Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday night

Watched "Frontline" tonight on health care ("Sick Around America"). You can watch it online here. It's a brand-new show. Go watch it if you didn't see it. It looks like we'll be getting some form of national health care this year. One thing they'll need to do is cap drug costs (way out of line) and develop a system of evaluating expensive new medical technology to make sure that it's used when needed and not just to ring up more profits for the health care industry. They do this already in other advanced countries, but not here.

Another thing the show pointed out was how our patchwork system causes people to choose jobs based on health care benefits. Stymieing people from seeking work that may better utilize their talents and education can't be good for our country's competitiveness in the world.

Also, this nation of immigrants is probably not attracting all the immigrants that might be of benefit to us. For example, why would anyone from Europe, which enjoys universal health care, even consider immigrating here, knowing they could go bankrupt (or die) if they slip through the cracks of our health care system? (And this happens a lot.) As reported on the show tonight, one of our prosperous residents was returning to her home country of New Zealand since she fell through the cracks. (New Zealand has a national health care system, so she doesn't have to worry any more.) Still, she'd like to come back here someday. This was her adoptive home and she did well here, until she got sick.

Also, 24% of our health care costs go to administration (all the bureaucracies in the health insurance companies, etc.). In Canada, it's half that. Someone said tonight that if we could halve our administrative costs, we could provide health care coverage for all the people who now go without (millions of people). Also, all of our health insurance companies have fully staffed departments whose job is to find discrepancies in customers' applications in order to rescind their insurance retroactively after the customers make legitimate claims. People who work in these departments get bonuses based on the dollar amount the insurance company saves due to their efforts.

It makes you wonder why insurance companies are even involved in our health care system. (But I think it was kind of foisted on them.)

(As I've said before, my father was in the insurance business all his life--mainly in surety bonds--and I'm not anti-insurance companies.)

Michele Bachmann

This woman is horrible (and rabidly anti-gay). She's the Congressperson from Minnesota's 6th district, which includes the far northern suburbs of the Twin Cities and St. Cloud.

Today I received this email from Erin Hill at ActBlue (on the subject of "Bachmannia").

We all remember Republican Michelle Bachmann from the 2008 campaign, when she demanded that the press investigate the patriotism of all liberals in Congress.

Less than 6 months after your ActBlue contributions helped Elywn Tinklenberg mount an unprecedented challenge to Bachmann's fear-mongering, she apparently feels unassailable enough to begin dispensing her own brand of "patriotism."

In the past week, Bachmann has called for revolution in the United States, referred to the institutions of American government as "enemy lines," blamed climate change on "solar flares, etc.," and told her constituents that she wants them to be "armed and dangerous."

It's been almost half a year since the American people delivered their verdict on GOP fear-mongering and incompetence, but Bachmann is still trying to divide us when we should be united, and distract us when we should be focused on solving the problems that confront us all.

Your $15 recurring donation to ActBlue will ensure that we're there in 2010 to help show Bachmann the door and restore some dignity to her seat in Congress.

From all of us at ActBlue, thanks.

From the Wikipedia link:

In support of a constitutional amendment she proposed to ban same-sex marriage,[34] Bachmann said that the gay community was specifically targeting children and that "our children...are the prize for this community."[41] Bachmann has said that people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender suffer from "sexual dysfunction" and "sexual identity disorders."[42]

This woman is "sick." She's gotta go.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cats at play, and MORE

The cats are playing together in and around the pillow box again. I'm glad I took Bootsy to the vet. He's feeling a lot better.

Been watching Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow tonight. Regarding torture, the Spanish, of all people, should know that it doesn't work, after their religious "Inquisition." The Catholic Church a long time ago acknowledged that confessions obtained through torture aren't valid.

I was always proud of the U.S. that we didn't do that, but then we did.

Here's a segment from Keith Olbermann's show tonight. The point is that when we started waterboarding one of the high-level "combatants," he gave false information. Before the torture started, he'd been cooperative. The government checked out all the information he'd given under torture, and it was false. Nothing to protect our country was gained by torture.

Now the Spanish government is preparing a lawsuit against some people in the Bush administration, including the Attorney General and Cheney's chief of staff. More power to them.

Dick Cheney meanwhile has been rearing his ugly head to say that the Bush Administration torture policies worked, when they apparently didn't. And it's been known for centuries that torture doesn't work to produce truthful information. How on Earth could it?

Our whole legal system in the U.S. is based on arriving at the truth, and it doesn't admit evidence arrived at through coercive means. Torture doesn't work and thus isn't allowed in our system of justice. Dick Cheney, in facilitating it, is un-American and probably a criminal. I hope he gets his due someday.

Monday night

I forgot to mention that I received a "phishing" email the other day from someone purporting to be Bank of America, with Bank of America's logo on it. I was suspicious the minute I saw the subject line in Outlook Express--"NOTICE !"--all caps with a space before the exclamation point.

Here's a screen shot of the email:

Note that it reads Bank of America "member" instead of "customer." The typeface is also "dirty" and the rest of the language and punctuation klutzy. Also, when you place the cursor over the "NOTICE !" at the bottom of the screen, you get a screen tip that says "Cyrillic," which is the name of the Russian alphabet. So this thing came from Russia.

Last night I saw a segment on "60 Minutes" about computer viruses, worms, etc. I was surprised to find out that most of (or a lot of) this activity originates in Russia and is being carried out by minors! They even had photos of successful hackers. The report said that the some people in Russia regard them as heroes and that their stories appear in the press (with photos).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday night

Watching "Royal Inquest," a new show on TLC. It borders on the sensational. I must have forgotten that someone tried to kidnap Princess Anne in 1974, but I do remember that someone got into Queen Elizabeth's bedroom (that was in 1982). ("The Queen and Prince Philip do sleep together, despite what everyone says." But he had a cold at the time and a very early appointment that morning.) (The Queen offered the guy a cigarette, which was an excuse for her to leave the room to go get them in the "pantry," where she apparently would smoke.) (The Queen didn't press charges, and the guy was charged with stealing a $5.40 bottle of wine.)

No "Desperate Housewives" for a while. That's fine, since it tyrannizes my Sunday nights.

Gave Bootsy his ear treatment earlier. He was very good. Wrapped him up in the beach towel first. I'd noticed last night and today that his ears were getting sensitive again. He's fine now.

Tonight I made the yellow squash with maybe half a cup of onion sauteed first in butter. Two pounds, cut up, filled my large skillet; it cooked down to about than 3 cups. But it's very tasty. I steam it in the skillet and then boil all the liquid out of it. Seasoned with salt and a generous amount of white pepper. I'll take that to work tomorrow.

The HGTV show "Renovation Realities" is hilarious. Watching that now. Two Lesbians are destroying their house. They really shouldn't be putting liquor in their coffee. (The show is a vehicle for diynetwork.com.)

