January 25, 2008

Trader Joe's Comes to Richmond (for real this time?)

Trader Joe's is coming to Richmond. Okay, actually, it's Henrico County. Well, okay, it's sort of just a rumor. But, I trust that the rest of you interweb-sleuths will figure it out for sure. A coworker showed me this aerial map of the hideous overdevelopment plans for Short Pump and there's Trader Joes' nestled in with the new PetCo across from Best Buy and Target (thanks West Broad Village message board).

Do you believe it? Trader Joe's takes the guess work outta my bargain hunting hobby, but if I can get Charles Shaw Shiraz for $3.29, who's complaining? Anyhow, to answer my own question, no I don't believe it. I had heard that Trader Joe's tried to come to Richmond a few years back, but they were blocked by the Ukrops family, who believed that only heathens and blasphemers paid less than $6.50 for fancy cheese, much less buying groceries on the lord's day. Sorry, I just threw-up in my mouth a little bit.

The story goes that Trader Joe's sought out an ideal spot at Libbie and Grove, but just as the paperwork was going through, Ukrops swooped in and planted something there called "Joe's Market," a pale impersonation to say the least (with a name to add insult to injury). One can only guess what sort of backroom shenanigans and feeble flexing (that is the hallmark of our local politics) reinforced this move and has persuaded Trader Joe's from attempting to expand into Richmond until now. If that story is true, I wonder what's changed of late.

I still think the possibility of Trader Joe's in Short Pump is good news, even though I'll have to wade deep into the big-box wonderland in order to splurge on 3-4 items at Whole Foods and then fill my trunk full of Trader Joe's goodies. Sure, it would make a much better anchor store at a struggling strip mall (or Willow Lawn type installation), but it's closer than Newport News or Vienna. Do me a favor, dear readers, and let me know if there is any merit to this "news" (or break it to me gently if this is old news). Also, my previous posts about healthy living are in need of attention (I mean, you're perfect the way you are, but...).

update: it looks like someone else mentioned "unconfirmed whispers" of TJ's in RVA earlier this month.


Most of you probably recognize this phrase from South Park's Eric Cartman. He took a lot of body-building supplements in order to get buff, but didn't realize that you're supposed to work out to burn the calories and turn the carbs into muscle. Sometimes I feel like Cartman (see this and...)...

It's gotten so I'm afraid to step on the scale, because I'm not finding enough time to work out, but I'm doing those protein shakes like clockwork. Luckily, I'm not downing weightgain 4000, the variety that Eric Cartman fell for. Stop reading right now and go back and click those links. They're great (even better en espanol).

Seriously though, the scale doesn't lie, but it doesn't tell the whole truth either. Personally, I'm getting stronger. My man-boobs aren't jiggling quite as much. And, although I don't yet have six-pack abs, my pony-keg isn't splooshing around like it used to. And it's all because of the diet advice that I listed in my previous post (...and ovo-lacto-pesca vegetarianism, progressive politics, sporadic weight training).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Enough diet advice to go 'round

I've been stock piling techniques to lose weight, never fully committing to any of them, but dabbling and searching for some dynamic equilibrium. These rules go through my head constantly, usually when I'm breaking them. They often contradict each other, but I'm not big on absolutes. Some of the advice here actually has done me some good, but regardless, they need to be shared cuz some of this might work for you as well.

Here's my ever growing diversity of dietary tactics:

-In the AM, eat nothing but fresh fruit - as much as you want. (I lost 7 lbs in three weeks doing only this)

-Eat all of your favorite foods, but swap dinner for breakfast. In other words, eat a breakfast that is the size of your normal dinner and eat a dinner that is the size of your normal breakfast.

-Green smoothies. Put your favorite fruits in a blender, along with water or juice AND A BIG HANDFUL OR TWO OF KALE OR SPINACH. Blend until the greens are totally liquefied (you may decide to pick up a Vitamix for this if you get into it). Drink about a quart of this with lunch or sometime before dinner.

-No food after 8pm, not even ice cream.

-Bring some weights into the living room and do a few sets of this or that during TV time.

-Quite calorie counting. That doesn't help you choose healthy foods. Too many low-cal foods are processed, full of preservatives, carcinogenic fake sugar, and just plain "untasty." Instead, find out how yummy healthy food can be. As you expand your healthy repertoire, the stuff the weighs you down will slowly get crowded out of your routine.

