Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

Doing laundry and watching "DATELINE: Real Life Mysteries" on TLC. Ho-hum.

Laundry is done.

I'm not a party pooper and do plan on going outside on the terrace at midnight. I wonder how Lucky will react to the fireworks. (He wasn't living here on the 4th of July.)

Watching these shows about psychopathic killers, and having read the article on psychopaths in The New Yorker, helps me to put the situation with B. and the BF into perspective (seriously).

Nice fireworks, but nothing like the 4th of July (it's too late at night). Lucky was watching but would run back inside when he heard noisemakers and a dog yapping downstairs. It was chilly out there. When I came back inside from watching the fireworks, I closed the screen door but left the slider open. Some natural A/C tonight.

A year ago tonight, I remember B. was all dressed up to go to a Latino party downstairs by the pool, one floor below, off the terrace. (I hadn't been encouraged to go and wouldn't have gone anyway.) I even chilled a magnum of cider for B. to take. I remember B. and me standing out on the terrace before he left for the party (we celebrated ringing in the New Year here together with some champagne), and the person now known to be the BF looking up at the terrace, drink in hand, with his piercing, psychopathic glare. Then, when B. went to the party, I observed him hanging out with this guy. Little did I know.

Now I call them Bonnie and Clyde (with B. being Bonnie, of course).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Has Israel Revived Hamas?

Full Washington Post article here.

JERUSALEM -- In its efforts to stop amateur rockets from nagging the residents of some of its southern cities, Israel appears to have given new life to the fledging Islamic movement in Palestine. . . .

The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel's strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.

While it is not apparent how this violent confrontation will end, it is abundantly clear that the Islamic Hamas movement has been brought back from near political defeat while moderate Arab leaders have been forced to back away from their support for any reconciliation with Israel.

By choosing the waning days of the Bush administration to attack Gaza, the Israelis knew they would face no opposition from the leader of the so-called war on terrorism. Just as George W. Bush's misadventure in Iraq played into the hands of radicals and terrorists, this Israeli action will produce nothing less than that in Palestine. Let us hope that the Obama administration will see the consequences of what is not only a crime of war but also a move whose results are exactly the opposite of its publicly proclaimed purposes.

Tuesday night

Had doctor's appointment today. All good news. Again, cholesterol is a little high, but I have very high good cholesterol which counteracts the bad, so the doctor said I'm not in any kind of danger.

Tomorrow will probably be a short day at work. Gym will close tomorrow and New Year's Day at 4:00 p.m., so most likely I won't be going. I have food here to eat, in case the stores will be closed. And I can always eat out. Will be glad when the holidays are over, alas.

Today we emailed my thank-you graphic to the sweet-gifters at work. They loved it.

The doctor made me pull my shirt up today while he was checking me with the stethoscope (I sucked my stomach in). I apologized for putting on a few pounds over the holidays (weighed 173 at the doctor's in my street clothes). He said not to worry.

Monday night

Back to work and the gym today. Weighed myself tonight at the gym. I'm still about 4 lbs. over my normal weight, owing to all the sweets sitting around the office for the holidays. Today I finished off the home-made peanut brittle myself, so that's gone. I also had some chocolate-covered nuts and cookies (some of which were also chocolate-covered). They're almost gone, too. That's good. But then we had a birthday celebration today, and I had a piece of tangerine cream pie. (Fakey but tasty.) Today at work I created a thank-you card in Photoshop to be emailed to those people who gifted us the sweets.

I eat sweets in moderation but it's hard to resist eating more when they're everywhere in abundance and free. It's good that I don't keep sweets at home. I'll eat them if they're here. But, frankly, I'd rather eat pickles (and do keep them here).

I haven't heard from Home Depot in three weeks about the bill for the electrical work or their coming back to fix the moving sink. I realize it's the holidays and the Customer Care lady in Atlanta said to be patient. So I will. Meanwhile, the kitchen is fully functional, which is the most important thing.

Watching "Intervention" now and thinking about B. How these people lie.

Monday, December 29, 2008

'Obama song mars Republican race'

"Racially tinged song has become an issue in the battle for the leadership of the Republican party." From The Guardian (UK) here.

An offensive, racially tinged song entitled Barack the Magic Negro has become an issue in the battle for the leadership of the Republican party.

The song was included in a CD distributed by Chip Saltman, who is seeking to be elected the next party chairman.

Saltman, former campaign manager for Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who fought unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination this year, sent out the CD as a Christmas present to party members. It is a compilation of songs critical of liberals entitled We Hate the US. . . .

'NYT Columnist Calls Out Obama on Warren Selection'

From The Advocate online here. (But see immediately below.)

New York Times columnist Frank Rich took to the Op-Ed pages Sunday to rail against President-elect Barack Obama for his selection of conservative pastor Rick Warren to deliver the opening prayer at January’s inauguration.

The Obama camp has attempted to justify the selection of Warren as a way to shine a light on the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America. But Rich, a columnist for the Times since 1994, says Obama should know better, saying the president-elect “knows full well that a ‘viewpoint’ defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.”

Liberal writers have been up in arms about Warren’s selection since the announcement was made. So too have evangelical voices, who claim Warren should have rejected the invitation because of Obama’s pro-choice (“pro-death” in their words) beliefs.

But this is perhaps the most visible column yet to come out of the opinion pages that really calls into question Obama’s rationale in choosing Warren, the Saddleback Church pastor who campaigned heavily for the passing of Prop. 8 in California.

In the column, Rich reasons that despite calls from liberal activists to remove Warren from the inauguration, Obama now has to follow through with his decision -- civil-rights icon Reverend Joseph Lowery, an outspoken supporter of gay rights, was selected to deliver the Benediction, though that announcement was rather overshadowed by the selection of Warren.

Rich then pushed the conversation forward by turning to Timothy McCarthy, a historian who teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and “an unabashed Obama enthusiast” who served on his campaign’s National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council. His question – what happens next?

McCarthy noted that Warren’s role at the inauguration is symbolic, saying that it is now time “to move from symbol to substance,” calling on Warren to “recant his previous statements about gays and lesbians” and on Obama to start following through on his promises to LGBT Americans.

McCarthy also urged “LGBT folks to choose their battles wisely, to judge Obama on the content of his policy-making, not on the character of his ministers.”

The column’s up note, Rich reasons, is that conservative evangelical America is on its way out, albeit slowly. After spending a half million dollars in Caliofnria to pass Prop. 8, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family has now had to lay off 20-percent of its workforce.

Warren’s new generation of leaders, he says, “departs from the Falwell-Robertson brand of zealots who have had a stranglehold on the G.O.P.” He points to the recent removal of top evangelical leader Reverend Richard Cizik – known for addressing global warming and, more recently, support for civil unions – as a sign of “old establishment’s panic.”

Rich ends the column with a call to action for 2009: “Here’s to humility and equanimity everywhere in America, starting at the top, as we negotiate the fierce rapids of change awaiting us in the New Year.”

'With "Advocates" Like These . . .'