Bought $80+ worth of groceries at the store today, including two corned beef flat cuts that were on sale for $2.99/lb. (I'd missed having corned beef on St. Patrick's Day, which happens to be my birthday, and I love corned beef.) Also bought Boca Burgers to counterbalance the cholesterol in the corned beef. I love Boca Burgers too, with mustard. Haven't had them in a while. (But I have lots of good cholesterol in my blood, the doctor says, which cancels out the bad.) (We'll see how the latest results turn out. Blood was drawn on Friday.)

Got a lot of rest this weekend. Dealt with my feelings of isolation. (At least I'm not in solitary confinement.)

"The Stagers" are on now. I think I've seen all the shows. Are they going to make new ones?! I hope so.

Saturday night

Watching "Dr. 90210" right now. I, as a gay person perhaps, find it peculiar how for the TV viewer's "benefit" they obliterate the areola and nipples on women who are getting plastic surgery. (Maybe Lesbians would understand.) While I can appreciate beauty and proportion, etc., women's breasts don't do a thing for me, and I'm certainly not offended (much less aroused) by seeing them. I think this is all rather prudish. If I were watching a medical program that showed naked men, I would expect to see all the parts and not have, say, the groin area blocked out, especially if they were doing an operation on that area. And I would never get any kind of reaction by seeing all of it (it wouldn't "make my naughty parts tingle," as the Church Lady says on Saturday Night Live). They don't block nipples, etc. in Europe. What's the big deal? Perhaps as a gay person, I just don't get it. Same thing over Janet Jackson exposing her nipple during the Super Bowl. What's that all about? I guess that goes with being gay--you don't get a lot of stuff, but then it seems absurd that they much such a fuss. Still, it feel like you're on the outside looking in, at time. But it doesn't bother me. I am who I am, though it took a while to figure me out. ("To thine ownself be true.")

The doctor is the cutest person in the program, BTW. (The guy, that is.)

Had Steak House Soup and dolphin fingers at Flanigan's tonight. Hadn't been there in a while. Took some of the fish home. Excellent. Cleaned up the kitchen later. Going to fix yellow squash tomorrow and go shopping for more food for the coming week.

It's weird when they show the "amazing" new breasts--without nipples.

New show. Now a kitchen remodel is "stealing a year of our lives" (the cute doctor says). I can sympathize. And I don't have fluted (or unfluted) Greek columns in my kitchen.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

'BREAKING: Vampires, Gays Insufficiently Frightening; Children in Grave Danger of Inappropriate Sucking'

The cultural wars are hardly over. From Firedoglake here.

Over at NRO, the very serious cultural commentator Tony Woodlief warns the nation that just like the gays, vampires are becoming disturbingly fashionable. This is a disturbing trend. In the good old days, real life gays and fictional vampires were, quite rightly, destroyed on sight as incorrigibly evil suckers of various repulsive bodily fluids. But nowadays, sadly, as a sign of our fallen moral world, we no longer consider either inherently evil as an inevitable consequence of their basic nature. Why, sometimes we even go so far as to portray them in films or on the teevee as misunderstood or even sympathetic--shudder.

We have fully reversed the symbolism of Stoker’s vampire, who represented a demonic assault on a virtuous community. Today’s vampire is the hip Other, and the community around him is either bungling, intolerant, or simply a source of comedic relief (as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lost Boys, and Fright Night, for example). The modern vampire is in touch with his sexuality, but the community suppresses it. The modern vampire is coming to take away your girlfriend, and she kind of likes it. The modern vampire is the guy you wish you had been in high school, or the guy you wish you’d dated in high school, and Meyer has turned that into gold.

The trouble with this evolution is that fictional monsters serve a valuable cultural purpose. They remind us that we live in communities, and that our communities must be defended from those who would rend them asunder.

* * *

Here's the really offending sentence in the National Review article:

Vampires, in these modern novels, are like gays and lesbians — people just like you and me who are marginalized only because of their sexual tastes.

Equating gays with vampires. That's a new one on me.

'Obama, you're no stranger to the bong'

(From Talk Left)

Clinton: diplomacy key to new Afghan strategy

Full AP story here.

Mar 28th, 2009 WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan relies heavily on civilian efforts, and she is calling for all U.S. diplomats to contribute.

In a cable to U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, Clinton says the success of President Barack Obama's plan depends on the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, whose ranks in Afghanistan and Pakistan are in line for boosts.

"Whether this strategy succeeds or not depends in large part on all of us," she said in the cable to employees of the two agencies late Friday after Obama announced the results of his administration's review of policy for the region.

The plan does have a significant military component and calls for sending thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. But Clinton noted that the most recommendations fall under the purview of the State Department and the aid agency.

"The major shift in this strategy is to emphasize our diplomatic and civilian efforts to achieve our objectives," she wrote in the cable, obtained by The Associated Press on Saturday. . . .

Saturday evening

Made myself stay in bed past noon to mend. My aches and pains are gone, thanks to the new pillow. It was pretty bad when I couldn't turn my head to the right. Of course you need to do that, say, when you're driving or backing out of a parking space.

Saturdays are still lonely since B. left. I try not to get depressed about it. Today I must have spent two hours at Starbucks, reading. Then I drove down to Flanigan's for dinner. I hadn't been there, except maybe once (if even), since I started cooking in the kitchen again, back in November. (How time flies!) They probably wonder why I stopped going there. I'd been a regular. I think I'll go back to Starbucks now and have a tea. I'm reading a story about solitary confinement and how it can cause psychosis in some people. (It kind of reminds me of my life on the weekend.) The article asks whether it's "torture" and it seems to be. Even John McCain said the worst of his experience as a P.O.W. was the solitary confinement--even worse than the torture (breaking his arm, for example).

Friday, March 27, 2009

TGIF

Tired. By the time I got home tonight, it was a little late to take a nap (I hadn't planned on going to the gym). I'd stayed a bit later at work to finish up a project that nobody else wanted to do (I don't blame them), and then my bus got stuck in traffic due to a big outdoor concert ("Ultra") gearing up downtown in Bicentennial Park.

This morning I had a nursing appointment at my doctor's on South Beach. Arrived a little early, so I had breakfast at McDonald's a few doors down. I ordered the breakfast burritos--I'd never had them before--whereupon the lady behind the counter said, "Do you want hassas?" I said, "What?" She said again, "Do you want hassas?" I was about to tell her politely that I didn't understand what she meant when the customer behind me said, "Hot sauce." (Yes, I got the hot sauce. I can't imagine eating them without it, and I'll never order them again.) (My co-pay at the doctor's, by the way, had increased from $15 to $20. That's a steep increase, by the way.)

So, Obama made some important foreign policy announcements today regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan (with Hillary standing behind him). Good for him. Zbigniew Brzezinski was on Rachel Maddow tonight, talking about it. Obama's doing what George Bush should have concentrated on after the 9/11 attacks, i.e., going after the people who attacked us, instead of attacking Iraq. And there is no Iraq-style "surge" in Afghanistan (as some media characterized it). They're mainly putting more trainers in there.

I think Obama's foreign policy, even at this early stage, is far superior to George Bush's. He's winding up the war in Iraq, which was a mistake in the first place. Also he doesn't use inflammatory language (like George Bush's "Axis of Evil" and "crusades") which only makes our potential enemies more dangerous by offending the entire populations of these countries and angering their neighbors. Name-calling is the lowest form of discourse and surely the least productive way to score friends or attempt to modify people's behavior to our benefit.