-No sugar in your coffee or tea (but keep the cream... incremental change, yall). Slowly, you'll grow to appreciate the true flavor of your favorite hot beverages.

-Before a meal, drink a low-calorie smoothie. If you exercise, make sure to add some kind of protein (like powdered soy, whey, etc). This should cut back on your appetite come meal time.

-Smaller plates. This generally leads to smaller portions at meal time and tricks your mind into thinking you've accomplished the ritual of eating a whole meal by "clearing your plate."

-Eat at these Richmond restaurants for a change.

-Don't finish your spouse's meal after s/he is done. Let it go. One of you can take the leftovers to work for lunch the next day.

-Eat more of these. Not the book, the stuff inside.

-Do like my wife: Eat small portions slowly. Chew with deliberate mindfulness. Save room for desert and then make that small as well.

-Don't order salads at restaurants. They generally suck and are laden with heavy dressing. Eat what you want when you go out, and learn to make some really kick-ass salads that you like. Eat those at home for dinner twice a week.

Here's a satisfying salad recipe:
  • lettuce or other tender greens
  • sunflower seeds (or pepitas or other salad topper type nuts)
  • ginger dressing (make this one if you can't find the divine stuff from Makoto)
  • strips of wanton wrappers (saute them on the stove for 1 min w/a little oil until crunchy)
  • seared tuna with an Asian spice rub (veg-heads: just use some tofu, but be sure to get some char marks on that thang).
Toss it and sit down to watch a movie with this in your lap and maybe some sake. Mmmmmm.

-Another approach I've taken to my nutrition is to buy supplements that are in the clearance bin at Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, etc. Sometimes the discounts are around 75% and they'll have a bunch of stuff that is really trendy and would otherwise be expensive. Sure, the expiration date is probably approaching or past, but don't let details like that keep you from a bargain and a worth-while experiment.

Here's some stuff that I'm taking religiously right now:
(no idea if/what these might actually be doing for me at this point)

  • Tahitian Noni juice, but not from pyramid scheme marketing sales guys (smells like liquid antibiotics - ew)
  • Whey protein isolate (taken as a smoothie, partial meal replacement cuz you eat less after drinking it)
  • Dehydrated ground Acai berries (added to the whey shake for antioxidant properties)
  • Royal Jelly 300mg (good enough for the queen bee, good enough for me)
  • Men's Multi-vitamin (Origin brand from Target, super cheap, but has some cool stuff like Q10, green tea extract, etc)
  • Vitamin D3: 1000mg megadose (father in-law says it's the ticket to health)
  • Migra-ease (contains butterbur, ginger, etc, cuz I get headaches)
Okay, so what do you think? Have you had success with any of these techniques or products? Got any suggestions? If you decide to adopt some part of this, lemme know how it goes.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Virginia Immigrant People’s Coalition

If you are tired of seeing the important politics of our state hijacked by fear-mongering anti-immigration campaigns, here's a chance to take a stand: Join the Virginia Immigrant People's Coalition.


Dear Friends,

The Virginia Immigrant People’s Coalition was founded to organize an effective community response to the anti immigrant policies and bills that are being proposed at the Virginia General Assembly.

The coalition is a collective effort of grassroots immigrant organizations and individuals working in Virginia including Madre Tierra, Virginia Justice Center, Woodbridge Workers Committee, Immigrant Solidarity Network of Charlottesville, Making a Difference Foundation, Mexicanos Sin Fronteras and The People United.

The VIP Coalition would like to acknowledge the organizations and individuals throughout Virginia and across the United States who work tirelessly to support human rights and dignity for all people. We respect and honor the work that you have been doing in your community. It is with this in mind that we reach out to you during this very disturbing time. We ask you to join us in the Virginia Immigrant Peoples Coalition, to stand up against the tidal wave of anti-immigrant activity sweeping
the state and the nation.

We will gather in Richmond on February 11th to lobby and protest against the dozens of inhumane and mean-spirited bills being introduced which would strip the immigrant community of basic human dignity and criminalize families, children, students, families, and churches and community groups that provide support. We are also protesting the upsurge in racist ordinances attacking immigrants and human dignity in general, including the use of housing ordinances against immigrant families, the use of school children to target immigrant families, and the use of local police
to enforce federal immigration laws.