Big Tent Democrat here. (Go to the links.)

who needs opponents? From the comments section to the Frank Rich column I wrote about last night:

I've been an advocate of gay marriage for 20 years but the behavior and uproar of the gay community has turned me against them and their causes the way no right-winger or religious nutjob could ever do. How dare they make this inauguration all about them! . . . Gays have only themselves to blame for the passage of Prop 8. They did ZERO outreach to the black and latino communities. They were so arrogant that they did not mount a proper opposition to Prop 8. When it passed they started looking for people to blame--stalking donors to Prop 8 and castigating blacks.

The more the gay community rants and attacks their allies, the more they will harm their cause. Calling Obama a bigot, homophobe and traitor (as many have) doesn't make me want to storm the barricades against Prop 8. It might also make Obama drag his feet in getting around to those issues.

([Bold] Emphasis supplied.)

You see, her "advocacy" for the civil rights of gays and lesbians depended on the "behavior" of gay and lesbian advocacy groups. I think there is an important lesson here. A lot of people who claim to be supporters of civil rights for gays and lesbians only support it so long as no one actually FIGHTS for civil rights for gays and lesbians. In my book, that makes you not much of a supporter. More of a non-objector to civil rights for gays and lesbians than an advocate. Good that there are non-objectors but do not think for a moment these folks are advocates.

The commenter sounds like a closet homophobe who's just come out of the closet. (Purple emphasis supplied.) I haven't made a big issue out of this myself, but I've certainly commented on it. It is important.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Report from Key West: 'Self-propelled semi-submersibles' carry cocaine


Marlene Dumas slide show

Click here.

Sunday evening

Felt a little deflated today after spending the past two days with friend and family. Also, it's back to work tomorrow, which I rarely look forward to. Then on Tuesday I have a doctor's appointment to get some test results and on Friday a cleaning at the dentist. Of course, we have New Year's Day off.


I decided to play it by ear today. After running the dishwasher and making West African Tuna Casserole, I cleaned myself up and walked over to Starbucks. The weather was beautiful, so I lingered outside over two cups of coffee and about finished reading my magazine (the winter fiction issue of The New Yorker).

I'm not going to the gym tonight since I want to watch "60 Minutes" (all about Obama) and then two TLC shows about someone in Indonesia who is "part man, part tree." They're repeats but I haven't seen them. See here and here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday night

Had a wonderful day. Hung out with my cousin the librarian, from Tampa, and her husband and daughter, and their dog. We figured that I hadn't seen my cousin or her husband in 26 years, since their wedding day, to be precise, when I was a small child. :-) I'd never met their daughter, of course.

We did everything as we'd planned, in addition to a drive by FIU North Campus, which sits on the bay. First, lunch at T.G.I. Fridays, al fresco, then the drive-by, then Starbucks, al fresco, then my apartment to see the kitchen and the cats and the view from the terrace and the little Christmas tree they got me. Lucky went into hiding when we got there, but Bootsy was very happy to have some company and was even licking their hands. Bootsy loves being around people, the more the merrier. And he wasn't fazed by the dog. The dog, Sandy, was fazed by Bootsy, however. (My cousin said Sandy had been attacked by a feral cat when she was a puppy. Also, Bootsy is big.) Sandy's a cross between a chihuahua and a beagle and is very sweet and well-behaved, more beagle-sized than chihuahua-. The weather, by the way, was excellent for sitting outside, and of course Sandy was in her element. She even had her own chair at our table at Starbucks.

Maybe I'd forgotten or never knew that the husband has written and had published a number of children's books. He also teaches Advanced Placement high school English. He grew up near here and on the way down from Hollywood, he drove through his old neighborhood. (I assume my cousin and the daughter had never seen it.) The daughter is now studying architecture in Tampa and lives at home. Very nice, smart family. It was certainly worth getting up earlier than I normally do.

Next year I plan on taking a little vacation in Tampa. I'll probably stay a gay guesthouse in Ybor City, a quaint, old part of Tampa that has a lively nightlife.

Latest report on the toxic coal sludge spill

There is no "clean coal." As the guy explains, the pollutants that are no longer going into the air are now staying in the ash and spilling into your property. There's no getting away from these toxins. Also, the CO2, a "greenhouse gas," is still pouring into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

I'm glad to see we're nipping the "clean coal" public relations campaign in the bud. All it took was a disaster like this. It was just waiting to happen. And George Bush is working to loosen the regulations in this industry (coal ash is already unregulated--see earlier NBC report below). Time to clamp down on this dirty, antiquated and lethal industry.


Friday night

Had a good day today. For one thing, Christmas was over and things were back to normal--so I was able to go to the grocery store and Starbucks and the gym. For another, met an old friend I hadn't seen in a year, though we keep in close touch. He lives in the next county up, but not really that far. (We both live near the county line.) We had lunch at Flanigan's, then came back here for him to see the new kitchen, then had coffee outside at Starbucks. Weather was pleasant today--not so humid, not gusty. He brought me some new-kitchen-warming gifts. Much appreciated. (He recently started the blog "Plunked Down on Plunkett Street.")

(I realize Starbucks may not have the cheapest or even the best coffee around (I happen to like their regular coffee, and it's only $1.76 for a tall cup, including tax), but I do like the ambience and the agreeable staff and, in particular, the ample, umbrellaed (and in places architecturally overhanging, so you can get out of the rain) outside seating area at this particular location, and, even more important, the fact that it's a short walk--across the street--from where I live. (You just have to look both ways as you cross the street, and that's no big deal.) Moreover the clientele is generally attractive. They also have wifi--if you'd like to bring your laptop and go on the Internet, as many people do. Plus I appreciate the fact that the company is environmentally and socially responsible and offers good benefits (including healthcare) to its employees.)

I also checked out some iridescent glass tiles at a tile store (Iberia Tiles) in the shopping plaza where the Starbucks is located. I don't need tiles from Spain or Portugal, but I wanted to see what the place had to offer. The stuff I'm looking at costs around $20/sq. ft. at that particular store, but I can probably get the same thing cheaper at a less upscale tile store that doesn't have such a spacious and luxurious showroom. The place was almost as big as a boutique furniture store -- can you imagine, to show tile.

Tomorrow I have to get up a little earlier than I normally would on a Saturday to meet my cousin from Tampa and her family for lunch at T.G.I. Fridays. I chose Fridays, which is just up the street from me and not far from where they're staying in Hollywood, since it has a nice al fresco dining area, and they have their dog with them. (She had suggested a place with outdoor seating to accommodate the dog, a chihuahua, I believe.) They'll be driving back here after lunch to see my place (they've never seen it) and I suggested we then have coffee at . . . Starbucks. After our visit, they'll head back to Tampa. I'm looking forward to it. Then maybe I'll do a little writing afterwards on my new short story.

Had fun tonight watching "What Not to Wear." That's a really good show. I enjoy it. Hadn't seen it in a while.

P.S. Weighed myself at the gym tonight. I've gained around 4 lbs., from indulging myself over the holidays. That will stop soon.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Good riddance, Bush (the video)

More on the toxic coal sludge spill


'Breaking: American People Really Don't Like Bush'

Really. From TPM here.

