Sunday, September 30, 2007
For a country that is said to have no homosexuality, Iran goes to great lengths to ban it. Gays are punished by lashing or death if it is proved that they have had homosexual relations. Two gay teenagers were executed in 2005 in Mashad, a northeastern city.
Fear of persecution is so strong that some gay men and lesbians have sought and received asylum in Western countries. . . .
But Iran has also taken the unusual step of encouraging sex change operations for those with homosexual tendencies. While religious authorities here view homosexuality a clear sin, transsexuals are considered ill and in need of the help that such an operation can provide. . . .
I don't get it. Why can't homosexuality be an illness too (as it was in the U.S. until relatively recently)? That would at least be a step forward, don't you think? We'll see what happens. Meanwhile gays will be gays, death sentence or no.
Check out a gay Persian website here.
Not much going on this weekend, which is just as well. Yesterday I served Bœuf Bourguignon from a Julia Child recipe and B. hated it. I didn't think it was that great, but "hate" is a little strong. Actually, I've never much cared for it but hadn't had it in years. I prefer a Joy of Cooking beef stew recipe, which is flavored with sherry and cloves (among other things). Maybe I should have used a better wine, rather than Taylor Lake Country Red. Last night I whipped up some tomato sauce with hot Italian turkey sausage and served that for lunch today over left-over egg noodles. B. liked that. I'd simmered the sauce for maybe a couple of hours so the sausage was nice and tender.
Next Saturday is B's 40th birthday. I'm taking him to the Royal Bavarian Schnitzel Haus on 79th Street for dinner. (Never been there but heard only good things about it.) I made reservations today. I'll be having the sauerbraten and a side order of potato pancakes (supposed to be the best in Miami). The owner/chef is gay and used to be part-owner of the now defunct Edelweiss (last time I was there I had the Rolladen and they were awful--flavorless and likely freezer-burned).
Then we'll walk across the street to Sandal's gay night club. I think I can put up with the crowd for a couple of hours. We'll be taking a taxi down and back. Should be a good time. I just have to figure out what to wear. B. will be wearing a chichi black Diesel outfit, which he modeled for me yesterday.
Can you believe it? The media "kool kids" have come up with a new schoolyard diversion: critiquing Hillary Clinton's laugh. (I happen to enjoy her laugh myself.)
I first caught wind of it the other day at Talking Points Memo. See here. Then today we have the following. This from Frank Rich, in a piece titled "Is Hillary Clinton the New Old Al Gore?" (uh-oh, here we go again):
Then there was that laugh. The Clinton campaign's method for heeding the perennial complaints that its candidate comes across as too calculating and controlled is to periodically toss in a smidgen of what it deems personality. But these touches of intimacy seem even more calculating: the "Let's chat" campaign rollout, the ostensibly freewheeling but tightly controlled Web "conversations," the supposed vox populi referendum to choose a campaign song (which yielded a plain-vanilla Celine Dion clunker). . . .
And the perennially puerile Maureen Dowd had this (in "The Nepotism Tango"):
That’s why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.
These people really are pathetic.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Had a good weekend overall. I tallied up our household expenses, which I hadn't done since May. (This entails going through a whole lot of receipts and entering them into a spreadsheet.)
I made some great Tamale Pie yesterday. (B. loved it.) Here's the recipe: In a large skillet, brown 2 pounds of ground beef along with a medium onion, chopped, and a clove of garlic, chopped. Salt that a little. Drain fat. Add 1 can of tomato sauce; two packets of Chili-O seasoning; and 1 regular can of corn plus 1 small can of corn, along with the liquid from the cans. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring; then remove from heat and mix in 1 can of small black olives, chopped (don't add juice). Pour that into a baking pan and smooth over the top with a spatula. Make topping with two small boxes of yellow corn muffin or cornbread mix (e.g., Martha White), pour over the meat mixture, and smooth the top. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until the crust browns.
I love this stuff and hadn't made it in a while.
Meanwhile I have healed from the tooth extraction.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I think he writes great stuff these days--and I cite his columns here often--but I wasn't aware that he was one of those in the media who participated in the trashing of Al Gore prior to the 2000 election. Mind you, I was a little more naive and a little less well informed back then. It was around that time that I was beginning to delve into exactly what The New York Times was reporting and to read blogs, such as "Media Whores Online" and "The Daily Howler" (Bob Somerby).
I firmly believe that the media did a horrible disservice to the country during the 2000 elections, and as a direct result we got George Bush for president and all the mess he has heaped upon us. I blame the media--even more than I blame the Supreme Court--for George Bush's getting into office (even though the Supreme Court made it 'legal,' despite Al Gore's getting the most votes).
We should never let off the hook--for the deaths and maimings of our soldiers and of all the Iraqi civilians in the unnecessary and failed Iraq War, sold to the American people on false pretenses (and not to mention all the other misfeasance and malfeasance of Bush's administration)--those reporters who participated in the trashing of Al Gore. And one of those was Frank Rich. From a recent article in Vanity Fair:
The seeds of Gore's caricature had been planted in 1997 when he, the presumptive candidate for 2000, made a passing comment about Erich Segal's Love Story, over the course of a two-hour interview with Time's Karen Tumulty and The New York Times's Richard Berke, for profiles they were writing. Tumulty recounts today that, while casually reminiscing about his days at Harvard and his roommate, the future actor Tommy Lee Jones, Gore said, It's funny—he and Tipper had been models for the couple in his friend Erich Segal's Love Story, which was Jones's first film. Tumulty followed up, "Love Story was based on you and Tipper?" Gore responded, "Well, that's what Erich Segal told reporters down in Tennessee."
As it turned out, The Nashville Tennessean, the paper Gore was referring to, had said Gore was the model for the character of Oliver Barrett. But the paper made a small mistake. There was some Tommy Lee Jones thrown in, too. "The Tennessean reporter just exaggerated," Segal has said. And Tipper was not the model for Jenny.