The VIP Coalition will be joined by a number of church, labor, Native American, African American, civil and human rights groups.


The VIP Coalition invites you to participate in the Regional Immigrant Peoples Solidarity Gathering. On Saturday, January 19th the VIP Coalition and many other groups and individuals will meet to organize a political strategy and build an action plan that will include the Immigrant Day of Action at the VA Assembly and other initiatives. The meeting will take place at St Augustine Catholic Church of Richmond, 4400 Beulah, Richmond, VA 23237 from 10 am to 5 pm.

Organizations or individuals wishing to endorse or participate in the actions are asked to contact:
Jeff Winder: (434)906-0421,
Ricardo Juarez: (571) 288-9903,

For more info, you can also visit this page on internet, click on the link below or copy and paste into your browser:

As Dr. King wrote, “We are all tied up in an inescapable network of mutuality.” We appreciate your support and look forward to working more closely with you.

In Solidarity,

Ricardo Juarez Nava
General Coordinator – Mexicanos sin Fronteras (Mexicans Without Borders)
on behalf of The Virginia Immigrant Peoples Coalition

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Are immigrants ruining Virginia?

Does the thought of sharing our state with "illegals" make your blood boil? Are you worried about your children's future in a climate of shifting demographics? Do you judge every presidential candidate by their immigration plan? Are you thinking of joining your local "Help Save Virginia" or starting one in the Richmond region?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, I think we need to talk (not just you and me, but a great many Virginians need to step up and engage in this debate). I'm not sure how the conversation should procede (and frankly, I think there are more pressing issues), but I'm not interested in seeing enflamed adversarial clashes that leave everyone scarred. A blogger buddy-o-mine has posted a couple short entries here and here that I'd like to share with you. These posts didn't get much attention, but I enjoyed them.

"Where are they from and why do they come here?"

Isn't this the question we should be starting with? For me, Stakolee's contributions serve as valuable food for thought, and it is these kinds of arguments that will create more introspection about our own reactions to the immigration issue and appreciation of the human beings that are the subject of this debate.

The local and national pressure around immigration doesn't seem like it is really headed toward a workable solution. The current byproducts of the anti-immigrant campaign is are: fear, anger, and possessiveness, to name only a few unhealthy attitudes. I have trouble believing that actually uprooting people by the millions would be satisfying to anyone, nor would our future generations be proud to have that as part of their history. As we go forward, I think we should focus on the VALUES that we want to see endure through this dilemma. For me, those values are: trust, cooperation, equality, education, mutual understanding, and compassion. How about you?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Baby-moon Road Trip!!! RVA to DC and Back

We picked out a couple museums, a fancy Italian restaurant, a hipster brunch spot, and a hotel with a pool. Every stop was a high point for us and we didn't argue once. All in all, it was an ideal getaway.

First Stop: the Native American History Museum

Actually, having skipped breakfast and just getting off the road, we went straight for the very popular cafeteria which featured food inspired by many of the ingredients and dishes that were typical to Native Americans. The place was a chaos of curious customers and a frenzy of confusion. However, once past the lines the swarming throngs, we could see the grub and their labels. We split up and brought back a tamale, savory corn pudding (our fave), smoked squash salad, fry bread with honey, and a white chocolate papaya smoothie. The food was fantastic! I don't think I've had fry bread like that before.

As for the exhibits, we were less than impressed. Sure, there were lots of Indian artifacts and examples from the modern day Native American experience, but something connecting these two was missing. It was almost as if the Indians have simply assimilated seamlessly into American culture as soon as Columbus showed up. I didn't see any overt references to the extermination of the First Nations in America. In fact, the impressive modern layout of the museum was on display more than anything else.

National Gallery of Art

Karen showed me a bunch of her favorite artists, some of which gave us ideas for baby names (that's the only hint you're getting). This all came about when I spotted three books about Joseph Cornell on Karen's shelf and had no idea who this other man was in my wife's life. So, she took me there and showed me three cute little shadow boxes. My assessment: No threat.