As President Bush gets ready to leave office, a new CNN poll lays out the extent to which the American people despise him.

CNN asked respondents whether various positive attributes applied to President Bush. In all cases the answer was No, and in most cases it was overwhelming. The list just goes on and on:

Thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think it applies or doesn't apply to George W. Bush:

Is a strong and decisive leader: Yes 45%, No 55%

Cares about people like you: Yes 37%, No 62%

Brought the kind of change the country needed: Yes 13%, No 86%

Is honest and trustworthy: Yes 37%, No 62%

Managed the government effectively: Yes 25%, No 75%

Is a person you admire: Yes 27%, No 72%

Shares your values: Yes 34%, No 65%

Generally agrees with you on issues you care about: Yes 34%, No 66%

Inspires confidence: Yes 20%, No 80%

Has united the country and not divide it: Yes 17%, No 82%

Was tough enough for the job: Yes 49%, No 51%

Can get things done: Yes 31%, No 69%

On top of this, 75% say they are glad Bush is leaving office, compared to only 23% who say they'll miss him. And 66% want him to get out of public life, with 33% saying he should remain active.

Bye-bye, asshole!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Obama's Christmas address

Arrest details on mom of Bristol Palin's boyfriend

What a sordid bunch! It's the gift that keeps on giving. Full AP story here.

Dec 25th, 2008 ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The mother of Bristol Palin's boyfriend sent text messages to two police informants discussing drug transactions before her arrest on felony drug charges, authorities say.

An affidavit filed Monday says Sherry L. Johnston sent text messages referring to "coffee" as a code for the drug OxyContin.

The 42-year-old Johnston was arrested last week after state troopers served a search warrant at her Wasilla home. She is out on bail.

Johnston is the mother of 18-year-old Levi Johnston. Gov. Sarah Palin announced in September that her 18-year-old daughter Bristol was pregnant and Johnston was the father. . . .

'I love men'

'Santa Baby'

(I found this later on Hullabaloo. This was two years ago, when she was 79. President and Laura Bush are in the audience.)

Eartha Kitt, sultry 'Santa Baby' singer, dies at 81

Full AP story here.

Eartha Kitt, a sultry singer, dancer and actress who rose from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality, has died, a family spokesman said. She was 81.

Andrew Freedman said Kitt, who was recently treated at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, died Thursday in Connecticut of colon cancer.

Kitt, a self-proclaimed "sex kitten" famous for her catlike purr, was one of America's most versatile performers, winning two Emmys and nabbing a third nomination. She also was nominated for several Tonys and two Grammys.

Her career spanned six decades, from her start as a dancer with the famed Katherine Dunham troupe to cabarets and acting and singing on stage, in movies and on television. She persevered through an unhappy childhood as a mixed-race daughter of the South and made headlines in the 1960s for denouncing the Vietnam War during a visit to the White House.

Through the years, Kitt remained a picture of vitality and attracted fans less than half her age even as she neared 80. . . .

Merry Christmas

Was going to make my own coffee today, since I figured Starbucks was closed and I had some Caribou Coffee in the fridge. Before I made the coffee, however, I went downstairs to see what was happening at Starbucks, and it must be open, since there are a lot of people sitting outside. I decided not to waste time sitting over there, reading. Plus I haven't showered. Maybe I can get some work done on a story.

Lucky had never seen me make coffee before, so of course he was curious.

Aerial Footage of Tennessee Retaining Wall Failure (Footage from Tennessee Valley Authority website)

(From Firedoglake)

Coal is not "clean" energy. TVA website here.

Obama on vacation in Hawaii

New York Post photo gallery here.

Pope offends gays at Christmas

See here for more details.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Mormons Gone Wild'

"After one man undresses missionaries for his calendar, LDS Church–owned Brigham Young University strips him of his degree." Advocate story (and more photos) here.

When they weren’t busy promoting the passage of California’s Proposition 8 in recent months, Mormon leaders tried their best to make Chad Hardy’s life hell. Riled by his “Men on a Mission” calendar of shirtless returned missionaries, elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicated Hardy -- a lifelong Mormon -- in July. Then in September, officials from the Provo, Utah–based Brigham Young University informed the 32-year-old entrepreneur, who had participated in the school’s graduation ceremony a month earlier, that his diploma would be denied. BYU says Hardy’s expulsion from the church placed him outside of the “good honor-code standing” necessary to award him his degree, which has been placed on nonacademic hold; Hardy contends that since he completed his coursework prior to excommunication, the rule should not apply. Meanwhile the 2008 skin-baring calendar has sold more than 10,000 copies, and Hardy -- who eschews sexual labels himself -- says the just-released (and “a little bit sexier”) 2009 incarnation is already “flying off the shelves.” . . .

'Obama To Use Lincoln's Bible At Swearing-In'

From MyDD here.

I agree with Josh Marshall, this is a nice touch:

On January 20th, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration. The Bible is currently part of the collections of the Library of Congress. Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the ceremony, choosing a volume with personal or historical significance. President-elect Obama will be the first President sworn in using the Lincoln Bible since its initial use in 1861.

What's more significant for me, though, than the choice of the Bible is that the transition team, with this press release, has decided to reveal the merely ceremonial nature of the Bible in the swearing-in. . . .

A California Carol

'Coal In The Stocking - And The Drinking Water'

From DDay here.

The water main break in Montgomery County, Maryland had some compelling visuals to it, with water pouring from the ground and drivers trapped in their cars, so it received some treatment on the cable shoutcasts today. It's a good thing, too, because the rupture of a 44 year-old pipe causing this kind of chaos does show the need for infrastructure repairs, not only as part of a larger fiscal stimulus, but to avoid catastrophes and their ancillary costs, and to maintain vital services which will have tangible benefits for years to come.

But a massive coal ash spill like we saw today in Tennessee - the result of a burst dam at a private coal processing plant - is actually far more dangerous with far more lasting consequences, even if the visuals aren't as stellar.

You're talking about hundreds of acres of toxic sludge, the residue plants create by burning coal to produce energy, which includes mercury, arsenic and lead, spilling into the tributaries of the Tennessee River, poisoning the water supply for multiple communities, including Chattanooga.

And it's a direct result of our continued reliance on an industry that makes us sick but uses slick PR terms like "clean coal," happily parroted by politicians of both parties, to maintain viability.

“This spill shows that coal can never be ‘clean,’” said Kate Smolski, Senior Legislative Coordinator for Greenpeace. “If the Exxon Valdez was a symbol of pollution 20 years ago, the Tennessee Coal Spill of 2008 is the symbol of it today.”

Incredibly, this spill occurs at a time when the Bush Administration is trying to loosen environmental rules that would allow the coal industry to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining into nearby streams. In other words, they want to make a disaster like this the norm. Environmental groups are suing to stop them, but what will stop the coal companies from their inattention to basic safety?

It's key that we use the opportunity of major fiscal stimulus to improve crumbling infrastructure. It would also be nice if, in the process, we started taking a critical look at companies whose very existence threatens public health and the future of a sustainable planet. And making sure that existence doesn't continue. Coal is not clean.