In her story, Tumulty and co-author Eric Pooley treated the anecdote as an offhand comment. But political opinion writers at The New York Times, it seems, interpreted the remark as a calculated political move on Gore's part. "It's somewhat suspicious that Mr. Gore has chosen this moment to drop the news—unknown even to many close friends and aides," wrote Times columnist Maureen Dowd. "Does he think, going into 2000, that this will give him a romantic glow, or a romantic afterglow?" Times columnist Frank Rich followed it up. "What's bizarre," he wrote, "if all too revealing … is not that he inflated his past but that he would think that being likened to the insufferable preppy Harvard hockey player Oliver Barrett 4th was something to brag about in the first place." [Emphasis added.]
I'm sorry, but I find it easier to excuse Hillary Clinton for voting for the resolution that led to the invasion of Iraq than to excuse the reporters who ganged up on Al Gore and helped Bush get elected in the first place. It is they who are ultimately responsible for all the death, destruction, maiming, misery, and disgrace to our nation that this presidential administration has brought on.
I have to wonder whether we'd be in this situation had Al Gore become president. At any rate, eight long years of Bush--with the lack of U.S. initiative on climate change--can't have helped.
In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased.
Global warming - through a combination of melting glaciers, disappearing ice sheets and warmer waters expanding - is expected to cause oceans to rise by one meter, or about 39 inches. It will happen regardless of any future actions to curb greenhouse gases, several leading scientists say. And it will reshape the nation. . . .
Few of the more than two dozen climate experts interviewed disagree with the one-meter projection. Some believe it could happen in 50 years, others say 100, and still others say 150. . . .
"We're going to get a meter and there's nothing we can do about it,'' said University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver, a lead author of the February report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Paris. "It's going to happen no matter what - the question is when.'' . . .
Experts say that protecting America's coastlines would run well into the billions and not all spots could be saved. . . .
Read the whole Guardian article here.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Watched the final episode of Design Star tonight. Great entertainment, and often hilarious. I'm glad Kim won. (I voted for her online.) I didn't care for Todd's hotel suite re-do (the final competition). Kim isn't even a designer by trade (or training). She's a hair stylist. In addition to her good taste, however, her hosting skills were the best among all the contestants. I'll be looking forward to her show in the Spring.
I'm still on the mushy diet. Today I finished off the two salmon loaves, two fat-free yogurts, a carton of Edy's "Slow Churned" mint chocolate chip ice cream (1/2 the fat and 1/3 fewer calories than regular ice cream), some marinated avocado, a can of Goya hot Vienna sausage (good as far as Vienna sausage goes, but I prefer barbecue, which I can no longer find here), and a heaping helping of home-made tomato aspic, which I made with 24 oz. of V8 juice, two packets of Knox gelatin, salt, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and Louisiana hot sauce. It turned out great. Meanwhile the tooth socket appears to be healing properly, thank goodness. I've also been applying Biotène "Oral Balance" mouth moisturizing gel to the wound before going to sleep.
As a person of Christian upbringing myself, I deign not judge my fellow human beings, but despite all that Newt Gingrich is in my humble estimation a cad and a despicable human being (although he's right on about George Bush's failure as president). Let him run for president and see what happens. As compromised and hypocritical as the Religious Right is, they still wouldn't overtly support a candidate who cheated on his second wife while she lay in the hospital battling cancer and then divorced her (serving papers in the hospital, no less) to marry the mistress. He's a piece of shit. "Bring it on."
SIR, I don't know, actually": The fact that America's surrogate commander in chief, David Petraeus, could not say whether the war in Iraq is making America safer was all you needed to take away from last week's festivities in Washington. Everything else was a verbal quagmire, as administration spin and senatorial preening fought to a numbing standoff.
Not that many Americans were watching. The country knew going in that the White House would win its latest campaign to stay its course of indefinitely shoveling our troops and treasure into the bottomless pit of Iraq. The only troops coming home alive or with their limbs intact in President Bush's troop "reduction" are those who were scheduled to be withdrawn by April anyway. Otherwise the president would have had to extend combat tours yet again, mobilize more reserves or bring back the draft.
On the sixth anniversary of the day that did not change everything, General Petraeus couldn't say we are safer because he knows we are not. Last Sunday, Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the C.I.A.'s Osama bin Laden unit, explained why. He wrote in The Daily News that Al Qaeda, under the de facto protection of Pervez Musharraf, is "on balance" more threatening today that it was on 9/11. And as goes Pakistan, so goes Afghanistan. On Tuesday, just as the Senate hearings began, Lisa Myers of NBC News reported on a Taliban camp near Kabul in an area nominally controlled by the Afghan government we installed. It is training bomb makers to attack America.
Little of this registered in or beyond the Beltway. New bin Laden tapes and the latest 9/11 memorial rites notwithstanding, we're back in a 9/10 mind-set. Bin Laden, said Frances Townsend, the top White House homeland security official, "is virtually impotent." Karen Hughes, the Bush crony in charge of America's P.R. in the jihadists' world, recently held a press conference anointing Cal Ripken Jr. our international "special sports envoy." We are once more sleepwalking through history, fiddling while the Qaeda not in Iraq prepares to burn.
This is why the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, including those more accurate than Mr. Bush's recent false analogies, can take us only so far. Our situation is graver than it was during Vietnam.
Certainly there were some eerie symmetries between General Petraeus's sales pitch last week and its often-noted historical antecedent: Gen. William Westmoreland's similar mission for L.B.J. before Congress on April 28, 1967. Westmoreland, too, refused to acknowledge that our troops were caught in a civil war. He spoke as well of the "repeated successes" of the American-trained South Vietnamese military and ticked off its growing number of combat-ready battalions. "The strategy we're following at this time is the proper one," the general assured America, and "is producing results."