Dinner at D'Acqua

After lounging and swimming at the Hilton (and reading this awesome interview with Anthony Bourdain in the Onion newspaper), we took a series of trains to a charming little Italian seafood restaurant on Pennsylvania Ave. It was a bit of a splurge for us, but Karen had just come home with some good financial news (good enough to afford a nice dinner, anyhow). So, this restaurant was fine dinning for sure, but it was also really special. The first two courses were easy enough. We put in our orders for the seafood carpaccio platter and the fennel/endive insalata and then we asked for help deciding on the rest. This was a great choice on our part, because the server brought us over to the "fish market," which was a really attractive display of iced down fish, octopuses, lobster, etc. The chef, Enzo Febbraro, explained that their fish are brought in each day from the Mediterranean. The guy was the real deal and the seafood looked like it might even be worth the hefty prices.

I ordered a whole branzino baked in a mound of sea salt. This salt crust cooking style is a traditional method and is said to lock in moisture. Holy-moly was this fish de-lish. I'd seen the salt baking technique on TV, but this place actually brings it to you, breaks through the salt and debones the fish for you. Since it was only about a one pounder, there wasn't a whole lot to eat, but what was there melted in my mouth. Karen ordered sea bass fillets in a saffron reduction and she loved it. The broth was phenomenal. There were some sides that also pleased: perfectly grilled veggies and a potato pancake with Italian ham and moz cheese (just for Karen). After this dining treat, we walked back to the metro with our heads in the clouds.

Teaism in Dupon Cirle

On the way to brunch, we passed through a tempting farmer's market. I bought some high-brow pepper jack and Karen took a picture of these awesome looking mushrooms.

By the time we made it to Teaism in Dupont Circle (after more swimming and checking out of the hotel), I was not in the mood for tedium. And Sunday at brunch time is probably not the best time to get introduced to this very hip zen libation laboratory. Since all the seats were taken up, we wound up out front on a bench under an over-sized bonsai tree. We each had our own pots of tea (green for me and something fruity and herbal for karen), a couple of their famous "salted oatmeal cookies" (pretty darned good), and we split a cilantro eggs scramble (divine!). The combination of soothing teas and satisfying foods really helped us get closer to the dharma. After that, we weren't even phased by the the site of Burrito Brothers replaced by a 50's style burger joint.

the hightened state of consciousness made me take this pic in the Dupont Circle Metro station

Sammy T's in Fredericksburg

On the way back to Richmond we stopped at what might be my favorite restaurant in the world. Did I just say that? Sammy T's on Caroline Street in "downtown" historic Fredericksburg was a frequent treat when I was attending Mary Washington College. The place is a vegetarian mecca, but you wouldn't know it by it's appearance. It just looks like a plain old wood grain restaurant where you'd find sandwiches and a few semi-fancy entrees. Well, that's actually Sammy T's to a "T", but they also happen to have numerous vegetarian items that simply couldn't be better (felafel, tempeh, bean and grain burger, lentil burger, tabouli, and a bunch of invented classics like the Camper's Special).

Sure, Sammy's serves meat too, so you can bring your finicky friends, but why would you when you can order veggie and get a ramekin of lemon tahini sauce that will blow your mind. Seriously, if you have tried tahini and wondered why people eat the stuff, this sauce will clue you in to the potential of sesame paste. Sammy's was sooo good to both of us on Sunday that we couldn't even squeeze in a cup of joe from the best coffee shop in all of Virginia: Hyperion Espresso. I religiously order the Sumatran, but everything is good at Hyperion when enjoyed from one of their extra-wide mugs.

So, that pretty much concluded our trip. On the way home, we jumped off the highway one more time at Masaponax to visit a strip mall where there's a Marshalls and a Ross next to each other. Hunting for bargains at these two discount stores is one of our favorite past-times, but this visit was simply an attempt to squeeze in one last favorite. I strapped a baby harness to my chest and walked around Marhsalls looking for my wife (everyone probably wondered where my infant could be, until they saw my pregnant wife), but didn't end up buying it. Ross is good for some clearance clothes, but not for high end brands. They're fading from my list of top discount shopping stores (too bad Willow Lawn put so much hope in their allure).