What George Bush's policies did was actually to impede what we would call progress in these countries. The minute Bush called them "evil," the governments (which we don't like) re-asserted themselves and cracked down, and the moderate and progressive elements of the population, which are more friendly to our way of life and our existence, were pushed back to the margin. Meanwhile the radicals were energized, much to our detriment. George Bush's policies stunk. (And don't ever forget that 9/11 happened on his watch, or lack thereof, while he was conspiring to invade Iraq from the moment he took office and ignoring the threats from Al Qaeda.)

I appreciate Obama's level-headedness, which is what I would expect of a U.S. president.

The adults are in charge again, thank God. (Yes, after eight years, there is a god again.) (Half-joking.)

UPS Ditches O'Reilly

I saw this earlier on the Rachel Maddow Show. From The Left Coaster here.

Just as ThinkProgress.com was launching its campaign to punish Bill O’Reilly for harassing his opponents with physical, trespassing confrontations, United Parcel Services became the first major sponsor to dump him today.

Thank you for sending an e-mail expressing concern about UPS advertising during the Bill O’Reilly show on FOX News. We do consider such comments as we review ad placement decisions which involve a variety of news, entertainment and sports programming. At this time, we have no plans to continue advertising during this show.

Since Rupert Murdoch is losing money on his Fox News empire, you have to wonder how many sponsors he can afford to push away by condoning O’Reilly’s illegality and unstable public presence.

O'Reilly is acting as an agent of Fox News and Murdoch when he sends his producers out to stalk, threaten, and trespass against his perceived opponents. I wonder how long it will be before someone sues O'Reilly and Murdoch, or files a criminal complaint against both of them for this behavior.

New York eases 1970s drug laws

Another story on this. From Reuters here.

New York state officials agreed on Friday to relax harsh 1970s drug laws that required prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes in favor of laws that will let judges send addicts to treatment programs.

The new regulations will save the state about "a quarter of a billion dollars" a year in costs for housing prisoners, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said at a news conference in Albany, the state capital.

The existing laws -- known as the Rockefeller drug laws for Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller who in 1973 said they were needed to fight a heroin epidemic -- were considered among the nation's stiffest because they required prison terms for offenders and gave judges no discretion in sentencing.

They had been the target of Democrats for years but previous legislative efforts had produced only limited softening.

A joint release from Paterson, the state Senate and Assembly said the agreement eliminates mandatory prison sentences for many first- and second-time offenders and makes them eligible for probation that could include drug treatment. . . .

The Drug Policy Alliance, which has long campaigned against the state's tough drug laws, said New York's prisons hold approximately 12,000 drug offenders, representing nearly 21 percent of the prison population and costing New Yorkers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

The new laws would create a drug "kingpin" offense for "organized drug traffickers who profit from and prey on drug users." They also would create new crimes for adults who sell drugs to children. . . .

"(Drug courts) not only produce dramatic reductions in recidivism and great savings in social services costs but also serve to reunite families, and most critically (increase) public safety," he said. . . .

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday night

Wow. Big news day and lots of good blog posts and other material out there. I only scratched the surface.

Today was a big cat day, too. I administered Bootsy's ear ointment (EnteDerm). I have to do this twice a week now for the rest of Bootsy's life.

The ointment comes in a tube with a long, narrow tip that you have to insert into the ear canal. It's very difficult to see where the ear canal begins (the inside of Bootsy's ears are dark to begin with), but I tried to remember what the vet showed me on Monday when she administered the ointment. Tonight I put Bootsy up on the new kitchen counter beneath the bright recessed lights and wrapped him up in a beach towel, so he couldn't get away. He behaved very well. He was kind of resigned to what was going to happen. I was pretty successful in locating the entrance to the ear canal (it is kind of baffling in there). Of course Bootsy didn't like it when I stuck the tip into the canal (in both ears), but I got it done fairly quickly and released him from the towel and he quickly left the scene. He didn't hold it against me later, however.

I've been reading on the Internet about problems with cats' ears. I wish they had eardrops that you could squirt inside and that would then seep down the ear canal, but so far I haven't found anything like that. The vet didn't offer anything like that either (even though I'd told her at the previous visit that I'd be interested in a medicine that is more easily administered than an ointment that you have to insert into the ear canal). (You would think the pet drug companies would invent something like that, but then they'd charge a fortune for it to cover their marketing programs, executive bonuses, and golden parachutes.) (Just kidding.)

Whatever. It's no big deal. Bootsy knows his ears are a problem and didn't put up much of a fight. I'm sure he'd rather have me do this than being transported to the vet, which upsets him no end.

Looking forward to a normal weekend. It's been very busy at work, and now of course we're short one body. Also looking forward to meeting with old friends for lunch next Wednesday.

P.S. By the way, I do not smoke marijuana or do illegal drugs.

'It's interesting to have a budget that doesn't contain any numbers'

(From TPM)

Teleprompter vs. no teleprompter

Also from Hullabaloo. Hullabaloo rarely has videos. They should have more. A video is worth many inches of blog.

Not a budget in terms of numbers

(From Hullabaloo)

See here, too ("They Took The Bait").

Red State Update: Legalize drugs, save Mexico

See here too, and here.

House Republicans Offer A Visionary Budget Plan!

From The Left Coaster here.

Take a guess...

Hillary Clinton, the Drug War and Drug Treatment

Also from Talk Left, here.

Kudos to Hillary Clinton for acknowledging that "our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade."

That's exactly right and it's way past time for the U.S. to make a serious effort to curb that demand instead of spending billions on incarcerating drug offenders.

Pew's recent study--"One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections"--provides a vivid picture of just how little we do to curb demand for drugs.

For example: in Kansas, the prison population has surged by more than 50 percent over the past eight years to more than 22,000 inmates yet the state has a mere 400 slots in treatment programs.

Hillary's statement yesterday was a big step forward in recognizing the role of demand in the drug business. But we need to radically reshape our drug policy to focus on curbing the very demand that causes so much violence both here in the U.S and in Mexico.

See here too ("Deal Reached to End Rockefeller Drug Laws").

The deal would repeal many of the mandatory minimum prison sentences now in place for lower-level drug felons, giving judges the authority to send first-time nonviolent offenders to treatment instead of prison.

The plan would also expand drug treatment programs and widen the reach of drug courts at a cost of at least $50 million.

Obama on legalizing marijuana

From today's digital town hall meeting, via Talk Left here. (More below.)

Quoting Paul Armentano of NORML in the post:

Does the President really think that all of these voters are worthy of his ridicule?

Let the White House laugh for now, but the public knows that this issue is no laughing matter. This week alone, legislators in Illinois, Minnesota, and New Hampshire voted to legalize the use of marijuana for authorized individuals. Politicians in three additional states heard testimony this week in favor of eliminating criminal penalties for all adults who possess and use cannabis. And lawmakers in Massachusetts and California are now debating legally regulating marijuana outright.