Tennessee sludge spill runs over homes, water

"Clean coal"? Full story here. (Emphasis added.)

A wall holding back 80 acres of sludge from a coal plant in central Tennessee broke this week, spilling more than 500 million gallons of waste into the surrounding area.

The sludge, a byproduct of ash from coal combustion, was contained at a retention site at the Tennessee Valley Authority's power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles east of Knoxville, agency officials said.

The retention wall breached early Monday, sending the sludge downhill and damaging 15 homes. All the residents were evacuated, and three homes were deemed uninhabitable, a TVA spokesman told CNN.

The plant sits on a tributary of the Tennessee River called the Clinch River. . . .

TVA spokesman Gil Francis told CNN that up to 400 acres of land had been coated by the sludge, a bigger area than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Video footage showed sludge as high as 6 feet, burying porches and garage doors. The slide also downed nearby power lines, though the TVA said power had been restored to the area.

Francis said Environmental Protection Agency officials were on the scene and estimated the cleanup could take four to six weeks.

Some of the goop spilled into the tributary, but preliminary water quality tests show that the drinking water at a nearby treatment plant meets standards.

"I don't want to drink it. It doesn't look healthy to me," Jody Miles, who fishes in the Clinch River, told CNN affiliate WBIR. "Do you reckon they can bring all this life back that's going to die from all this mess?"

Still, there is the potential for more sludge to enter the water supply through waste runoff. . . .

Although video from the scene shows dead fish on the banks of the tributary, he said that "in terms of toxicity, until an analysis comes in, you can't call it toxic."

One environmental attorney called that statement "irresponsible." The ash that gives sludge its thick, pudding-like consistency in this case is known as fly ash, which results from the combustion of coal.

Fly ash contains concentrated amounts of mercury, arsenic and benzine, said Chandra Taylor, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

[After a smaller spill eight years ago, t]he water supply for more than 25,000 residents was contaminated, and aquatic life in the area perished. It took months to clean up the spill. . . .

Poll: Obama's honeymoon continues

Christmas eve

Today my employer let us go home from work two hours early for the Christmas holiday. (We have a four-day weekend.) The cats expected to eat when I got home (early as I was), so I fed them and we took a an hour's nap.

I'd been looking forward to having a coffee at Starbucks and doing some reading and then going to the grocery store, but both had already closed for the holiday. (A few people were nonetheless sitting outside at Starbucks. I suspect they drove there for a fancy Christmas coffee and then decided just to sit a spell before driving back.) Picked up some cash at the store and then drove to Taco Bell (by then I was getting a bit hungry and was thinking about a Mexican pizza). The dining room was closed but the drive-through was open, but I nixed that and decided to check out Burger King--I wanted to sit down, and not back at home in front of the computer and TV. BK's dining room was also closed, so I ended up at the Denny's just across the parking lot. I hadn't been there in years. I was pleasantly surprised. Had some really good nachos and a huge slice of coconut cream pie. It's the holidays so I'm indulging myself a little, but still I didn't expect to get so much pie--it must have been almost a quarter of a pie and very deep, served in a large bowl. I ate it all anyway. Had a cup of coffee with that but left there feeling bloated and rather tired (like I needed another nap). This morning I called the gym, by the way, and they said they were closing at noon (!). This would normally have been a gym day and I would gladly have gone, especially with all the indulging that I've been doing, with holiday treats sitting out everywhere at work. It'll be nice to get back to my little routine.

Tonight I talked with my friend in Quebec. He'd already gone through a bottle of wine, etc. Then some friends knocked on his door while we were on the phone and I said to go party with them--I'll call him back tomorrow. The weather up there is pretty bad. It was very humid here today and kind of misting, but not even cool. A bit gusty, though.

I have nothing planned for tomorrow, besides talking to a few people on the phone. Maybe I'll get my bicycle back in condition and take a ride. I'd had it locked up in the bike rack in the parking garage the whole time the kitchen was being remodeled. Now it's back in the apartment, out of the elements, and more accessible. I just need to blow up the tires and apply a little WD-40.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas carol

Monday night

I know postings have been scant. It's the holidays. Not a lot going on. Been on the phone with friends, etc.

No news is good news.

Monday, December 22, 2008

'Biden On Rick Warren Invitation: Obama Is Keeping His Promise To Reach Out'

From TPM here.

In an interview with Larry King set to air tonight, Joe Biden defended Barack Obama's selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration:

Barack Obama said you've got to reach out. You've got to reach a hand of friendship across the aisle and across philosophies in this country.

We can't continue to be a red and blue country. We can't be divided like we have been. And he's made good on his promise.

And I would say to the gay and lesbian community, they have nothing to worry about. Barack Obama, every aspect of his life, every aspect of his public life, and every commitment he's made relating to equality for all people, will be things that he will stick with and that they should view this in the spirit in which he offered the opportunity to -- to Mr. Warren.

. . .

Sunday night

Of course, Lucky still hangs out in the bathroom sink (when it's dry) to get attention.

Didn't work my ass off this weekend as I did last. Got a lot of rest. Next week is a three-day work week, so I'll have a four-day weekend. (It's Christmas.) I still have to do a deep cleaning on the bedroom floors; maybe I'll do it then. The rest of the place is fine and, at last, presentable for guests.

I'm meeting a friend on Friday at Flanigan's. We'll have a bite to eat and then end up back here. He wants to see the new kitchen, even though the backsplashes and painting aren't done. It'll be clean, though. (I cleaned it this weekend.)

Bootsy is doing well, too. I certainly don't neglect him. He gets a lot of love and attention. I just wish B. cared about him more. No word from B. at all. I'm going to write his mother a note tomorrow (I don't have her new phone number). I'd asked B. to ask his mother whether she'd like to have my almost-new counter-top microwave oven (since I got a new one installed over the stove). (She has my really old one.) I never got any response. Maybe B. never told her, since he's in the clutches of the psychopathic BF who keeps B. drugged up. (I'm not joking.)

B.'s mother sent me a very nice Christmas card and I also sent her a nice one. (Her card was the first one I received.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

World's tallest and smallest

Watching TLC tonight. Recently I saw a program on the tallest, and tonight the smallest. Both are from Mongolia. The tallest, Bao Xishun (b. 1951), is 7' 8.95" (236 cm). The smallest, He Pingping (b. 1988), is 2' 5" (73 cm) tall. (More photos here.)

Paul Krugman: 'The Madoff Economy'

Complete article here.

The revelation that Bernard Madoff — brilliant investor (or so almost everyone thought), philanthropist, pillar of the community — was a phony has shocked the world, and understandably so. The scale of his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme is hard to comprehend.

Yet surely I’m not the only person to ask the obvious question: How different, really, is Mr. Madoff’s tale from the story of the investment industry as a whole?

The financial services industry has claimed an ever-growing share of the nation’s income over the past generation, making the people who run the industry incredibly rich. Yet, at this point, it looks as if much of the industry has been destroying value, not creating it. And it’s not just a matter of money: the vast riches achieved by those who managed other people’s money have had a corrupting effect on our society as a whole.