Those fabulous results delayed our final departure from Vietnam for another eight years — just short of the nine to 10 years General Petraeus has said may be needed for a counterinsurgency in Iraq. But there's a crucial difference between the Westmoreland show of 1967 and the 2007 revival by General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Westmoreland played to a full and largely enthusiastic house. Most Americans still supported the war in Vietnam and trusted him; so did all but a few members of Congress, regardless of party. All three networks pre-empted their midday programming for Westmoreland's Congressional appearance.
Our Iraq commander, by contrast, appeared before a divided and stalemated Congress just as an ABC News-Washington Post poll found that most Americans believed he would overhype progress in Iraq. No network interrupted a soap opera for his testimony. On cable the hearings fought for coverage with Britney Spears's latest self-immolation and the fate of Madeleine McCann, our latest JonBenet Ramsey stand-in.
General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker could grab an hour of prime television time only by slinking into the safe foxhole of Fox News, where Brit Hume chaperoned them on a gloomy, bunkerlike set before an audience of merely 1.5 million true believers. Their "Briefing for America," as Fox titled it, was all too fittingly interrupted early on for a commercial promising pharmaceutical relief from erectile dysfunction.
Even if military "victory" were achievable in Iraq, America could not win a war abandoned by its own citizens. The evaporation of that support was ratified by voters last November. For that, they were rewarded with the "surge." Now their mood has turned darker. Americans have not merely abandoned the war; they don't want to hear anything that might remind them of it, or of war in general. Katie Couric's much-promoted weeklong visit to the front produced ratings matching the CBS newscast's all-time low. Angelina Jolie's movie about Daniel Pearl sank without a trace. Even Clint Eastwood's wildly acclaimed movies about World War II went begging. Over its latest season, "24" lost a third of its viewers, just as Mr. Bush did between January's prime-time address and last week's.
You can't blame the public for changing the channel. People realize that the president's real "plan for victory" is to let his successor clean up the mess. They don't want to see American troops dying for that cause, but what can be done? Americans voted the G.O.P. out of power in Congress; a clear majority consistently tell pollsters they want out of Iraq. And still every day is Groundhog Day. Our America, unlike Vietnam-era America, is more often resigned than angry. Though the latest New York Times-CBS News poll finds that only 5 percent trust the president to wrap up the war, the figure for the (barely) Democratic-controlled Congress, 21 percent, is an almost-as-resounding vote of no confidence.
Last week Democrats often earned that rating, especially those running for president. It is true that they do not have the votes to overcome a Bush veto of any war legislation. But that doesn't mean the Democrats have to go on holiday. Few used their time to cross-examine General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on their disingenuous talking points, choosing instead to regurgitate stump sentiments or ask uncoordinated, redundant questions. It's telling that the one question that drew blood — are we safer? — was asked by a Republican, John Warner, who is retiring from the Senate.
Americans are looking for leadership, somewhere, anywhere. At least one of the Democratic presidential contenders might have shown the guts to soundly slap the "General Betray-Us" headline on the ad placed by MoveOn.org in The Times, if only to deflate a counterproductive distraction. This left-wing brand of juvenile name-calling is as witless as the "Defeatocrats" and "cut and run" McCarthyism from the right; it at once undermined the serious charges against the data in the Petraeus progress report (including those charges in the same MoveOn ad) and allowed the war's cheerleaders to hyperventilate about a sideshow. "General Betray-Us" gave Republicans a furlough to avoid ownership of an Iraq policy that now has us supporting both sides of the Shiite-vs.-Sunni blood bath while simultaneously shutting America's doors on the millions of Iraqi refugees the blood bath has so far created.
It's also past time for the Democratic presidential candidates to stop getting bogged down in bickering about who has the faster timeline for withdrawal or the more enforceable deadline. Every one of these plans is academic anyway as long as Mr. Bush has a veto pen. The security of America is more important — dare one say it? — than trying to outpander one another in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate need all the unity and focus they can muster to move this story forward, and that starts with the two marquee draws, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It's essential to turn up the heat full time in Washington for any and every legislative roadblock to administration policy that they and their peers can induce principled or frightened Republicans to endorse.
They should summon the new chief of central command (and General Petraeus's boss), Adm. William Fallon, for tough questioning; he is reportedly concerned about our lapsed military readiness should trouble strike beyond Iraq. And why not grill the Joint Chiefs and those half-dozen or so generals who turned down the White House post of "war czar" last fall? The war should be front and center in Congress every day.
Mr. Bush, confident that he got away with repackaging the same bankrupt policies with a nonsensical new slogan ("Return on Success") Thursday night, is counting on the public's continued apathy as he kicks the can down the road and bides his time until Jan. 20, 2009; he, after all, has nothing more to lose. The job for real leaders is to wake up America to the urgent reality. We can't afford to punt until Inauguration Day in a war that each day drains America of resources and will. Our national security can't be held hostage indefinitely to a president's narcissistic need to compound his errors rather than admit them.
The enemy votes, too. Cataclysmic events on the ground in Iraq, including Thursday's murder of the Sunni tribal leader Mr. Bush embraced two weeks ago as a symbol of hope, have never arrived according to this administration's optimistic timetable. Nor have major Qaeda attacks in the West. It's national suicide to entertain the daydream that they will start doing so now.
It's about time.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday will lay out a plan to secure health insurance for all Americans while severely limiting the ability of insurers to deny coverage or charge higher premiums to people with chronic illnesses and other medical problems, her aides and advisers say.
. . .
Mrs. Clinton will not try to impose an overall limit on national health spending, the aides said. But she is prepared once again to do battle with insurance companies, which she has said “spend tens of billions of dollars a year figuring out how not to cover people” and “how to cherry-pick the healthiest persons, and leave everyone else out in the cold.”
. . .
[Clinton's aides] said . . . that Mrs. Clinton would amplify a comment in March when she declared, “We could require that every insurance company had to insure everybody, with no exclusion for pre-existing conditions.” . . .