The American public is ready and willing to engage in a serious and objective political debate regarding the merits of legalizing the use of cannabis by adults. And all over this nation, whether Capitol Hill wants to acknowledge it or not, they are engaging in this debate as we speak.

Sorry Obama, this time the joke¹s on you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama Prioritizes Health Care Reform

Also from The Advocate here.

President Barack Obama said the words “health care” 14 times during his second nationally televised press conference Tuesday night -- a good sign for LGBT people who have had trouble getting or keeping health insurance.

“The bottom line is, is that I want to see health care, energy, education, and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit,” President Obama said of the budget he hopes to see Congress approve. It’s a theme he pounded home consistently during the hour-long news conference, making very clear that overhauling the country’s health system is a nonnegotiable item in his budget. . . .

While no gay-specific questions were asked, LGBT people have a huge interest in what happens with health care reform based on the greater barriers to access they experience. The more money tagged in the budget for health care, the more sweeping the reforms will likely be. . . .

Half of N.C. Would Oppose Same-Sex Marriage Ban

From The Advocate here.

A little more than half of North Carolinians polled said they would oppose a possible constitutional ban on marriages for same-sex couples. In a poll conducted by Elon University, 50.4% of respondents said they would oppose or strongly oppose such a ban. Forty-three percent expressed support for a ban, and the rest said they were unsure.

"I didn't think we'd get over 50%," Elon poll director Hunter Bacot told the Sun News. "In North Carolina, we are a Southern state and are generally a bit more conservative, particularly on these types of issues."

State lawmakers have introduced a bill proposing a referendum vote on the issue. Voters in every Southern state have approved constitutional same-sex marriage bans in recent years, according to the newspaper, except in North Carolina, where Democratic lawmakers have thus far kept such a referendum off the ballot, noting that state law already limits marriage to heterosexual couples.

Pollsters also asked respondents whether they would support other forms of partnership recognition. Forty-four percent said they do not approve of any form of recognition for gay and lesbian couples, 21% said they support full marriage equality, and 28% said they would support civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, but not marriage.

Florida officials re-examine Anna Nicole Smith's death

Full CNN story here.

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Prosecutors in Florida are taking a new look at the 2007 death of Anna Nicole Smith to see if recent evidence that California investigators gathered might cause them to open an inquiry.

Howard K. Stern -- Smith's longtime partner and attorney -- and two doctors were charged this month in California with conspiring to furnish drugs to Smith before her fatal overdose.

"Our prosecutors have met with representatives of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the California Department of Justice and discussed the evidence they have turned up in their investigation," said Ron Ishoy, a spokesman for Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz.

"We are now examining that evidence to see where it might lead in relation to Ms. Smith's death here in Broward County in 2007."

The Broward County state attorney's office never opened a probe into Smith's death but assisted the Seminole police in its investigation in the days afterward.

Smith, 39, was pronounced dead February 8, 2007, after being discovered unconscious in her hotel room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino near Hollywood, Florida. A coroner said she died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. . . .

California Attorney General Jerry Brown said the doctors and Stern devised a plan to use fake names so Smith could be prescribed "thousands of pills." The former Playboy playmate and reality TV star was drugged "almost to the point of stupefaction," Brown said.

"The quantity of the drugs, the variety of the drugs, the combination at any given point, and her continuing to use that -- that, to a professional, is clear evidence of addiction," Brown said Friday. "These cocktails of methadone and anti-depressants and sleeping pills and Xanax, you put all that into a cocktail, it explodes and can cause death, injury and permanent morbidity and disability."

NY man charged with freezing mom, cashing checks

AP story here.

Mar 25th, 2009 COLCHESTER, N.Y. -- An upstate New York man has been accused of stashing his 98-year-old mother's dead body in a freezer in their home so he could keep cashing her Social Security checks.

State police say they discovered Herta Auslander's body in a freezer chest in October after receiving a tip she had died more than a year earlier. An autopsy concluded she died of natural causes.

Police say 69-year-old Roland Auslander eluded capture for months but was arrested Wednesday following a stakeout at his home in the Delaware County hamlet of Cooks Falls, about 100 miles northwest of New York City. They say he's charged with grand larceny, unlawful disposal of human remains and forgery for faking his mother's signature.

He's jailed and can't be reached for comment. Police say they don't know if he has a lawyer.

Wednesday night

Now the amaryllis is growing seed pods, it appears.

Lucky's new perch -- the night stand. He slept on it at nap time. Better than jumping on the bed and waking me up.

Grilled the cubed steaks on the Foreman Grill tonight. Good but too sour. The other marinade I made from scratch was more subtle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Harvard Lecturer: Legalize Drugs to End Border Violence

From Talk Left here.

Another voice in the small but growing crowd urging legalization of drugs to end the Mexico drug war violence: Harvard Senior Lecturer in Economics Jeffrey Miron.

Argument 1: Prohibition creates violence. It happened with alcohol and gambling. End the prohibition, end the violence.

Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after. Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question. The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs (emphasis supplied.)

[* * *]

Read the whole thing. Sounds rational to me. And then the government can tax the drugs. We need the money.

Tuesday night

Watching a "Frontline" show on how the Bush Administration destroyed the economy over the past eight years and went from a budget surplus to a trillion-dollar-plus deficit.

Didn't watch Obama's news conference but will do so later or tomorrow.

Health care reform appears to be the most crucial agendum--reducing the rate of growth of health care costs.

Tonight I marinated the rest of the cubed steaks in mojo (which contains citrus juices, garlic and vinegar, among other things), sweet vermouth, soy sauce, ground ginger, ground cumin, powdered mustard, and a little curry powder. I'll grill these on the Foreman Grill in a day or two. Meanwhile I cleaned the grill tonight.

Bootsy seems to be feeling great. I haven't treated him yet (pills and ear ointment). I wanted him to get over yesterday's trauma. Seems like an eternity ago, and it was only yesterday. (My mind has thusly buried the trauma--as I said, I think I suffer worse than the cats do when I have to take them to the vet. That may be because sometimes I have to take them and they don't come home.)

Watching Chris Matthews' take on Obama's press conference.

Busy day at work but I was glad to be back. Took a nap afterwards and then had a tea at Starbucks, while reading about Sen. Burris from Illinois.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Even later

It's almost time for me to call it a night, but I just wanted to add: I think I'm finally coming out of this breakup with B. It's been well over a year now. But it's taken so long because there was so much deception I had to fathom.

I like "Property Virgins." Watching it now. (They're in Hollywood, Fla.) The show gets edgy at times and is not as predictable as "House Hunters," though I like that show, too, especially when they deal with real estate abroad. It's interesting to see how people live in Paris or Hong Kong or Buenos Aires, for example, and what you can get at what price.

My neck is fine now, I should say. No more aches and pains. I think I'm learning how to use the new pillow.

Rep. Barney Frank calls Scalia a 'homophobe'

Full story here (watch video).

WASHINGTON - Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank called Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a "homophobe" in a recent interview with the gay news Web site 365gay.com.