Once home, Karen and I basked in our successful "budget baby-moon" and had a home cooked meal from one of my favorite cookbooks, Perfect Vegetables. We had braised baby bok choy with shallots (and fake bacon and bacon salt). There were also some Trader Joe's dumplings from a previous visit to NoVA (is there a pattern here?. Anyways, now it's time to hunkner down for the rest of this pregnancy. The due date is early April and we've got my graduate course starting this week, Lamaze classes, and what's that other thing? Oh yeah, the dreaded awkward immobility of the third trimester. Well, wish us luck. Better yet, buy us stuff.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Builds Schools Now! Chimes in on Prez issue

Today, I had the privilege of taking a peek at a press release for the Richmond Council of PTAs as it was being edited and sent out. It's titled "Crisis in School Board Leadership." Their Build Schools Now! initiative has been trying to light a fire under Richmond's education system, particularly calling for the city's political leadership to come together with the business leadership and invest in new state-of-the-art schools that would demonstrate a new direction for education in Richmond. The text from the press release is pasted below, but first, here's my current take is the situation (not speaking for any group):

The blogs that have been beating the drums for George Braxton's removal as School Board prez are being a little shortsighted. They highlight a lot of problematic behavior that I believe need to be addressed. However, I don't think the buck stops with Braxton. Other members of Richmond's elected "leadership" have as much blame, if not more (in the case of Wilder), to assume for our school system's current state of disrepair and lack of direction. Personally, I really want to see progress at any cost, to establish some forward momentum. Because when my (yet unborn) kid is ready for school in five years, I want him to go to RPS. But, I don't believe that swapping figureheads does much to change the political distrust and habitual finger-pointing at City Hall (see misguided at-large "strong mayor" mistake). In the words of fed up Argentinians in 2002, "Que se vayan todos" (throw them all out). The only way to ensure change is to let the officials know that they are ALL wearing a badge of shame until progress is made. Nothing is granted without a demand and we need to tell the system WHAT we want, not WHO we want.


Richmond City Council of P.T.A’s
Build schools Now
Contact Art Burton: 804-467-6408

Press Statement
Topic: Crisis in School Board Leadership

The main premise behind Build Schools Now is the fact that our City’s leadership has been unwilling to make a capital investment in its children, i.e. building schools that demonstrate the widespread desire for a 21st century education system in Richmond. This ongoing disappointment is a major indicator that our leadership is failing the children of this city.

In December, Build Schools Now members attended a City Council committee meeting where the school board audit was to be discussed. The auditor of the City of Richmond announced that he was short on staff and was not able to conduct the audit in a timely manner. Nonetheless, the City Council and the Wilder administration seemed to be at odds over the purpose and goal of the audit. The school system seemed to be simply using the audit as a way to “redirect” money identified as potential savings to other areas. In this case, the City Council would have zero input into the process on “redirecting” surplus education funds. City Administration and School Board administration seemed to be at odds over whether the School administration was to be “redirecting” or “capturing” savings. In general, there seems to be no agreed upon goal for the audit, no timeline for completion of the audit, nor any benchmarks to measure compliance by the School Board.

Also in December, we reported to the Health, Education, and Human Services committee of City Council that we could not support the building proposal sent forward by the school board of the city of Richmond because it did not address two pressing needs while prioritizing new construction that is not immediately necessary. The proposal did not address our concerns about Richmond’s lack of a first class high school, and it did not address concerns regarding a two school solution for the East End of Richmond. We also disagreed with the idea that an alternative school should be built prior to any other building taken on by the school system.

Moreover ADA information included in the package was dated and contained information about schools that were already closed or offline. The fact that the school board had not taken the time to update its information showed a lack of seriousness around the matter of both school construction and ADA compliance.

Build Schools Now has repeatedly attempted to address the Mayor’s demand that there should be school closings in the city. We have sought a meeting were Mayor Wilder could clarify his position and perhaps assist us in developing a reasonable plan for school building and school closings. However to this date, we have not been invited to meet with the Mayor on this matter. Furthermore, the current political climate does not suggest to us that the school administration will work to get to a “bottom line” from the Mayor on school closings, and we do not believe that the City Council has the political courage to demand that schools be closed. We believe that the Mayor’s unwillingness to collaborate with the School Board is at the heart of the current impasse.