Let’s start with those paychecks. Last year, the average salary of employees in “securities, commodity contracts, and investments” was more than four times the average salary in the rest of the economy. Earning a million dollars was nothing special, and even incomes of $20 million or more were fairly common. The incomes of the richest Americans have exploded over the past generation, even as wages of ordinary workers have stagnated; high pay on Wall Street was a major cause of that divergence.

But surely those financial superstars must have been earning their millions, right? No, not necessarily. The pay system on Wall Street lavishly rewards the appearance of profit, even if that appearance later turns out to have been an illusion. . . .

So, how different is what Wall Street in general did from the Madoff affair? Well, Mr. Madoff allegedly skipped a few steps, simply stealing his clients’ money rather than collecting big fees while exposing investors to risks they didn’t understand. And while Mr. Madoff was apparently a self-conscious fraud, many people on Wall Street believed their own hype. Still, the end result was the same (except for the house arrest): the money managers got rich; the investors saw their money disappear. . . .

At the crudest level, Wall Street’s ill-gotten gains corrupted and continue to corrupt politics, in a nicely bipartisan way. From Bush administration officials like Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who looked the other way as evidence of financial fraud mounted, to Democrats who still haven’t closed the outrageous tax loophole that benefits executives at hedge funds and private equity firms (hello, Senator Schumer), politicians have walked when money talked.

Meanwhile, how much has our nation’s future been damaged by the magnetic pull of quick personal wealth, which for years has drawn many of our best and brightest young people into investment banking, at the expense of science, public service and just about everything else?

Most of all, the vast riches being earned — or maybe that should be “earned” — in our bloated financial industry undermined our sense of reality and degraded our judgment.

Think of the way almost everyone important missed the warning signs of an impending crisis. How was that possible? How, for example, could Alan Greenspan have declared, just a few years ago, that “the financial system as a whole has become more resilient” — thanks to derivatives, no less? The answer, I believe, is that there’s an innate tendency on the part of even the elite to idolize men who are making a lot of money, and assume that they know what they’re doing.

After all, that’s why so many people trusted Mr. Madoff.

Now, as we survey the wreckage and try to understand how things can have gone so wrong, so fast, the answer is actually quite simple: What we’re looking at now are the consequences of a world gone Madoff.

Sunday evening

Sometimes I can't find Lucky. I walk all around the place, then I'll call him and he comes out of my bedroom. Now I know where he is--in my laundry basket. Good camouflage.

Christmas tree

My cousin sent this to me. It's a potted live Mediterranean cypress tree from Alabama. Came with a string of lights and a box of miniature ornaments. From ProFlowers. Also got pears and apples from Harry & David's (one box of which I sent to myself).

Sunday afternoon

Aloe in bloom on the terrace

A couple of weeks ago

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Disgraced Evangelical Leader Ted Haggard Says He Struggles With Sexuality

Good grief! If he accepted himself as being gay, he could be a winner. Story here.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard says in a new documentary that he still struggles with his sexuality yet is committed to his marriage for the sake of his children.

Haggard, 52, resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was fired as senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs in November 2006 after a former male prostitute went public with allegations that Haggard paid him for sex and used methamphetamine.

A father of five, Haggard had said he bought the drugs but never used them. He confessed to undisclosed "sexual immorality" and has said, "I really did sin."

The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported Thursday that in the documentary, Haggard talks about a lifelong battle with his sexuality — and that he never claimed to be heterosexual.

"The reason I kept my personal struggle a secret is because I feared that my friends would reject me, abandon me and kick me out, and the church would exile and excommunicate me. And that happened and more," he says.

Haggard's wife, Gayle, says she is committed to Haggard.

"I know to restore the honor to our children is to help restore honor to their father," she says.

"The Trials of Ted Haggard," directed by Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is set to air Jan. 29 on HBO. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Haggard has agreed to promote the documentary.

Haggard moved his family to Arizona after the scandal and also lived in Texas. He re-emerged last month at a rural Illinois church, where he delivered guest sermons and said he was sexually abused as a second-grader.

He now sells insurance and, in the documentary, says he isn't successful.

"At this stage in my life, I am a loser," he says.

'Warren misstates marital history'

This aggravates me too. From Salon's War Room here.

If you haven't had a chance to read our own Mike Madden's fine reporting and analysis on the Obama-Warren controversy, it's good stuff. One statement from a video Rev. Rick taped in support of California's Prop 8, as partially quoted by Mike in the piece, really aggravates me.

That quote is this: "We should not let 2 percent of the population determine to change a definition of marriage" -- that definition being one man and one woman for life, of course, as he states moments earlier in the video -- "that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years."

This is simply not true. Different cultures have supported different definitions of marriage, to include the following, ahem, deviations from the pastor's purported pristine, 5,000-year tradition: polygamy, marriages involving children and/or forced marriages, marriages for dowry, divorce and remarriage, and now, increasingly, same-sex marriage.

Sure, some of the above deviations from the mythic, Ozzie and Harriet norm do, technically, involve just one man and one woman (or in the case of children, one man and one girl). But Warren clearly intends to imply the voluntary, adult, non-coerced, loving, biological or maybe adoptive child-bearing, straight, monogamous version. To even hint that this model has obtained, only and everywhere, for five millenia is a lie. From a pastor's goateed mouth, no less. . . .

Times change, thank God. I'm so glad that, in my lifetime, homosexuality has been scientifically studied and revealed to have a biological basis. There's no longer any justification for treating gays and lesbians as sinners and deviants and undeserving of the rights that others enjoy.

And, by the way, Jesus never said anything at all about homosexuality, much less that it was "wrong."* He's a guy for our time.

And I'm no proselytizer, or even much of a believer nowadays.
_____________________
*I used to have a red-letter edition of the King James Bible that my grandmother gave me for, I believe, a birthday present. (Unfortunately it got lost.) Everything Jesus actually said was printed in red type. Once I went through the entire New Testament, looking for something Jesus said about homosexuality. There was nothing, nothing even close. Why the evangelical Christians make such an issue of this nowadays is mostly based on hatred arising from fear and ignorance, while Jesus preached only love and forgiveness. And he certainly didn't preach exclusion from some stupid church. He was kind of anti-church himself, if I recall, and more concerned about the way society treated lepers and other social "misfits." I'm sure he'd be sympathetic to the gays nowadays.

If they disdain me, I have no use for them or their religion

From Americablog via TPM here.

Policy statement from Rick Warren's Saddleback Church ...

"Because membership in a church is an outgrowth of accepting the Lordship and leadership of Jesus in one's life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted at a member at Saddleback Church." [at a member?]

I was raised to be a better "Christian" -- a better person -- than the vast majority of these divisive evangelical types. But Obama has to placate them. He's just playing politics.

Friday, December 19, 2008

'In Private Memo, RNC Chief Concedes That GOP Is Bereft Of Ideas, Vows Change Of Direction'

But we knew that already. Look at the fix that Republican ideology has gotten us in. From TPM here.