The Democratic lawmaker, who is gay, was discussing gay marriage and his expectation that the high court would some day be called upon to decide whether the Constitution allows the federal government to deny recognition to same-sex marriages.

"I wouldn't want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has too many votes on this current court," said Frank. The video of the interview is available online. . . .

Scalia dissented from the court's ruling in 2003 that struck down state laws banning consensual sodomy. He has complained about judges, rather than elected officials, deciding questions of morality about which the Constitution is silent. . . .

But one reason why the Supreme Court even exists is to put a check on the other branches of government and ensure that, majority rule notwithstanding, minorities be treated fairly under the law and not suffer under the "tyranny of the majority."

[Click on the photo if you can't read it.]

Later

The chicken's in the oven and the chili's on the stove.

Was over at Starbucks earlier. Had two cups of coffee and an egg salad sandwich, the crusts of which I shared with the sparrows. I was reading about the gay Greek poet C. P. Cavafy and also a short story by Tessa Hadley.

I have to go to the store but will wait till 9:00. Then do some laundry after that.

Enjoyed my day off, as nerve-wracking as it was earlier. The vet's bill was $106. That's another nerve-wracking aspect to it: wondering how much it's going to cost, and you know it's going to be over $100 nowadays.

[Later] Back from the store and the laundry's in the washers. Chicken and chili turned out great. Shared some white meat with Bootsy (no BBQ sauce for him). I bake it in a slow oven and it comes out tender. This was that 79 cents/lb. whole chicken. Such a deal!

Checked the mail. Today I got a form letter from Home Depot asking me to participate in an online survey regarding my kitchen installation. I can't wait to take it. Boy are they going to get an earful! (They're not even finished here yet.) I think I first talked to the Home Depot kitchen designer last April to have her prepare estimates (I could look it up). I know I signed the contract at the beginning of May.

Monday afternoon: The drama continues

Bootsy was at the vet. She cleaned out and examined his ears, gave him another shot, and put some medicine in his ears. I'm supposed to do this twice a week. She asked whether I had anyone at home to help me and I said no. I'll do my best. She also gave him a prescription of antibiotics (pills) I'm supposed to administer every other day for two months.

I think it stresses me out more than it does Bootsy when I have to take him to the vet. It upsets me that he's upset, crying the whole way there and back (fortunately it's not far). I'm a wreck. But he's home now, lying at my feet. (Lucky's in my lap--he's turning into a lap cat.) But I've got chores to do.

Early Monday morning

I didn't catch Obama's interview on "60 Minutes" tonight since I was watching an automobile accident but had planned on watching it online later. Here it is (in two parts). It was good.

I'm still not sold on Tim Geithner (he seems to be too cozy with Wall Street in all its greedy ways). But I'll trust Obama when it comes to him.

It was raining like crazy here earlier. We need the rain.

Tomorrow I have to make the chicken (I'll cut it up and barbecue it) and take Bootsy to the vet.

Nite!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday night

Worked four hours today, beginning at shortly past 1:00. I would have been there sooner but for an incident at Burger King. Burger King and Checkers are situated across the street from each other at Omni, so I decided to get a fish sandwich at BK and chili dogs at Checkers. I went to BK first and ordered the fish sandwich. Apparently the fish had to be fried and they asked me to exit the drive-through and park out front, and said they'd bring the sandwich to me. I waited around five minutes (on top of the time I waited in the drive-through), wondering where my sandwich was. Finally I got out of the truck and went inside the restaurant (which wasn't busy). They'd forgotten all about my sandwich. It was sitting in a bag behind the counter. I was really pissed. They apologized and handed it to me, and I said "son of a bitch!" (not in reference to them) and walked out in a huff. (They found the whole thing amusing.)

To be continued after "Desperate Housewives."

Show was good tonight, except I'm not buying Orson's kleptomania and now burglary. Shouldn't he be on his best behavior since getting out of prison? (And I've never heard of people stealing because they felt emasculated, but what do I know.) So Edie's gone. Now I wonder what's going to happen with Dave. He's even more dangerous now. He tried to strangle Edie before she got electrocuted following the automobile accident.

Stopped off at Home Depot on the way home and got light bulbs. The kitchen designer wasn't there, and I'd hoped to see her. She and I get along well. I haven't heard from Home Depot in weeks about the last two inspections that have to be done. Then I got something in the mail this weekend from the general contractor. I didn't look at it very carefully. It's something I have to sign and send back regarding a change in the plumbing contractor. The plumbing inspection still has to be done.

When I got home I decided to go over to Starbucks and witnessed a pretty serious traffic accident (a head-on collision) at the intersection at Biscayne, 20 yards away from where I was standing. The traffic light was changing to red on the cross-street. Someone in a little red car heading east on the cross-street was out in the intersection, preparing to make a left onto Biscayne and head north, when a big black truck went speeding through the red light (past me) heading west, and slammed into the red car, causing it to spin around. It was a loud crash. I was yelling, "Oh, my God!" Someone in the red car and someone in the truck were both taken away in ambulances (I assume the drivers). I didn't see any passengers getting out of the vehicles. I saw the whole thing.

I'd thought about going to the police (who came quickly) and telling them I was a witness but then decided not to. You wouldn't need a witness to figure out what happened. And I'm not 100% certain that the truck ran the red light, but it was red when the truck was entering the intersection (a split-second later). The truck driver was definitely speeding to get through the light, however, and driving recklessly.

Now that I think about it, the light was red when the truck went through it. I was looking right up at it and couldn't believe my eyes that someone was trying to get through the intersection. My eyes were on the truck afterward. I was thinking, I can't believe this is happening. And then, sure enough, bam! (Maybe I should tell the police.) This all happened in fractions of seconds.

I had got a tea at Starbucks but kept walking a few paces away to watch what was going on at the intersection. The lady in the red car was put on a stretcher all bandaged up. She was just lying there, listless, and had a fluid bag. Apparently her life wasn't in danger, however, since they were taking their time with her and the ambulance didn't leave the moment they wheeled her inside. The guy (it looked like) who'd been driving the truck got a later ambulance, but he too was lying on a stretcher.

It took almost an hour to clear the intersection.

So we have two people in the hospital now because someone was trying to cheat the system. For all I know he could have been drunk or on drugs. Very bad judgment, in any case.

(Before this happened, after I'd left Home Depot, I avoided hitting something black in the road. The closer I got to it, I realized it was a blackbird that had just been killed in the traffic, and its mate was darting around in the air above it, frantic. How sad. It almost made me cry and still might.) (I don't have nearly as empathy for most people.)

People who run red lights at major intersections are a serious problem. I think there should be cameras at all major intersections. I cross US1 in the morning to catch the bus, and I'm constantly looking around as I cross the street. I was almost hit once by someone running the red left-turn signal onto US1 from the cross-street, after the crosswalk sign said walk. These people are crazy.

Tonight I was cleaning the kitchen counters with Lysol with bleach. It's pretty strong. Lucky was lying in the kitchen and started coughing (or gasping). I immediately made sure he got out of there and opened the sliding glass door for some fresh air. He sat by the door and is OK now. I'm always worried about chemicals around the cats.