Our children, our families, and our community are being held hostage by demands for school consolidation, perpetually delayed school construction, and the continued stalemate around the audit of the Richmond’s education system. On every turn we are being greeted by political infighting, distrust among those in leadership positions, and ongoing neglect and disregard for the wellbeing of our children and community. We continue to see a lack of vision for quality education in this city. The School Board has clearly decided that “misdirection” and infighting are more important matters than building schools and creating a “new direction”, while our mayor and City Council remains locked in a power struggle.

The Richmond City Council of P.T.A’S will continue to put forward its demand that the political leadership in this city (including the influential members of the business community) end the blame game, infighting and finger pointing, and get serious about the children of the city of Richmond by making a capital investment in them and Build Schools Now.

• We are asking that the School Board of the City of Richmond put forward a “real” plan that begins to address the building needs over all of its community to include ADA compliance.

• We are asking that the City Council of Richmond direct its auditor to complete the audit in a timely fashion and that goal, objectives, timelines be established to insure all parties have the same understanding of outcome measures.

• We ask the Mayor and administration to assist in the development of a realistic school consolidation plan that includes community input. His role should also include the cultivation of political will around the need to engage in and invest in such a plan.

While all leadership in this city states a love for the children of this city and a desire to provide a 21st Century education, move them “from good to great,” ensure that they have a “20/20 vision” and offer us a “new direction”; leadership’s actions to date do not match their words. To remedy this the Richmond City council of PTA’s can only say:

Contact Art Burton: 804-467-6408

Shopping for Internet : Leaving Comcast for...?

I need help. Karen and I are fed up with Comcast. First, we ditched their cable TV signal for Dish Network, but we haven't found a new internet provider. I'm going to run down some of the options we're looking at, but please let me know if there are alternatives that I'm leaving out. Hopefully, this post will help others find the most affordable in-home internet access, but let's start with ME FIRST.

Since we moved to Byrd Park, we've been paying $55 a month for internet and basic cable (combined). Now that the mini-dish is hooked up (200 channels!), Karen went to Comcast to have them take the basic TV cable off of our deal and lower our monthly payment for internet access. And what do ya know? The price actually goes UP if you discontinue the TV aspect of the Comcast bundle. It goes up from $55 to $60.

Plus, we don't have a need for a land line since we're content with our respective cell phones: an important point, since this keeps us from benefiting from the economical benefit of bundling services.

Okay, here are the options that I'm aware of:

Verizon: High speed internet is $24.99 per month. The new FIOS (fiber optic 5 Mbps) service is $47.99/mo. Anyone have any experience with either of these? How fast is the non-FIOS cable? The answer: 786 kbps. How does that compare to Broadband?

: $19.99 (256 kbps) ($14.99 w/2yr commitment) These guys seem pretty shady with their incessant mailings. The site only quote promotional prices and doesn't include monthly prices after the initial promotional period.

Richmond FREE WiFi: Don't really now how this works, but I'm waiting to hear back from them. Obviously, the best possible option would be FREE internet for my whole neighborhood.

Comcast: $42.99/mo (6 Mbps). What gives? Why am I paying more for this? Is it really faster than FIOS?


Okay, that's enough research for now. Where do I go from here? Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

He makes me wanna vote TODAY

We're gonna have a new president (elect) by this time next year, and I have to admit that the process is less than empowering and invigorating. There are countless lessons that we should have learned from W's first term, but we didn't. And those errors in our collective judgment have snowballed into an embarrassing lame duck that we currently wear like a wart on our faces as we ride out this second term. It begs the question, "Who do we vote for this time around?"

I don't know about you, but I believe the Republican party deserves defeat. Every single one of their presidential candidates represent the same bass-ackwards intolerance and mis-leadership that we've endured for the past seven years (yes, that goes for Ron Paul too). But are the Democrats much better? For me, the big D often stands for disappointment. Luckily, there are degrees of hope in the primary pack and there are some flamboyant personalities to help us sort it all out. To help begin this process (and in honor of the Iowa primary) I am posting a message that I got from Michael Moore the other day. I enjoyed it, and I hope you do to.


Who Do We Vote For This Time Around? A Letter from Michael Moore

January 2, 2008


A new year has begun. And before we've had a chance to break our New Year's resolutions, we find ourselves with a little more than 24 hours before the good people of Iowa tell us whom they would like to replace the man who now occupies three countries and a white house.