The insurance companies are of course ready for this fight:
Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the chief lobby for insurers, said they endorsed the goal of universal coverage. But Ms. Ignagni said that insurers denied only 3 percent of claims, and that many of those were for experimental procedures that employers did not cover.
Mary Nell Lehnhard, senior vice president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, said, “Some of Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, while trying to make insurance more affordable for older, sicker people, could unintentionally drive up costs for young, healthy people and ultimately for everyone.” . . .
Denying even 3% seems to me a lot (I'll read more on this), and why should employers be in a position to make life-or-death decisions about their employees, especially if an experimental procedure might work and prove beneficial to other sick people as well?
Also, does Blue Cross then expect older, sicker people to pay higher premiums (when, because they're old and sick, they're probably least likely to be able to afford to)? The whole purpose of insurance is to spread the risk among a large pool of people, with everyone paying a reasonably affordable premium. Eventually the young, healthy people are going to get old and sick, too (I know this from experience), and their expenses will need to be covered by the premiums everyone (including themselves) has been paying.
The bottom line here is, the insurance companies just want to cover young, healthy people in order to maximize their profits to pay for their myriad bureaucracies and expensive executives and have some money left over for their shareholders. To hell with sick people. I personally think it's immoral for companies to operate in this way, let alone be in control of a nation's health care delivery system. (May I add that my doctor agrees on this.)
I'm all for Hillary if she has the guts to set this situation right. I'm glad to hear she's getting into the fray, and she of all the candidates has the experience under her belt for this whale of a confrontation.
"Expensive and divisive: how America is losing patience with a failing system / Onus on workers to buy health insurance as rising costs force firms to end perk"
The US spends about 16% of GDP on healthcare, a proportion expected to climb to 20% by 2015, according to the National Coalition on Health Care. At present spending levels of $1.6 trillion a year, which works out at $6,700 per capita, is double what is spent in countries such as France. And yet that still leaves some 47 million Americans entirely without health coverage, and tens of millions of others under-insured, according to latest census figures.
It also fails to guarantee a better service to those Americans with access to healthcare. The US ranks last or near the bottom on quality, access, efficiency, equity and healthy lives, according to a report in May 2007 from the Commonwealth Fund, which studies healthcare.
"The US healthcare system is considered a dysfunctional mess," writes Ezekial Emanuel, chairman of the department of clinical bioethics, in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. . . .
Full article here. I found this paragraph telling:
(But I'll bet you the company made money on the "scheme" nonetheless.)
However, the US has - with [the British] government's encouragement - made inroads here. United Health, a US healthcare provider based in Minneapolis, arrived in the UK in 2004 to develop a scheme which had succeeded in keeping frail and elderly people out of hospital in the US, although an evaluation in November showed it had reduced neither the number of admissions nor deaths.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I caught this at Hullabaloo:
It's become clear in the last few years that right wingers are psychologically unfit to lead the nation. Vast numbers of them are "conservative" not due to philosophy but to cover up for serious personal issues with sexuality, masculinity, oedipal complexes and worse. In fact, it's so pervasive that one must now assume that conservative political leaders are driven by a complicated desire to compensate for psychological problems rather than the usual political mix of ambition, ego and drive to power. There are just too many examples of disturbed, neurotic, secretive GOP hypocrites out there. It's a feature not a bug.
The context was a discussion of whether or not Condi Rice is gay. As Digby says, who cares?
The tooth socket seems to be healing normally--knock on wood! Got a lot of rest today and also managed to cook lunch for B. (hamburger steaks, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables--not very creative) and clean up the kitchen. I made an entire box of Hungry Jack potatoes (my favorite) with evaporated low-fat milk and spiked with onion powder, dried chives, sour cream, white pepper and maybe a little garlic powder. I used four cups of that to make two salmon loaves for me to eat. They came out great, as they usually do. I'm not supposed to eat anything that requires chewing.
Wesley Clark has come out and endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. Got an email to that effect today: "Today [9/15], I am proud to announce my endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton as President of the United States."
The Torturer approached in a white cassock, wearing a large crucifix. Jane struggled against the leather straps that bound her wrists and ankles, to no avail. “Who’s callin’ me a witch?!” she demanded. The Torturer said nothing. Soon he was standing directly over her.
Meanwhile someone who appeared to be the Torturer’s assistant had taken a seat on a stool directly behind where Jane was seated in the wooden torture chair. Like the Torturer himself, the assistant wore a mask. Jane looked up and met the Torturer’s assistant face-to-face, eye-to-eye, upside down. The malevolence in that masked countenance was no less frightful than in that of the Torturer himself. Jane shuddered and closed her eyes.
“So, what do you have to say?” the Torturer said, gently stroking Jane’s jaw with his soft, gloved hand. Jane didn’t answer. A moment later he grabbed her forcefully by the chin. “You’d best confess now,” he said, slipping his thumb into Jane’s mouth, “while you can still talk!”
Jane bit down on his finger.
“Yow!” the Torturer said, instantly withdrawing his thumb. “I can see this is not going to be easy. Darla, would you please pass me the crackers—the Tooth Crackers, that is.”
“Darla?!” Jane thought, quizzically looking back up at the masked assistant.
“Well, now will you confess?” the Torturer said. “Just say, ‘I’m a witch.’”
“And get burnt alive?” Jane said. “You think I’m nuts?!”
Darla meanwhile passed the Tooth Crackers to the Torturer.
“This is your last chance,” said the Torturer, dangling the ghastly-looking device before Jane’s terrified eyes.
“All right,” she blurted out, “I’m a w-w-w-bitch!”
“Witch!” the torturer repeated.
“But I ain’t no witch!” Jane protested.
“Then may God have mercy on your soul!”
Yet before proceeding with the Tooth Crackers, the Torturer produced an electric drill, conjuring it right out of thin air.