I have to do some laundry this weekend (I have tomorrow off) but first I had to remove chewing gum from the seat of a pair of work pants. Someone had stuck their chewing gum on a bus bench and I sat on it. (Now I look before I sit, or just stand.) This is disgusting. Aren't kids taught the Golden Rule these days? When I was in elementary school, the principal recited it every morning over the public address system. I see little criminals in the making. (They'll get theirs, assholes.)

Selling a recovery

Saturday night

I must be getting out of my funk. Tonight I went out to the nearest gay bar (Magnum) and had a beer. First I drove by my old watering hole up on West Dixie just to see what's going on there. The last time I drove by it (the Dixie Lounge), I parked and tried the door but it was locked. Tonight the place was back in business. I noticed they put some neon up on the building, a man and a woman dancing. Apparently they are appealing to a black straight crowd, since they had signs by the door showing a well attired black male customer and two poorly attired black male customers inside a red circle with a diagonal line across it. There were also two (of the same) long lists of "no's" (including no baggy pants and no smoking). I did get out of the truck and walk up to examine the signs. At a distance, I'd thought the two guys in the red "no" circle meant no gays, but it was just two guys with their pants falling down (and gays weren't on the "no" list). I saw a young black woman go inside (attired somewhat questionably), so the place was open.

Magnum was fairly busy. They had a piano player playing show tunes and lots of patrons were singing. The little outside bar was busy but the covered seating area was empty. I sat there on a couch and drank my beer and left.

I also cleaned out my truck today. Hadn't done that since before B. left (and he'd been the one to do it). I'm not much of a cleaner.

I was over at Starbucks earlier and grabbed a smoothie at Jamba Juice also. I must have sat there for almost an hour and a half, reading. I also had a turkey and Swiss sandwich from Starbucks. (So I had dinner there.) When I was walking back to my building, I noticed a black Hummer sitting in the porte-cochere. Looked like B.'s BF's (and probably was--since he visits the building). I wasn't able to see the license plate, however, before it drove off down Biscayne. Every time I see that thing I cringe.

[Later] Watching "Color Splash." David Bromstad just said he's bought a condo in Miami and is in the process of decorating it. It's the first place he's owned. I would have thought he'd buy a place in San Francisco, where he lives and where his show originates, but I'm sure he got a great deal here, in this depressed market. And his family is here.

I have to be at work at 1:00 tomorrow. I'll drive down there and stop at Checkers for chili cheese dogs along the way.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Amaryllis

Two flowers down. How sad.

Saturday afternoon

Up from nap. Neck is fine now. Amazing.

The marinated cubed steaks came out great. I marinated them in sweet vermouth, soy sauce, olive oil, garlic powder, ground cumin, powdered mustard, ground ginger, seasoned salt, a little curry powder and I don't know what else. A little vinegar.

Grilled them on the Foreman Grill and am eating them with Stouffer's spinach souffle on the side. Watermelon for dessert.

Saturday morning

I'm usually never up this early on a Saturday, but I woke up aching--my head was off the "Proper Positioning Pillow." (It is kind of small.) Aha! Maybe I need to get a bigger pillow (or more of them). They don't work if your head ain't on em! In the meantime I'll put a regular pillow beside it. That has to be better than nothing.

Cancelled Bootsy's appointment and re-scheduled for Monday afternoon, when I'll be off.

I was fresh out of a dream. One of the characters' names was "Shedson Applaugh." Maybe I can use that name in a story.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday night

I've sometimes thought, on the topic of "deregulation," whether people would think it wise, say, to deregulate automobile traffic by doing away with stop signs and stop lights--that by doing so, we'd all get to our destinations more quickly and more safely and that society as a whole would be better off.

Of course, people know it would be a disaster, and look what's happened on Wall Street and brought the country (and the world) to the brink of ruin. People know human nature. We know there are amoral people among us, sociopaths and criminal-minded people who are out to take advantage. How could we imagine that an unregulated financial system would be a good thing? (It's the opposite side of the same ideological coin as Communism, which has been discredited--but that's beside the point.)

Tonight, Rachel Maddow had a guest who made the same analogy: David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill).

Hah! I thought. In wrapping up the segment, Maddow said: "You have a way of making this stuff understandable." (See here.) As Johnston said, regulation is not for the good people but the bad. The people who run red lights and put other people's lives at risk are to be punished (but they'll keep trying to get away with it). The good people accept waiting at red lights since it's in their own best interest and that of society as a whole. And the light soon changes (plus, they can make a right on red).

And speaking of red, "The flow'rs do fade" (as Raleigh said). One of them is on its way out. Poor thing. I love this plant (and I'm not what you would call a plant person).

Stephanie Miller is on Larry King tonight. I listen to her radio show every morning on my way to work. (She's on vacation next week, however.) She's extremely attractive and articulate and does well on TV up against the right-wing bozos. (She used to have a show on TV.) Tonight she was on with James Carville, Tucker Carlson and Amy Holmes. (Stephanie is at top left.)

Bootsy goes back to the vet in the morning. The vet had wanted to see him in two weeks (from his last appointment). His ear is bothering him again. Meanwhile my neck has been bothering me again today. Must have slept funny last night. (Not so funny.) (I've been thinking about going to a chiropractor, but I'll talk to my doctor about that first, when I see him in a few weeks.)

I was back at the gym and the store tonight. Whole chickens on sale for 79 cents a pound. Bought one. Also cubed steaks were on sale. Bought some. I'd still had some (on sale) in my meat drawer, and tonight I marinated them and will grill them tomorrow on the Foreman Grill. They were about to go bad. I salvaged them just in time. Also, lean ground beef was on sale and bought some of that, too, to make chili.

I'm on call to work on Sunday and will have to go in. I'm taking Monday off for vacation. It's been crazy at work.

The other night, Bootsy was playing with Lucky in and about the pillow box. (Bootsy doesn't play a lot these days, but he was having fun with Lucky here.)

When I first introduced Lucky into our household last July, Bootsy would like to have killed him. (I prevented it.) Now Lucky goes for Bootsy's jugular and I intervene.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obama on Leno

Brilliant and funny. Glad Obama did this. We have an honest president.

Explicit Inflatable Wolverine a Hoax

Also from The Advocate here (includes photo).

Photos of a supposedly new inflatable toy by comic book and film giant Marvel made the rounds this morning -- a blow-up Wolverine doll with a strategically placed inflation tube right on his crotch.

But further digging confirms the toy is a hoax hatched by the clever folks over at The Onion's affiliate website ChristWire.org.

ChristWire purported to respond to Marvel's alleged inflatable toy in a spoof article excerpted here -- "We might as well line our children up and burn them ourselves! If we make these types of devil-pleasing acts OK, they will all be burning in the fire lakes anyways... What’s next? The Wonder Woman lollipop?"

Florida Says No to Bestiality

Advocate story here.