In a frank and private memo sent today to Republican National Commitee members, the RNC chairman acknowledges that the GOP has grown too addicted to ideology, places politics before policy, and is bereft of ideas -- and that it's imperative that the party shift towards a genuine effort to develop concrete policy solutions to people's problems in order to rescue itself.

The memo, which we obtained from a Republican operative. was written by RNC chief Mike Duncan to explain the RNC's decision -- first reported by Politico -- to create a new in-house think tank called the "Center for Republican Renewal," which is devoted to coming up with new policies and ideas to chart a new direction for the party after November's devastating losses.

The memo -- which reflects just how deep a hole the party finds itself in -- also reveals some concrete details about the new think tank, including the appointment of Steven Duffield, the executive director of the GOP's 2008 Platform Committee, as the organization's new chief.

"Republicans have grown accustomed to having our party recognized as the `Party of Ideas,' but we must acknowledge that many Americans today believe the party is stale and does not deserve that label," reads one of the memo's starker assessments, adding that "we have not used our principles to provide solutions to the kitchen table concerns of middle-class America." . . .

Good luck with that.

Everyone knows by now that the Republican Party's main goal is making rich people richer, at the expense of everyone else. We've got to put the brakes on this fucking ideology. Laissez-faire capitalism doesn't work. And it's certainly not a traditional American concept. Our founding fathers conceived of publicly-provided fire protection and public libraries and universities, and funded them.

This Republican ideological trend to make everything a private enterprise to enrich the Republicans' cronies is a disgrace to our own traditions, in addition to being morally bankrupt and bad public policy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chuck Todd has more

See here first. I only watch NBC Nightly News (when I can), and I've appreciated Todd's reporting and insights. And he's nice to look at, too.


'Pols Are Pols . . .'

Big Tent Democrat here.

and do what they do. Kos remembers this critical point:

Obama wouldn't be out there making perhaps the strongest statement in support of gays and lesbians by a president (though he's still not technically one, I know) if it wasn't for the sturm and drang this choice generated. It is precisely this backlash that has forced Obama to clearly affirm his commitment to equality. And it will be continued pressure that will force him to do the right thing on the issue. If we shut up, he'll take the path of least resistance. And that path of least resistance is kowtowing to the conservative media, the clueless punditocracy, and bigots like Warren.

Emphasis mine. Speaking for me only.

Wine Boosts Good Omega-3 Fats

Article here.

A glass or two of wine per day may increase the amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in a person's blood, a new study suggests.

The study of European adults found that those who drank in moderation tended to have higher blood levels of omega-3 -- even when intake of fish, the major dietary source of the fats, was taken into account.

The link was strongest among wine drinkers, compared with those who favored beer and spirits. The findings suggest that wine in particular may affect the body's metabolism of omega-3 fats, according to the researchers, led by Romina di Giuseppe of Catholic University in Campobasso, Italy.

The results also point to an additional explanation for why wine drinking in moderation has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, the researchers report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel, are thought to protect the heart by lowering triglycerides (a type of blood fat), reducing inflammation, and preventing heart-rhythm disturbances, among other benefits.

For its part, wine may boost blood levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, reduce the chances of blood clots, and improve the function of the blood vessel lining. Some lab research has suggested that moderate amounts of wine or other types of alcohol may also change the body's metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids.

"That is exactly what we found in our population study," Di Guiseppe said in a written statement. "People drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, one drink a day for women and two for men, had higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in plasma and red blood cells independently of their fish intake."

The study included 1,604 adults between the ages of 26 and 65 from Italy, Belgium, and England. Because people in the three nations have substantially different drinking and eating habits, the researchers were able to zero in on the effects of different types of alcohol on omega-3 levels.

They found that moderate wine consumption was particularly linked to higher omega-3 levels.

This, Di Guiseppe's team notes, suggests that wine components other than alcohol bestow the benefit; antioxidant compounds called polyphenols may play a role, the researchers say.

(I have very high good cholesterol myself.)

'U.S. Rejects U.N.'s Gay Rights Statement, Cites "Don't Ask" '

I wonder if Obama would have seen this tabled. (I doubt it.) But we'll see what Obama does. From Advocate.com here.

A joint statement addressing homophobia and LGBT rights for the first time at the United Nations was tabled today, without the backing of the United States.

"We urge states to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention," the draft document read.

The unprecedented gay rights declaration was proposed by the French, and read by Argentinean ambassador Jorge Arguello. The non-binding statement is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

The United States did not sign the statement, but former U.N. spokesman Richard Grenell said the U.S. was hung up on its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bars out gays and lesbians from serving in the military.

"The fact that the Bush administration hired as many gays and lesbians with top secret security clearances in and of itself means that we are not criminals," Grenell said. "To later suggest that because of 'don't ask, don't tell' we can't support this resolution flies in the face of real compassion."

Grenell added that before he left his post in October as the longest-running American spokesperson to the United Nations, he explained to State Department officials that the U.S. should sign the statement immediately, as a means to show the Bush administration is compassionate and accepting. "Yet, they came up with this phony argument that legally they had a problem with 'don't ask, don't tell.'"

Sixty-six of the 192 member countries, including the full European Union, Central African Republic, Brazil, Cuba, Israel, and Japan urged the decriminalization of homosexuality on Thursday to fellow member countries. In addition to the United States, China, Russia, and all of the Arab nations refused to back the statement.

A rival statement, read by Syria, garnered 58 signatures, according to Bloomberg. Syrian envoy Abdullah al-Hallaq, reading the statement, said homosexuality could "usher into social normalization and possibly the legitimization of many deplorable acts, including pedophilia."

More than 77 countries find consensual same-sex relations to be punishable by death, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Association, known as the ILGA. Seven countries -- Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen -- punish homosexuality by death.

A lot more on the Rick Warren flap

Here ("Obama supporters want refunds") and here (Joan Walsh) ("The divisive, self-aggrandizing right-wing evangelist was a terrible choice to give Obama's invocation") and here ("an overture to conservative Christians who rankles some Obama supporters"?) (grammar!) and here ("Barack Obama knows liberals are upset he picked the conservative evangelical preacher to pray at the inauguration. And he doesn't care.")

I frankly don't care. Obama is just being a politician here. And the only way he'll be able to get anything done -- and he has lots to do -- is to get everyone behind him, even the bigots.

More on the Rick Warren flap (and more)




Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Miami doctor sentenced to 30 years in Medicare HIV treatment scam

Doctors in the Banana Republic of Miami-Dade County are notorious for scamming the government. Story here.

MIAMI -- A Miami doctor has been sentenced to 30 years in prison -- one of the stiffest penalties given for Medicare fraud -- for her role in an HIV infusion fraud scheme.

A federal judge said Ana Alvarez-Jacinto lied about her role in the scam. Alvarez-Jacinto was sentenced Wednesday beyond the 22 years recommended by prosecutors. Sandra Mateos, a nurse who also participated, was sentenced to seven years.