# # #
Jane clutched her pillow tightly and squinched her eyes. As bad as the dream was, she sensed—even in her slumber—that it could be a whole lot worse. For as grisly, as gruesome, as harrowing as the bloody ordeal was—and she could see her own blood spattered across the Torturer’s mask, as well as taste it on her tongue—she was feeling no pain. Some form of divine intervention, Jane reckoned, a miracle. Maybe she wouldn’t feel a thing after all when at last they burned her alive at the stake, but she still wasn’t about to confess.
# # #
“Darla, pass the forceps, please,” the Torturer said.
“Lord, give me strength,” Jane was thinking. She only hoped this go-round wouldn’t be as ghastly as the electric drill and the Tooth Crackers, but she clamped her eyes shut and braced herself for the worst.
“Jane, this is your very last chance,” the Torturer said. “Now say it, ‘I am a witch.’ Come on, it’s really not that hard.”
At that point, Jane couldn’t have said it even if she’d wanted to. And just what were the ramifications of that, she wondered.
“And if I don’t get an answer,” the Torturer continued, “it’s on to the Grand Inquisitor with you. And rest assured, you won’t like that one bit!”
Well, that pretty much answered her question, Jane was thinking.
“Tell me,” the Torturer said, gently tracing the circle of Jane’s lips with the cold forceps, “have you ever heard of something called ‘The Iron Maiden’?”
With that, Jane struggled mightily to elicit something intelligible in reply. “Ah ainh ngo huich!”
# # #
Jane clutched her other pillow now and smiled, her eyelids fluttering. She knew—even in her slumber—that this bad dream was coming to an end.
# # #
“Congratulations. You made it through!”
Jane opened her eyes. The “Torturer” had removed his mask. It was Dr. Zahn, her oral surgeon.
“You behaved like a saint,” he said, smiling as he proudly held up the bloody wisdom teeth he’d just extracted.
Jane still couldn’t talk. She just sat back, smiling in relief. . . .
I've almost but maybe not quite recovered from all the Xanax the oral surgeon gave me yesterday to prepare me for the extraction of my molar, so please bear with with me. The tooth is gone (but not forgotten) and the mechanical operation of my jaws and teeth has already returned to normal. I'd been having pain eating for almost three weeks, with teeth abnormally (and painfully) knocking against one another, my bite having been thrown off by the abscessed tooth, which on account of the pressure caused by the inflammation had been forced downward from its socket, no longer meshing properly with the other teeth. I could no longer bite down on the tooth without experiencing excruciating pain, in addition to being unable to tolerate extremes in temperature.
I love the oral surgeon, who's extracted some teeth before (mostly wisdom teeth). As usual, he didn't want me to experience any discomfort. Thus the Xanax and then more Xanax (at my request) and loads of Novocaine. He even insisted I eat some Twix (he also had Snickers) to stop me from trembling from the local anesthesia. (Have you ever known a dentist to administer candy as part of the treatment?) (He also offered sugar water as an alternative, which I declined.) But the minute he started drilling into the tooth to break it apart, I almost went through the roof (which he and his assistant duly noted). He said the abscess was still draining, and, after another shot of novocaine (?) and a long pause, I couldn't feel anything else afterward but pressure. The tooth subsequently came out rather cleanly in two or three pieces. He then showed me the browned abscessed area in the roots. He said it was good to have the tooth extracted then, since otherwise my whole face might have ended up swelling as it did two years ago while B. and I were on vacation in San Francisco and I had to make an emergency trip to a local dentist for antibiotics and painkillers (which made me nauseated). (Put a big damper on our lovely Wine Country trip!)
On that vacation I ended up having a massive abscess and upon returning to Miami had a wisdom tooth and the tooth next to it removed. The abscess meanwhile deteriorated a lot of bone, so the tooth that was extracted yesterday didn't have much of a foundation and basically no gums left on the back side and the roots were exposed, which left it open for infection. The tooth next to that one now--a premolar--has gums, however. I hope I won't have trouble with it. Now, however, I'm going to have to do most of my serious chewing on the other side of my mouth, where everything is intact except the wisdom teeth (which are essentially useless and very difficult to brush, unless you have no gag reflex).
Word to the wise--get rid of your wisdom teeth before they cause problems (mind you, I'm no dentist, so ask him or her about it).
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Got this from Pam Spaulding. It's hilarious. On the Ford Model T (not the "hybrid" pictured at right):
Uh-oh. Here comes trouble. Let's stipulate that the Model T did everything that the history books say: It put America on wheels, supercharged the nation's economy and transformed the landscape in ways unimagined on the day the first black-only Tin Lizzy bucked and trembled off the assembly line. Well, that's just the problem, isn't it? The Model T — whose mass production technique was the work of engineer William C. Klann, who had visited a slaughterhouse's "disassembly line" — conferred to Americans the notion of automobility as something akin to natural law, a right endowed by our Creator. A century later, the consequences of putting every living soul on gas-powered wheels are piling up, from the air over our cities to the sand under our soldiers' boots. And by the way, with its blacksmithed body panels and crude instruments, the Model T was a piece of junk, the Yugo of its day.
Pardon my ignorance, but I'd never heard of him until I read this:
On the evening of January 21, 1953, Bayard Rustin, a forty-year-old organizer for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a leading organization of religious pacifists, gave a talk, in Pasadena, California, about anti-colonial struggles in West Africa. Among the admirers who approached him after the speech were two young men. Late that night, he and the young men were arrested after being discovered in flagrante in a parked car. He pleaded guilty to a charge of “lewd vagrancy” and was carted off to serve sixty days behind bars.
The episode was a source of shame for Rustin, not on account of his homosexuality (about which, for that era, he was astonishingly relaxed) or because of the stigma of jail (he had spent two years in federal prison as a conscientious objector) but because he knew that his carelessness had let down his colleagues in the nonviolent movements for peace and racial equality. Yet his service to those causes did not end. Though he had to resign from the F.O.R., its secular twin, the War Resisters League, soon hired him as its executive secretary. In 1956, he became a mentor to the young Martin Luther King, Jr., beginning an association that, while rocky at times, culminated, on August 28, 1963, in the epochal March on Washington. The cover of the next issue of Life featured not King but the instigator of the march, the labor leader A. Philip Randolph, and its principal organizer, Bayard Rustin.