Gays and lesbians can’t adopt in the state of Florida. Transgender people are being branded as sexual deviants and will likely soon be barred from using bathrooms appropriate to the sex they identify with. And now, Florida’s state senate agriculture committee has finally taken a small step into the 21st century and voted unanimously to charge anyone who has sex with animals with a third-degree felony, according to the Miami Herald.

Florida was one of 16 states with no official law on the books banning bestiality.

"There's a tremendous correlation between sexually deviant behavior and crimes against children and crimes against animals," Sen. Nan Rich, a Democrat from Sunrise, told the Miami Herald. "This is long overdue. These are heinous crimes. And people belong in jail."

The bill is likely to pass later this year.

The Obamas will grow vegetables on the White House lawn

I bet Alice Waters has something to do with this. (They mentioned it in her segment on "60 Minutes.") From MyDD here.

Populista passed along a link to great news from the New York Times:

On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn't like them) but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family's meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern.

In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, "My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities."

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It's just below the Obama girls' swing set.) Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.

Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, "whether they like it or not," Mrs. Obama said laughing. "Now Grandma, my mom, I don't know." Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: "Isn't that lovely. You missed a spot."

Urban gardens are becoming more popular, and I'm happy that the Obama will set a good example at the White House.

Thanks are due to Michael Pollan for putting this idea forward in an "Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief" in the New York Times Sunday Magazine last October. Obama read Pollan's piece and paraphrased points from it in an interview with Time magazine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday night

Had a nice nap today and was back at the gym. Tired.

Regarding the decriminalization of drugs, see my post here. It sounds like a good idea. The "War on Drugs" has been and continues to be a failure. And look at what's going on in Mexico now and spilling over into the U.S.

I've read, however, that prescription drugs are "the new cocaine." Abusing or mis-using prescription drugs can be deadly. Look at what happened to Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith. I think the prosecution of Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend and her doctor is perfectly justified.

Some people commit fraud to get illegal prescriptions, like Rush Limbaugh or Jeb Bush's daughter, and they don't end up in prison. But people who even possess certain amounts of illegal drugs do. It makes no sense, and it's certainly not fair.

We should decriminalize the use of illegal drugs and at the same time go after people who put lives at risk by pushing prescription drugs, including doctors, drug dealers and/or enablers. (Sad to say, I've seen this problem first-hand.)

Right now, people who "doctor-shop" or forge prescriptions to get extra pills (like Rush Limbaugh or Jeb Bush's daughter) are offered treatment. The same should be offered to people who have a problem with illegal drugs, instead of just throwing them in prison. The current way of dealing with these people can't be good for society. It destroys their lives and their families even as it deprives society of potentially useful talent (perhaps even greater than Rush Limbaugh's) to improve it.

US endorses UN gay rights text

Something George Bush wouldn't do. Full story here.

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Wednesday formally endorsed a U.N. statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, a measure that former President George W. Bush had refused to sign.

The move was the administration's latest in reversing Bush-era decisions that have been heavily criticized by human rights and other groups. The United States was the only western nation not to sign onto the declaration when it came up at the U.N. General Assembly in December.

"The United States supports the U.N.'s statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity and is pleased to join the other 66 U.N. member states who have declared their support of the statement," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

"The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world," Wood told reporters. "As such, we join with other supporters of this statement, and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora." . . .

Bill Introduced to End Mandatory Minimums in All Drug Cases

From Talk Left here.

Via FAMM, Rep. Maxine Waters has introduced a bill to end mandatory minimum sentencing in all drug cases. The bill has 15 co-sponsors.

H.R. 1466, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009, seeks to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and to give courts the ability to determine sentences based on all the facts, not just drug weight. It would also refocus federal resources on major drug traffickers instead of low-level offenders. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.

. . .

'Evening Update'

From Steve at The Left Coaster:

Several items for your consideration tonight.

Chris Dodd did not put the exemption clause for contract bonuses into the stimulus bill; Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department did. They asked Dodd to amend his existing language limiting such compensation to allow contract bonuses to be paid even with taxpayer money because the tone-deaf bastards at Treasury were too goddamned worried about lawsuits. F*ck these bastards, make them show their faces publicly and sue the federal government. I want to know who the pricks are who ran the company into the ground on my dime, even if the CEO is too clueless or deceitful to tell Congress who they are. At least Obama accepted the blame for what Geithner screwed up, but he was wrong to say that Geithner has “made all the right moves.”

Why in hell are Rush and the rest of the right-wing punditocracy siding with the crooks at AIG and against Main Street?

Evan Bayh, who didn’t have the guts to run for president himself, is enough of a weasel to harm a Democratic president.

Gallup reports that a majority of the public wants a new law that would make it easier for unions to organize.

Bill Richardson has eliminated the death penalty in New Mexico.

Rush Leads GOP Media Charge In Favor Of AIG Bonuses

Big Tent Democrat's post here (includes audio from Rush Limbaugh's show).

Digby points out that while some Goopers are trying to pin the AIG bonuses on Democrats (not without merit, it is pretty clear the Obama Administration fought to remove any restrictions on bonuses), Rush and the GOP Media hordes are fighting for the AIG bonuses. Says Rush:

A lynch mob is expanding: the peasants with their pitchforks surrounding the corporate headquarters of AIG, demanding heads. Death threats are pouring in. All of this being ginned up by the Obama administration.

The GOP/Fox pitchmen are singing the same tune. "Republicans in Disarray?" Don't hold your breath for the Politico headline to that effect.

Limbaugh’s Favorable Rating: 19 Percent

Full story here.

Over the past few weeks, the White House has been casting right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh as the head of the Republican Party, and based on a new CBS News poll, it appears they may be onto something: According to the poll, Limbaugh’s favorable rating stands at just 19 percent, a full 43 points lower than President Obama’s.

Limbaugh’s unfavorable rating, meanwhile, stands at 40 percent, while 41 percent say they don’t know or don’t have an opinion. Not surprisingly, the conservative commentator, who has said he hopes that the president’s economic policies fail, is far more popular with Republicans – 47 percent view him favorably – than with Democrats, just seven percent of whom view him favorably. . . .

Attorney general signals shift in marijuana policy

This seems right. Complete AP story here.

Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a change on medical marijuana policy Wednesday, saying federal agents will target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state law.

That would be a departure from the policy of the Bush administration, which targeted medical marijuana dispensaries in California even if they complied with that state's law. . . .

Medical marijuana advocates in California welcomed the news, but said they still worried about the pending cases of those already in court on drug charges.

California law permits the sale of marijuana for medical purposes, though it still is against federal law.

Holder did not spell out exactly who no longer would face the prospect of raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration. But he was quick to add that law enforcement officers will target anyone who tries to "use medical marijuana laws as a shield" for other illegal activity. . . .

Tuesday night

It's my birthday, so I'm chillin'.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Where our 'best and brightest' go

From the April issue of Harper's Magazine here. (Read the whole article, "Infinite debt: How unlimited interest rates destroyed the economy," by Thomas Geoghegan.) (I had to type it.)