Twice before, we have begun the process to stop this man, and twice we have failed. Eight years of our lives as Americans will have been lost, the world left in upheaval against us... and yet now, today, we hope against hope that our moment has finally arrived, that the amazingly powerful force of the Republican Party will somehow be halted. But we know that the Democrats are experts at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and if there's a way to blow this election, they will find it and do it with gusto.

Do you feel the same as me? That the Democratic front-runners are a less-than-stellar group of candidates, and that none of them are the "slam dunk" we wish they were? Of course, there are wonderful things about each of them. Any one of them would be infinitely better than what we have now. Personally, Congressman Kucinich, more than any other candidate, shares the same positions that I have on the issues (although the UFO that picked ME up would only take me as far as Kalamazoo). But let's not waste time talking about Dennis. Even he is resigned to losing, with statements like the one he made yesterday to his supporters in Iowa to throw their support to Senator Obama as their "second choice."

So, it's Hillary, Obama, Edwards -- now what do we do?

Two months ago, Rolling Stone magazine asked me to do a cover story where I would ask the hard questions that no one was asking in one-on-one interviews with Senators Clinton, Obama and Edwards. "The Top Democrats Face Off with Michael Moore." The deal was that all three candidates had to agree to let me interview them or there was no story. Obama and Edwards agreed. Mrs. Clinton said no, and the cover story was thus killed.

Why would the love of my life, Hillary Clinton, not sit down to talk with me? What was she afraid of?

Those of you who are longtime readers of mine may remember that 11 years ago I wrote a chapter (in my first book) entitled, "My Forbidden Love for Hillary." I was fed up with the treatment she was getting, most of it boringly sexist, and I thought somebody should stand up for her. I later met her and she thanked me for referring to her as "one hot s***kicking feminist babe." I supported and contributed to her run for the U.S. Senate. I think she is a decent and smart person who loves this country, cares deeply about kids, and has put up with more crap than anyone I know of (other than me) from the Crazy Right. Her inauguration would be a thrilling sight, ending 218 years of white male rule in a country where 51% of its citizens are female and 64% are either female or people of color.

And yet, I am sad to say, nothing has disappointed me more than the disastrous, premeditated vote by Senator Hillary Clinton to send us to war in Iraq. I'm not only talking about her first vote that gave Mr. Bush his "authorization" to invade -- I'm talking about every single OTHER vote she then cast for the next four years, backing and funding Bush's illegal war, and doing so with verve. She never met a request from the White House for war authorization that she didn't like. Unlike the Kerrys and the Bidens who initially voted for authorization but later came to realize the folly of their decision, Mrs. Clinton continued to cast numerous votes for the war until last March -- four long years of pro-war votes, even after 70% of the American public had turned against the war. She has steadfastly refused to say that she was wrong about any of this, and she will not apologize for her culpability in America's worst-ever foreign policy disaster. All she can bring herself to say is that she was "misled" by "faulty intelligence."

Let's assume that's true. Do you want a President who is so easily misled? I wasn't "misled," and millions of others who took to the streets in February of 2003 weren't "misled" either. It was simply amazing that we knew the war was wrong when none of us had been briefed by the CIA, none of us were national security experts, and none of us had gone on a weapons inspection tour of Iraq. And yet... we knew we were being lied to! Let me ask those of you reading this letter: Were YOU "misled" -- or did you figure it out sometime between October of 2002 and March of 2007 that George W. Bush was up to something rotten? Twenty-three other senators were smart enough to figure it out and vote against the war from the get-go. Why wasn't Senator Clinton?

I have a theory: Hillary knows the sexist country we still live in and that one of the reasons the public, in the past, would never consider a woman as president is because she would also be commander in chief. The majority of Americans were concerned that a woman would not be as likely to go to war as a man (horror of horrors!). So, in order to placate that mindset, perhaps she believed she had to be as "tough" as a man, she had to be willing to push The Button if necessary, and give the generals whatever they wanted. If this is, in fact, what has motivated her pro-war votes, then this would truly make her a scary first-term president. If the U.S. is faced with some unforeseen threat in her first years, she knows that in order to get re-elected she'd better be ready to go all Maggie Thatcher on whoever sneezes in our direction. Do we want to risk this, hoping the world makes it in one piece to her second term?