Rustin’s homosexuality, the Pasadena incident in particular, embarrassed and angered some of his political comrades. But none of them responded to it with cruelty or contempt. Senator Larry Craig, of Idaho, has not been so lucky. No sooner had Craig’s brother Republican politicians learned that he had been caught with his pants down in a men’s-room stall at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (where, a year from now, they will arrive by the planeload for their National Convention) than the stampede began. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader, pronounced Craig’s conduct “unforgivable” and forced him to relinquish his posts as the senior Republican on three Senate committees. From the campaign trail, Senator John McCain called for the miscreant’s resignation. “I don’t try to judge people, but in this case it’s clear that it was disgraceful,” the Senator judged. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, offered a singularly unfeeling response to the troubles of the man who, until the day before, had been the Idaho co-chairman of, and one of two “Senate liaisons” to, the Romney for President campaign. “Frankly,” Romney said, “it’s disgusting.” . . .
A year before his death in 1987, Rustin said: "The barometer of where one is on human rights questions is no longer the black community, it's the gay community. Because it is the community which is most easily mistreated."
Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has expended a lot of energy publicly condemning gay people and denouncing the gay rights movement. What she seems to have forgotten is that the man who taught her famous uncle about nonviolent protest and was a major architect of the black civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was an openly gay man named Bayard Rustin.
(Good luck, David.) (Quote: "I'm not having sex with men because I think the Torah doesn't let me, but I'm not letting them say I'm straight or ex-gay; I'm still queerer than thou." See here.)
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Joshua Marshall wrote this the other day:
I don't gainsay the danger or destructive power of [Osama bin Laden]. I still remember Rick Hertzberg's quote just after 9/11 that the attacks were as brilliant as they were evil. . . . But as an articulator of a vision, an expounder of "Islamofascism," or whatever the new trademarked word is now, he's about as coherent and comprehensible as a 9th tier blogger or one of those whacks sitting on a stoop in Union Square talking about fascism and Texas oil barons before they get overcome by the shakes or decide to start collecting more aluminum cans. [Emphasis added.]
Hey, wait a minute! I'm one of those 9th tier bloggers. Excuse me! I'm "coherent and comprehensible" when I want to be!
I found the remark amusing if somewhat illiberal of him, but I take no offense since, unlike Joshua Marshall, I don't do this for a living. I'm also surprised that someone like Pam Spaulding can blog as much as she does and still hold down her full-time job as head of the IT department at the Duke University Press. She must take an awful lot of breaks back there in the computer room!
Woodrow Johnson was 15, and by the rules of the polygamous sect in which his family lived, he had a vice that could condemn them to hell: He liked to watch movies.
When his parents discovered his secret stash of DVDs, including the “Die Hard” series and comedies, they burned them and gave him an ultimatum. Stop watching movies, they said, or leave the family and church for good.
With television and the Internet also banned as wicked, along with short-sleeve shirts — a sign of immodesty — and staring at girls, let alone dating them, Woodrow made the wrenching decision to go. And so 10 months ago, with only a seventh-grade education and a suitcase of clothes, he was thrown into an unfamiliar world he had been taught to fear.
Over the last six years, hundreds of teenage boys have been expelled or felt compelled to leave the polygamous settlement that straddles Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.
Disobedience is usually the reason given for expulsion, but former sect members and state legal officials say the exodus of males — the expulsion of girls is rarer — also remedies a huge imbalance in the marriage market. Members of the sect believe that to reach eternal salvation, men are supposed to have at least three wives.
A 21-year-old nicknamed Marc, who is on probation for selling cocaine, has straightened out and now works as a mentor to boys leaving the sect. Marc refused to give his name because he wants to preserve relations with his father, who still believes in Mr. Jeffs despite having been expelled himself. Marc described how abruptly his world shattered in 2004, when he was 17.
“I was a good boy, working 13-hour days,” he said. But he had been raising questions, especially after his father’s four wives were assigned to other husbands. Then Marc got caught driving to a nearby town to watch a movie.
One evening as he was making a chicken sandwich, he recalled, “My two older brothers came and said that because I’d gone to the movies, Warren said I’m out.”
“I went into my bedroom and my mother was already packing my things, and crying,” he said. “That night they drove me to a relative’s home in St. George.”
Story is here. (Photo: George Frey for The New York Times.)
Goldsmith had been hired . . . as a legal adviser to the general counsel of the Defense Department, William J. Haynes II. While at the Pentagon, Goldsmith wrote a memo for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warning that prosecutors from the International Criminal Court might indict American officials for their actions in the war on terror. Goldsmith described this threat as “the judicialization of international politics.” No one was surprised when he was hired in October 2003 to head the Office of Legal Counsel, the division of the Justice Department that advises the president on the limits of executive power. Immediately, the job put him at the center of critical debates within the Bush administration about its continuing response to 9/11 — debates about coercive interrogation, secret surveillance and the detention and trial of enemy combatants.
Nine months later, in June 2004, Goldsmith resigned. Although he refused to discuss his resignation at the time, he had led a small group of administration lawyers in a behind-the-scenes revolt against what he considered the constitutional excesses of the legal policies embraced by his White House superiors in the war on terror. During his first weeks on the job, Goldsmith had discovered that the Office of Legal Counsel had written two legal opinions — both drafted by Goldsmith’s friend Yoo, who served as a deputy in the office — about the authority of the executive branch to conduct coercive interrogations. Goldsmith considered these opinions, now known as the “torture memos,” to be tendentious, overly broad and legally flawed, and he fought to change them. He also found himself challenging the White House on a variety of other issues, ranging from surveillance to the trial of suspected terrorists. His efforts succeeded in bringing the Bush administration somewhat closer to what Goldsmith considered the rule of law — although at considerable cost to Goldsmith himself. By the end of his tenure, he was worn out. “I was disgusted with the whole process and fed up and exhausted,” he told me recently.