We set up the incentives to keep our best and brightest out of Detroit. In June 2008, even in a bad year for Wall Street, 39 percent of the Harvard graduating class went directly into consulting or the financial sector, and many others will go a few years later, after graduate school. The percentages are probably the same or worse for Princeton, Yale, and other elite schools. Of course, there are lunkheads in this group, too, but it shows where in general the talent's going.

In Europe, by contrast, kids from elite schools still go into jobs at utilities. Yes, seriously, bright Europeans will work for the electric company. They certainly work for BMW and Daimler AG. In the United States, our kids -- once they shed their dreams of working for Goldman Sachs -- end up in wealth management and handle private clients with $150 million or more. Or at least they used to.

They don't come to Chicago to trade. That's too crude. The kids who do the trades come from Ohio State and the like; in a relative sense, they come up from the streets.

The son of a friend of mine just moved here [Chicago]. He said he's now met a lot of Chicago guys, aged twenty-eight, twenty-nine, who came out of schools like Miami of Ohio and the University of Oklahoma. They have no real jobs that he can identify. But they seem to be making $120,000 or more. "I can't figure it out," he said, "what any of them do."

I know what they do: they run errands for the traders. In a sense, these kids catch flies for Howard Hughes, though their bosses are smaller-time operators, and they deal with a lot less regulation than Hughes ever had to.

No, these guys are no Howard Hugheses. They're the equivalent of scalpers for the Bulls games. You can see them lined up in the cold on Friday night outside the Funky Buddha Lounge. Even on Friday night, they're still on their cell phones as they check out the girls. . . .

Monday, March 16, 2009

DC's AIDS rate worse than West Africa

Monday night

Sad day at work. Someone in my department was let go. (I heard they laid off 6 staff people today.)

Amaryllis

All the flowers have opened. The top photo I took this morning. You can see the last flower still developing (the one in the middle). The other two shots I took after work. The new flower is on the left in those shots.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bernanke: Recession could end in 2009

AP story here.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, in a rare TV interview, says the recession "probably" will end this year if the government succeeds in bolstering the banking system.

In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" airing Sunday night, Bernanke seems to express a bit more optimism that this could be done.

"We do have a plan," he says. "We're working on it. And I do think that we will get it stabilized, and we'll see the recession coming to an end probably this year."

A transcript of the interview was provided in advance of the broadcast.

'"Culture wars" over? I fear Frank Rich is wrong'

From Open Salon here.

I spent the entire Bush years pissed off. Too many forces were at work seeking to deprive me, and the people I love, of basic civil rights. I read Frank Rich this morning, a columnist for whom I have enormous respect, and I respectfully disagree with him.

Rich believes the "culture" wars are over. Funny how the culture wars look a lot like issues of the body, of feminism, of civil rights extended to those who are not the white, heterosexual norm upon which the Constitution was originally based.

I almost felt dismissed by Rich this morning. He inspired me so often during the Bush years, and today, I wanted to take heart from his assertion that now that the economy is so bad, nary a peep will be heard from those who poured so much energy into denying gays their rights, who passed laws to make it damn near impossible to get an abortion, who opposed embryonic stem-cell research because they claimed it would lead to a harvesting of embryos. Gosh. If I could live in that world, where it's all over and my side won, I'd be happy. . . .

Sunday night

Ben Bernanke and Alice Waters were on "60 Minutes" tonight. I'd never heard of Alice Waters, and here they announced her as having made the most impact on American eating since Julia Child. That may be true. She's started the organic foods movement. Her influence was also French food, i,.e., cooking with fresh ingredients and using what's in season.

"Desperate Housewives" was OK. Next week, all hell will break loose.

Made Mom's beef Stroganoff tonight with Italian whole-wheat noodles. I'd never had them before, much less made them. I'd been afraid they would be sweet, but they're not.

Bootsy is better. He got up from his nap a while back, and I haven't heard him sneeze. Oops. He just sneezed.

Photo shows cats as best buddies. If you've been following this blog, you know it didn't start out that way when I introduced Lucky into the household last July. Bootsy was upset and would like to have killed him. Originally I kept Lucky sealed off in my bedroom with his own food supply and cat box. Now I see Lucky attacking Bootsy and going for the jugular (revenge perhaps?). I intervene on Bootsy's behalf now when I see it. I think they co-exist well now, however, when I'm not here.

Love my new pillow, by the way. Can't wait to use it soon.

Amaryllis: The final flower

Sunday afternoon


It looks nice out today. I'm going to get out of here for a while.

Bootsy is steadily improving but still sneezing some. He was acting his normal self when I got up (feeding time).

Photos are from last night. Lucky was really chowing down on his food up on the counter. I've cut back on the canned food intake by half.

Good article by Frank Rich in today's New York Times, about the amping down of the culture wars (emphasis added).

[Tony] Perkins is now praying that economic failure will be a stimulus for his family-values business. “As the economy goes downward,” he has theorized, “I think people are going to be driven to religion.” Wrong again. The latest American Religious Identification Survey, published last week, found that most faiths have lost ground since 1990 and that the fastest-growing religious choice is “None,” up from 8 percent to 15 percent (which makes it larger than all denominations except Roman Catholics and Baptists). Another highly regarded poll, the General Social Survey, had an even more startling finding in its preliminary 2008 data released this month: Twice as many Americans have a “great deal” of confidence in the scientific community as do in organized religion. How the almighty has fallen: organized religion is in a dead heat with banks and financial institutions on the confidence scale. . . .

History is cyclical, and it would be foolhardy to assume that the culture wars will never return. But after the humiliations of the Scopes trial and the repeal of Prohibition, it did take a good four decades for the religious right to begin its comeback in the 1970s. In our tough times, when any happy news can be counted as a miracle, a 40-year exodus for these ayatollahs can pass for an answer to America’s prayers.

Amaryllis

The flower stalk was drooping pretty low, so I put a stake in the pot. I guess the fourth flower will be open by tomorrow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday night

More progress with Bootsy. He just got out of the bed and came in here (blog central) to greet me before making his way to the kitchen. He's still sneezing some, but he's much less lethargic. He's going back to the vet next Saturday to have his ears looked at. They've been bothering him a little.

Greenwald: Decriminalizing Drugs Works

From Turkana at The Left Coaster here.

Working with the Cato Institute, Glenn Greenwald went to Portugal to study the results of that country's decriminalization of drugs. In April, he will present his findings. At Salon, he offers a brief summary:

Evaluating the policy strictly from an empirical perspective, decriminalization has been an unquestionable success, leading to improvements in virtually every relevant category and enabling Portugal to manage drug-related problems (and drug usage rates) far better than most Western nations that continue to treat adult drug consumption as a criminal offense.

Via Jeralyn, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano now says the Obama Administration is going to get more actively involved in battling the Mexican drug war. But Greenwald points to the obvious:

A survey of 17 countries has found that despite its punitive drug policies the United States has the highest levels of illegal cocaine and cannabis use. The study, by Louisa Degenhardt (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) and colleagues, is based on the World Health Organization's Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) and is published in this week's PLoS Medicine.

The cost of the U.S. "War on Drugs" has been estimated to be as high as $40,000,000,000 a year. That's money well burnt. . . .