I have not even touched on her other numerous -- and horrendous -- votes in the Senate, especially those that have made the middle class suffer even more (she voted for Bush's first bankruptcy bill, and she is now the leading recipient of payoff money -- I mean campaign contributions -- from the health care industry). I know a lot of you want to see her elected, and there is a very good chance that will happen. There will be plenty of time to vote for her in the general election if all the pollsters are correct. But in the primaries and caucuses, isn't this the time to vote for the person who most reflects the values and politics you hold dear? Can you, in good conscience, vote for someone who so energetically voted over and over and over again for the war in Iraq? Please give this serious consideration.

Now, on to the two candidates who did agree to do the interview with me...

Barack Obama is a good and inspiring man. What a breath of fresh air! There's no doubting his sincerity or his commitment to trying to straighten things out in this country. But who is he? I mean, other than a guy who gives a great speech? How much do any of us really know about him? I know he was against the war. How do I know that? He gave a speech before the war started. But since he joined the senate, he has voted for the funds for the war, while at the same time saying we should get out. He says he's for the little guy, but then he votes for a corporate-backed bill to make it harder for the little guy to file a class action suit when his kid swallows lead paint from a Chinese-made toy. In fact, Obama doesn't think Wall Street is a bad place. He wants the insurance companies to help us develop a new health care plan -- the same companies who have created the mess in the first place. He's such a feel-good kinda guy, I get the sense that, if elected, the Republicans will ea t him for breakfast. He won't even have time to make a good speech about it.

But this may be a bit harsh. Senator Obama has a big heart, and that heart is in the right place. Is he electable? Will more than 50% of America vote for him? We'd like to believe they would. We'd like to believe America has changed, wouldn't we? Obama lets us feel better about ourselves -- and as we look out the window at the guy snowplowing his driveway across the street, we want to believe he's changed, too. But are we dreaming?

And then there's John Edwards.

It's hard to get past the hair, isn't it? But once you do -- and recently I have chosen to try -- you find a man who is out to take on the wealthy and powerful who have made life so miserable for so many. A candidate who says things like this: "I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an ironclad hold on our democracy." Whoa. We haven't heard anyone talk like that in a while, at least not anyone who is near the top of the polls. I suspect this is why Edwards is doing so well in Iowa, even though he has nowhere near the stash of cash the other two have. He won't take the big checks from the corporate PACs, and he is alone among the top three candidates in agreeing to limit his spending and be publicly funded. He has said, point-blank, that he's going after the drug companies and the oil companies and anyone else who is messing with the American worker. The media clearly find him to be a threat, probably because he will go after their mo nopolistic power, too. This is Roosevelt/Truman kind of talk. That's why it's resonating with people in Iowa, even though he doesn't get the attention Obama and Hillary get -- and that lack of coverage may cost him the first place spot tomorrow night. After all, he is one of those white guys who's been running things for far too long.

And he voted for the war. But unlike Senator Clinton, he has stated quite forcefully that he was wrong. And he has remorse. Should he be forgiven? Did he learn his lesson? Like Hillary and Obama, he refused to promise in a September debate that there will be no U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of his first term in 2013. But this week in Iowa, he changed his mind. He went further than Clinton and Obama and said he'd have all the troops home in less than a year.

Edwards is the only one of the three front-runners who has a universal health care plan that will lead to the single-payer kind all other civilized countries have. His plan doesn't go as fast as I would like, but he is the only one who has correctly pointed out that the health insurance companies are the enemy and should not have a seat at the table.

I am not endorsing anyone at this point. This is simply how I feel in the first week of the process to replace George W. Bush. For months I've been wanting to ask the question, "Where are you, Al Gore?" You can only polish that Oscar for so long. And the Nobel was decided by Scandinavians! I don't blame you for not wanting to enter the viper pit again after you already won. But getting us to change out our incandescent light bulbs for some irritating fluorescent ones isn't going to save the world. All it's going to do is make us more agitated and jumpy and feeling like once we get home we haven't really left the office.

On second thought, would you even be willing to utter the words, "I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an ironclad hold on our democracy?" 'Cause the candidate who understands that, and who sees it as the root of all evil -- including the root of global warming -- is the President who may lead us to a place of sanity, justice and peace.


Michael Moore (not an Iowa voter, but appreciative of any state that has a town named after a sofa)