After leaving the Office of Legal Counsel, Goldsmith was uncertain about what, if anything, he should say publicly about his resignation. His silence came to be widely misinterpreted. After leaving the Justice Department, he accepted a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School, where he currently teaches. During his first weeks in Cambridge, in the fall of 2004, some of his colleagues denounced him for what they mistakenly assumed was his role in drafting the torture memos. One colleague, Elizabeth Bartholet, complained to a Boston Globe reporter that the faculty was remiss in not investigating any role Goldsmith might have played in “justifying torture.” “It was a nightmare,” Goldsmith told me. “I didn’t say anything to defend myself, except that I didn’t do the things I was accused of.”
Now Goldsmith is speaking out. In a new book, “The Terror Presidency,” which will be published later this month, and in a series of conversations I had with him this summer, Goldsmith has recounted how, from his first weeks on the job, he fought vigorously against an expansive view of executive power championed by officials in the White House, including Alberto Gonzales, who was then the White House counsel and who recently resigned as attorney general, and David Addington, who was then Vice President Cheney’s legal adviser and is now his chief of staff. Goldsmith says he is not speaking out for the money; though he received a low six-figure advance for the book, he is, after deducting some minor expenses, donating the advance and any profits to charity. Nor is he speaking out because he disagrees with the basic goals of the Bush administration in the war on terror. “I shared, and I still share, a lot of their concerns about what we have to do to meet the terrorist threat,” he told me. When I asked whether he thought Gonzales should have resigned and whether Addington should follow, he demurred. “I was friends with Gonzales and feel very sorry for him,” he said. “We got along really well. I admired and respected Addington, even when I thought his judgment was crazy. They thought they were doing the right thing.”
Suddenly, Gonzales and Card came in the room and announced that they were there in connection with the classified program. “Ashcroft, who looked like he was near death, sort of puffed up his chest,” Goldsmith recalls. “All of a sudden, energy and color came into his face, and he said that he didn’t appreciate them coming to visit him under those circumstances, that he had concerns about the matter they were asking about and that, in any event, he wasn’t the attorney general at the moment; Jim Comey was. He actually gave a two-minute speech, and I was sure at the end of it he was going to die. It was the most amazing scene I’ve ever witnessed.”
After a bit of silence, Goldsmith told me, Gonzales thanked Ashcroft, and he and Card walked out of the room. “At that moment,” Goldsmith recalled, “Mrs. Ashcroft, who obviously couldn’t believe what she saw happening to her sick husband, looked at Gonzales and Card as they walked out of the room and stuck her tongue out at them. She had no idea what we were discussing, but this sweet-looking woman sticking out her tongue was the ultimate expression of disapproval. It captured the feeling in the room perfectly.” . . .
Read it all here.
In today's NYT:
IT will be all 9/11 all the time this week, as the White House yet again synchronizes its drumbeating for the Iraq war with the anniversary of an attack that had nothing to do with Iraq. Ignore that fog and focus instead on another date whose anniversary passed yesterday without notice: Sept. 8, 2002. What happened on that Sunday five years ago is the Rosetta Stone for the administration's latest scam.
That was the morning when the Bush White House officially rolled out its fraudulent case for the war. The four horsemen of the apocalypse — Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice — were dispatched en masse to the Washington talk shows, where they eagerly pointed to a front-page New York Times article amplifying subsequently debunked administration claims that Saddam had sought to buy aluminum tubes meant for nuclear weapons. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," said Condoleezza Rice on CNN, introducing a sales pitch concocted by a White House speechwriter.
What followed was an epic propaganda onslaught of distorted intelligence, fake news, credulous and erroneous reporting by bona fide journalists, presidential playacting and Congressional fecklessness. Much of it had been plotted that summer of 2002 by the then-secret White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a small task force of administration brass charged with the Iraq con job.
Today the spirit of WHIG lives. In the stay-the-surge propaganda offensive that crests with this week's Congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, history is repeating itself in almost every particular. Even the specter of imminent "nuclear holocaust" has been rebooted in President
Bush's arsenal of rhetorical scare tactics.
When the line separating spin from reality is so effectively blurred, the White House's propaganda mission has once more been accomplished. No wonder President Bush is cocky again. Stopping in Sydney for the economic summit after last weekend's photo op in Iraq, he reportedly told Australia's deputy prime minister that "we're kicking ass." This war has now gone on so long that perhaps he has forgotten the price our troops paid the last time he taunted our adversaries to bring it on, some four years and 3,500 American military fatalities ago.
Unfortunately, the New York Strip steaks that were on sale at Publix turned out to be somewhat tough (and, as you know, my teeth were already hurting). I was shocked. B. was disappointed. I've bought these steaks on sale before and never had a problem.
The Bearnaise sauce was excellent nonetheless. I used a recipe from a Julia Childs cookbook. The recipe calls for shallots or scallions, but since I had neither on hand I used some red onion and a bit of garlic powder. This was the first time I'd attempted to make Bearnaise (or Hollandaise) on the glass cooktop. The stove could not have performed better. The sauce turned out flawless.
I also baked potatoes and made a side dish of steamed yellow squash and red onion, which I afterward sauteed in butter.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
Lately I've been listening to some of The Lionel Show on Air America. He's originally from Tampa and used to practice law. Check out his bio on Wikipedia. I never knew what he looked like till just now, when I did a Google search. (I wonder if he's gay.) He made it big on radio in NYC (having been "lured" from Florida) and also had a show on Court TV. He's got a "Drunk Dial Line" (212-871-8283) and plays the drunk calls on his show--something original (as far as I know) and amusing. I can't say I really like the show, however, and only listen to it since it follows Randi Rhodes on my way home from work. I'll say this: It's great to have a good vocabulary, but trying to cram every Latinate word you know into every sentence you utter is (to me) fussy and annoying. It makes you really miss Ed Schultz (a former sportscaster who used to occupy the Lionel time slot here, inter alia).