The duo were found guilty in October for their role at a bogus AIDS clinic, one of 12 run by the Benitez brothers. The brothers, who were indicted for stealing $110 million from Medicare, are on the lam.

See article about the convictions here.

Evidence at trial established that both defendants worked at Saint Jude Rehab Center Inc. (St. Jude), a clinic that purported to specialize in treating HIV/AIDS patients. St. Jude was operated and owned by indicted fugitives Carlos Benitez and Luis Benitez, and managed by convicted co-conspirators Aisa Perera and Mariela Rodriguez.

Evidence at trial proved that between June and November 2003, Alvarez-Jacinto, with the assistance Mateos, ordered hundreds of medically unnecessary HIV infusion treatments at the clinic. Evidence at trial also established that HIV-positive Medicare patients were brought to the clinic by Carlos and Luis Benitez for the purpose of getting cash payments in exchange for allowing the clinic to bill for unnecessary treatments. Testimony at trial revealed that defendant Mateos and other co-conspirators paid the patients cash kickbacks of approximately $150 per visit. After patients had been paid, they agreed to allow Alvarez-Jacinto and her co-conspirators to prescribe, and sometimes administer, unnecessary infusion treatments. According to testimony at trial, St. Jude then billed Medicare for approximately $11 million for the unnecessary services. For those claims, Medicare paid more than $8 million to St. Jude.

I would think here it's Medicaid, not Medicare, fraud. Medicare is for the elderly. (But - who knows - I could be wrong here.) Usually people with HIV are treated through Medicaid if they don't have insurance through their employer.

See here also.

HRC Slams Inclusion of Antigay Reverend Rick Warren in Obama Inauguration

Asshole. Full Advocate story here.

The Human Rights Campaign and gay and lesbian activists are up in arms over the Obama transition team’s announcement that the Reverend Rick Warren has been selected to deliver the invocation at his inauguration in January.

The HRC sent a letter to president elect Barack Obama Wednesday expressing their disappointment in the selection of Warren. . . .

The HRC’s letter to Obama goes on to say, "Rev. Warren spoke out vocally in support of Prop 8 in California saying, 'there is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population ... This is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about.'"

Garrison Keillor: "Do not flush while seated on toilet"

Hilarious. Read the whole thing here.

Dec. 17, 2008 - It is rather haunting, the notice above the Flush button in the toilet on the airliner, "Do Not Flush While Seated on Toilet." One imagines the engineers of the toilet running tests with flush dummies with big flat butts and the suction ripping the stuffing right out of them, and the engineers thinking, "Oh criminy, you mean we wasted three years on this sucker?" So lawyers were brought in to write the warning, which had to be short enough to be printed in large type so that geezers would see it, who are the ones most likely to flush while seated.

So they limited themselves to those seven words and eliminated "Flushing While Seated May Suck Your Colon Out Of You And Cut You A New Orifice While Changing Your Gender In Ways You Don't Even Want To Think About."

I sat down on the closed toilet seat to ponder this and saw that, from the angle of the sitter, the warning notice is not all that prominent. A person could sit there and not notice those seven words, or mistake them for something innocuous such as "Do Not Flush Wallet Down Toilet" or "Use Only As Much Toilet Paper As You Need," the sort of signage that's written by morons for idiots, and so -- distracted perhaps by sudden turbulence or feeling rushed because others are waiting -- he presses the Flush button and suddenly feels the toilet grip his hinder like a python seizing a rat. He tries to pry himself loose. No go.

Now the flight attendant is tap-tap-tapping on the door. "Are you all right?" she asks. . . .

Quote of the Day

From Digby here.

From Shakes:

And all I could think when I was reading this story was how extraordinarily fucked up it is that, if you want to be a parent, you're better off being a gay male penguin in China than a gay male human in Arkansas.

Do click over for the sweet story behind that quote.

From the story:

One of the stories to which Pet linked in the Morning Readings is about two gay male penguins who were given eggs to hatch and "turned out to be the best parents in the whole zoo," resulting in the zoo—Polar Land in Harbin, China—promising to "try to arrange for them to become real parents themselves with artificial insemination."

You can click on this to enlarge.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Poll Finds Support for Obama's War Views'

Less Pessimism on Iraq, But 70% Back Pullout

Caught this on the elevator at work today. Story here.

Americans are more upbeat about U.S. prospects in Iraq than at any time in the past five years, but nearly two-thirds continue to believe the war is not worth fighting and 70 percent say President-elect Barack Obama should fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw U.S. forces from the country within 16 months, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Meanwhile, most Americans support the war in Afghanistan and a slim majority said the conflict there is essential to battling global terrorism, the poll found. Yet, a majority of Americans also believe that the U.S. military action there has been unsuccessful.

Public perceptions of the two wars appear to largely dovetail with the views expressed by Obama, who has promised to begin withdrawing most combat troops from Iraq shortly after he takes office Jan. 20. Obama has advocated shifting more U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, where the U.S.-led coalition has been struggling to quell resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. . . .

'Investigators: Adam Walsh Murder Case Is Solved'

The father hosted the "America's Most Wanted" TV show and was an activist in crime-solving. Full story here.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- A serial killer who died more than a decade ago is the person who decapitated the 6-year-old son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh in 1981, Hollywood police said Tuesday.

The announcement brought to a close a case that has vexed the Walsh family for more than two decades, launched the television show about the nation's most notorious criminals and inspired changes in how authorities search for missing children.

"Who could take a 6-year-old and murder and decapitate him? Who?" an emotional John Walsh said at Tuesday's news conference. "We needed to know. We needed to know. And today we know. The not knowing has been a torture, but that journey's over." . . .

The suspect, Ottis Toole, had twice confessed to killing the child, but later recanted. He claimed responsibility for hundreds of murders, but police determined most of the confessions were lies. Toole's niece told the boy's father, John Walsh, her uncle confessed on his deathbed in prison that he killed Adam.

Police said Toole was long the prime suspect in the case and that they had conclusively linked him the killing. They declined to be specific about their evidence and noted they had no DNA proof of the crime, but said an extensive review of the case file pointed only to Toole, as John Wash long contended. . . .

Adam's death, and his father's subsequent activism on his behalf, helped put faces on milk cartons, shopping bags and mailbox flyers, started fingerprinting programs and increased security at schools and stores. It spurred the creation of missing persons units at every large police department.

It also prompted national legislation to create a national center, database and toll-free line devoted to missing children, and led to the start of "America's Most Wanted," which brought those cases into millions of homes. . . .

See ABC News story here.

'25 Cars Broken Into In One Day At North Miami Neighborhood'

This happened right down the street from me. I'm glad we have an enclosed secure parking garage where I live, with security cameras everywhere. It would be difficult for a thief to get into our garage unless the gates were stuck open (which sometimes they are, but they get repaired quickly these days). Story here.

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. -- At least 25 car owners were left without radios, baby strollers and children's Christmas presents after the items were stolen from their cars Monday morning, residents said.

Local residents said they are trying to figure out how so many thieves were able to organize and execute a raid in their North Miami neighborhood at the 135th Street canal enclave, a street where police officers also live.