I had a dentist appointment today and found out I do have an abscess in the tooth (the tooth has been bothering me for almost two weeks). The dentist gave me a prescription for Amoxicillin to get rid of the infection, and the tooth will be extracted next Thursday. The dentist said it's too "shaky" to be salvaged even with a root canal. The dentist also informed me that the pharmacies in the Publix markets are giving away antibiotics (including Amoxicillin), so I got it for free. I forewent my usual Friday gym routine to get it (the pharmacy closes at 9). (I took my nap afterward.) Meanwhile I did grocery shopping while at the store. I bought some beautiful New York strip steaks that were on sale (saved $5.69) and tomorrow (if I don't have to go in to work, since I'm on call) will serve them with home-made Bearnaise sauce.
I don't like to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I wonder what's motivating Publix to give away pharmaceuticals. I suspect it's a PR ploy to help stave off universal health care. So they're "socializing" medicine as a preemptive measure? What's with that?
The sunburn is still bothering me also -- my arms and tops of my knees are still burning -- but this too shall pass.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
I hadn't been to the beach in about 10 years. There were times in my life when I'd go fairly often, especially in the summer when the water's not too cold. (I'm a native and would never dream of going into the ocean during the winter months. The crazy tourists did that.) At any rate, I never was a serious sun-worshipper.*
Yesterday B's mother and her boyfriend came over for a visit--she'd just returned from a two-week vacation in NYC, where she raised her family (including B.) and lived until a few years ago (she was born in Puerto Rico). To make a long story short, I was coerced (ganged up upon) into joining in on a family outing today to Hollywood Beach. I.e., I wasn't asked; I was essentially told to go, and if I'd refused or backed out, they'd all have accused me of being anti-family and anti-social (apparently, a Latin thing against Anglos).
I could have gotten pissed off at B. about it but I didn't want to come across as a party-pooper or a spoil-sport (or, Heaven forbid, anti-family, even though I do have my own family and am on good terms with them). Besides, I actually looked forward to going into the ocean.
They picked us up at around 10:15 this morning (before my usual wake-up time on weekends and holidays--and B's usual wake-up time is noon [he works nights] so he can't have loved it either). We headed to the beach located at the end of Johnson Street and got a good parking space in the garage ($5--I paid). They put up two umbrellas on the beach and had a chair for me to sit in, but I could see there weren't enough chairs, so after a while I went to the nearest little beach accoutrement shop and bought another chair and a small umbrella that screwed onto the chair.
B. and his family are dark-skinned and obviously suffered no discomfort basking (or more accurately, baking) for hours in the direct sunlight--we were there till after 5. Except for a few dips in the ocean, I stayed under the umbrella(s) at all times and never removed my tanktop, and still managed to get badly sunburned. I'd even brought along a beach shirt (and ended up wearing it).
As B's mother and the boyfriend were dropping us back off at our apartment, B's mother warned me to put some lotion on my sunburn lest I end up in the hospital. She was truly alarmed and no doubt felt a little guilty for shanghaiing me for this event. Meanwhile I don't think I'll be a participant in any future all-day family beach outings--and now they know why: I can't handle it--I'm white.
Perhaps I should have slathered on sunblock (which I didn't have) before I left home, but the point is: this is not my idea of having fun. At one point I wanted to leave the party and sit behind the bandshell (out of the sun altogether), but then, again, they would have accused me of being anti-social and anti-family. It was a no-win situation for me.
*I guess since my maternal grandmother died of melanoma at age 55 (she believed in the curative powers of ocean water, as my mother related to me years after her mother's death) and I've had pre-cancers removed from my own skin. Plus I'm fair-skinned and don't want to get all wrinkly and look old "before my time" (I guess I'm a little vain about that).
Sunday, September 02, 2007
“Self-pity is the worst thing that can happen to a presidency,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Draper, by way of saying he sought to avoid it. “This is a job where you can have a lot of self-pity.”
In the same interview, Mr. Bush seemed to indicate that he had his down moments at home, saying of his wife, Laura, “Back to the self-pity point — she reminds me that I decided to do this.”
We'll see what happens now. Meanwhile I have all the groceries we'll need for the long weekend. Tonight I pressure-cooked some spareribs in beer with sauerkraut, caraway seeds, celery seeds, juniper berries, and salt and pepper. Came out delicious. Finicky B. doesn't eat this, so I'll make him barbecued spareribs on Monday. (The ribs were on sale at Publix so I bought two packages.) My plan had been to barbecue them all, but since I'm having trouble with the tooth (which I expect will be resolved on Tuesday), I decided to pressure-cook some for me. I made sure they came out really tender and didn't require serious chewing.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
He has waged a costly, unprovoked war in Iraq while neglecting to pursue the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, thereby depleting our national wealth while at the same time cutting the taxes of the most wealthy. Meanwhile more and more citizens lose access to health care, and his solution is that we go to the Emergency Room and/or go bankrupt. (The cost of his war and tax cuts could see everyone covered.) As for the insured, he ridicules "gold plated" health care plans, while he and his entire extended family surely enjoy such a plan, and no doubt he pays nothing. I'm getting a little tired of socialism for the rich.
He has instituted torture and warrantless wire-tapping. This is a horror story for the likes of which we used to scorn the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile some of George Bush's most ardent supporters and enablers seek out homo sex in bathrooms (and maybe the West Wing) while legislating against gays and holding themselves out to be Christian family men.
This is a sad time for the U.S. I hope we can one day recover our identity as a champion of democracy, equality, and freedom.