"We always take precautions like any other neighborhood, but I guess under-patrolled areas are always easy targets," resident Jake Barnes said. "Somehow they got past our security gates and robbed more cars than I've ever seen before."

Two different high-rise communities were attacked on the dead-end street. Security fences were breached and car windows were broken throughout open-air parking lots.

Residents of Keystone Towers, one community that was robbed, are blaming building management for the mess. With 40 percent of the two buildings unoccupied and many owners in foreclosure, they said that condo fees don't support necessary security for the residents.

The situation leaves residents and their families easy targets for Miami's criminals.

On Tuesday, Keystone's management notified residents they do not carry adequate insurance to cover Monday's losses.

Tuesday night

This one from today, when I got home from work. Lucky was back in the bathroom sink, waiting for his supper.

Bush's 'Nightmare Before Christmas'

'Bush shoe-thrower "tortured"'

Bush should have stayed home and not done his last act of meddling in these people's affairs. I would be provoked, too. From Al Jazeera English here.

An Iraqi journalist arrested after throwing his shoes at the US president has been tortured during his detention, his brother has said.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, who called George Bush "a dog" during his attack, was beaten by security guards after his arrest, Durgham al-Zaidi told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

"We know that [Muntazer] has been tortured and his hand was broken. I asked them to go and check on him in the Green Zone [in Baghdad]," he said.

Al-Baghdadia television, Muntazer's employer, reported that al-Zeidi had been "seriously injured" while in custody.

The channel has urged the Iraqi government to allow lawyers and the Iraqi Red Crescent to visit him.

The Iraqi military has denied that al-Zaidi has been mistreated while in detention. . . .

The court may send him for trial under a clause in the Iraqi penal code that makes it an offence to try to murder Iraqi or foreign presidents.

The sentence could be up to 15 years jail, Birqadr said. . . .

How is throwing one's shoes at anyone an act of attempted murder? It may have been technically an assault (in our legal system at least, or perhaps more accurately an attempted battery, but I'm no lawyer), but it in the Iraqi culture it was meant as an insult. See here also.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More on the shoe attack

I don't think the guy should go to prison. Maybe you could call it a "crime of passion."

Another Florida man accused of sandwich assault

AP story here.

French writer wins 2008 Nobel in literature

The New Yorker magazine recently published a short story by J.M.G. Le Clézio, who won this year's Nobel Prize for literature. I finished reading the story yesterday (it was in the Oct. 27 issue). It was delightful. Unfortunately, you can't read it for free.

Here's some background.

Nobel laureate Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, little known to American audiences before being named the winner of the literature prize, is getting another introduction to U.S. readers: His work is appearing for the first time in The New Yorker.

"We thought lots of people would be very interested to see what his work was like," said New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman, whose translation of the short story "The Boy Who Had Never Seen the Sea" will appear on newsstands Monday. "We also wanted to move fast and publish it while people still remember his name."

Le Clezio, 68, was praised by the Swedish Academy for his "poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy" in such works as "Terra Amata," "The Book of Flights" and "Desert." Although he is ranked among the greatest living French writers, even leading American critics - including Treisman and New Yorker editor David Remnick - acknowledged they had not read his work.

A week before the award was announced, Academy Permanent Secretary Horace Engdahl told The Associated Press that the United States was too insular and ignorant to challenge Europe as the center of the literary world; Remnick was among those who objected.

Originally published in "Mondo et Autre Histoires" ("Mondo and Other Stories"), a 1978 collection, "The Boy" tells of a young loner and boarding school student named Daniel whose passion for the sea leads to his mysterious disappearance and raises him to mythical heights among those who knew him - and among the many who didn't.

"We talked about the usual school things," Le Clezio writes, "our math problems, our Latin translations, but always we were thinking of him, as if he really were a kind of Sinbad, still making his way around the world."

Treisman said that after the Nobel was announced, on Oct. 9, she contacted Le Clezio's publisher, Gallimard, who gave permission for The New Yorker to publish work from "Mondo." Treisman said she chose "The Boy" for its language and narrative and imaginative power.

Asked why she had never read Le Clezio, even though she was fluent in French, Treisman laughed and responded: "I do have an awful lot to read. I try to keep up with what's happening and I'm aware of quite a few writers in France right now, but I had no particular reason to read his work before this (the Nobel).

"So this was a big prod from the Nobel Prize committee."

Le Clézio lives in New Mexico part of the year. He spent much of his childhood on the island of Mauritius, off the east coast of Africa, where the now-extinct dodo bird lived.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday night

Talked to my friend in Ft. Lauderdale/St. Louis tonight while making beef Stroganoff and doing a load of laundry. This is my friend who has the dog that was paralyzed. Dog is doing fine. Off meds now (was on prednizone to help heal her nerves). His BF is not doing well, however. The weekend before Thanksgiving he was in a straitjacket at the hospital. I don't know whether this was before or after he had a fit and destroyed his psychiatrist's office. My friend says he's a schizophrenic and won't take his meds, but the way my friend describes him, it sounds like the BF has multiple personality disorder.

Tonight, when I had almost finished pulling my work clothes one by one out of the dryer and hanging them on hangers, the dryer malfunctioned and wouldn't stop spinning when I opened the door. Some of the rest of the stuff fell out on its own, but some kept spinning around. I ended up using a heavy-duty coat hanger to knock them loose. I wasn't about to stick my arm in there. I just called the security guard about to tell him about it. Someone could get hurt.

Finished off the Stroganoff with sour cream and am boiling some egg noodles now. I'll take some of that to work tomorrow. This is kind of a poor man's Stroganoff my mother used to make with round steak. I braise it in V-8 juice and onion till the meat's tender. Tonight I used an eye of the round roast that was on sale at Publix for $2 off per pound. I slice the meat into strips, as my mother used to do. This was a popular dish in our household when I was growing up, and I still make it.

I'll be glad when the holidays are over and things are back to normal. I'm taking the holidays pretty well this year, however. Usually I get in kind of an agitated depression. It takes a lot of work for me to keep myself together under normal circumstances, and I find the holidays distracting, and draining. (I'm half-joking here.)

Maybe things are different this year because so much of the year wasn't normal anyway--with the horrible break-up with B., Lucy's sad death which I had to orchestrate because she got so sick*, and the kitchen work dragging on for so long. But now that the kitchen is functional, things are relatively normal now despite the holidays, and I'm happy. I just can't stand all the Christmas shows and Christmas music everywhere and all the hype. Of course I find myself humming Christmas carols. But you can bet I'll be glad when this year is behind me.

Made a big dent this weekend getting the place back in shape after the kitchen project. I think I'm going to tackle my bedroom next, which still has vermicelli on the floor which leaked out of one of the storage bags for kitchen stuff. (Not a lot!)
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*She was a cat, but not just a cat. She was my little spirit. Thank goodness I found Lucky. Every day he makes me laugh with his antics. He's very special, and Bootsy now likes him too. We're a happy little family here. It's just too bad the cats don't get the attention they used to get when B. was here during the day, but there's nothing I can do about that.

Obama's weekly address