Sunday, May 31, 2009

Boyle backlash -- but Susan set to cash in

CNN story here.

(Click on "YouTube" to watch in wider format.)

From the CNN article:

The News of the World upped Boyle's likely earnings on the back of "Britain's Got Talent" to £8 million ($13 million).

On top of a multi-million dollar record deal and share of album sales, Boyle is also set to earn from a Hollywood movie of her rags-to-riches life, a book deal, and millions more from image rights, endorsements and television appearances, the paper said.

In an interview with the News of the World, Cowell said Boyle could be the biggest star he had ever discovered.

"They don't care in America whether she wins a British TV show -- they care about the woman they saw singing on YouTube," a Cowell insider also told the paper. "If anything, £8 million in her first year might be an underestimate." . . .

Sunday night

Going to start drinking another container of MoviPrep soon.

(I'm really hungry, by the way.)

Lucky's so funny. He loves to watch me do things. He's your consummate curious cat. I've never had a cat like him (but all my cats have been unique--I think all cats are). When I'm taking a shower, he sits behind the clear liner and watches. When I'm working in the kitchen, he sits up on the breakfast bar and watches--or when I'm putting pills in the seven-day pill organizer, which I do every Sunday and apparently involves all kinds of fascinating sounds and maneuvers. Tonight he was watching me make the MoviPrep. (Now two more doses of that and it's over with.) (It's really not bad.) He's also been watching me go into the kitchen to drink it. And he's always fascinated with the flushing toilet, which happened a lot tonight.

A van is picking me up at 8:30 in the morning and taking me back home after the procedures. Then I'll eat the left-over steak in the refrigerator and maybe even go someplace for a baked potato with butter and sour cream and bacon and chives. (I was thinking about that as I was waking up today.)

Lady Gaga on cover of Rolling Stone

She's also at the top of their 2009 Hot List. See here. See Lady Gaga's "Craziest Wardrobe Moments" here.

Sunday afternoon

All right, folks, the treatment is about to begin.

I walked over to B.'s place of business to show him some photos of his cat, but he was off tonight. He usually works on Sunday.

Had a green tea at Starbucks. Didn't think that would hurt vis-a-vis my treatment, although it's not on the list of things to drink or eat. I'm not supposed to drink or eat anything green (or red), but the green tea at Starbucks is amber. I'm allowed to eat and drink amber things.

I don't think it tastes bad at all. It even tastes kinda good. I'll say it tastes better than Gatorade. Not saying much perhaps. I have to drink a quarter of that bottle every 15 minutes, then make another one and start drinking that at 9:00. Bottoms up!

Miami Herald offends all non-Catholic Christians

And even me, who practices nothing. Full story here by Myriam Marquez. This is so vicious. (What would Jesus say?) And what's with calling Cutié's girlfriend a "gal"? How demeaning, to say the least. (Is Marquez calling her a "slut"?)

I wrote the writer an email objecting to her story. Her email address is mmarquez@MiamiHerald.com.

Cutié's actions hurt many of his followers

Alberto Cutié took his collar off and walked away from the Roman Catholic Church. Snap of the fingers, that easy. Adios, muchachos!

He didn't wait for the pope to annul his ''marriage'' to the church and his vow to lead a celibate life. Heck, he didn't even give South Florida's Catholic archbishop the courtesy of a phone call to tell him he had made up his mind to head to Catholic-lite.

He just read a prepared statement amid the clicking cameras Thursday after a small ceremony at Trinity Cathedral, where he was accepted as a member of the Episcopal Church.

He seemed happy with his honey at his side.

At 40, he's now a convert to the Episcopal faith, no longer expected to choose between the Catholic pope's call for celibacy and his girlfriend's itch for marriage.

On Sunday, he will preach as an Episcopalian lay minister at the Church of The Resurrection in Biscayne Park. He's not an Episcopal priest yet, but he will take the required tests to become one, and plans to marry Ruhama Buni Canellis, the beach gal he has been not-so-secretly seeing for two -- count them, two! -- years.

(I'm still puzzled why a 35-year-old divorced mother who professes her love for a 40-year-old priest would not have steered him to come clean to his bishop before heading out to the beach and bars to snuggle, and imbibe in public. A mature woman who hung out with paparazzi, which they claim she did, surely knew the public-relations mess that would be created by a wildly popular media priest, known throughout Latin America, being caught in compromising positions.) . . .

Henry VIII started it all when he separated the Church of England from papal authority circa 1500s. Six wives and two beheadings later (yes, two of them got the ax), Henry left his mark on the U.S. version of his church, known as the Episcopal Church. Let that be a lesson to el padrecito -- keep those machetes at bay unless Cuban spies come at you. . . . [Is this some kind of thuggish threat?]

But to excuse Cutié's lies for two years because he was in love -- lust? -- with a gal gives him a pass on his responsibility as a spiritual leader. He had choices to make and he sure took his sweet time to make them.

And the way the Episcopal Church moved at warp speed to get Cutié, a charismatic moneymaker for the Catholic diocese, in front of the Episcopal pulpit this Sunday has dollar signs all over it. Catholic Archbishop John C. Favalora called it a "serious setback for ecumenical relations and cooperation between us.'' . . .

It should be noted that Henry VIII was a staunch Catholic all his life. The Catholic Church was involved in most of those marriages (and you could also say, by inference, the beheadings--not uncommon back then for any manner of offenses against the Church and State, which were seriously intertwined). Henry's disagreement with the Pope was all about the geopolitics of the day, in which the Church in Rome was a big player.

Anyway, the break from Rome (both in England and in Germany by Martin Luther) did away with celibacy for the priests, which wasn't an original feature of the Church anyway. Celibacy was mandated later on to ensure that any property owned by priests would become the property of the Roman Church upon their death. (Property couldn't be conveyed to the bastard children of priests.)

Although I have no use for organized religion myself (it's all a bitch for gays, and who believes a lot of that stuff anyway?), I have the utmost sympathy for Cutié in his decision to seek out a faith that doesn't deny matrimony to its priests. What would Jesus say about calling it "Catholic-lite"? Jesus never told anybody to be celibate.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday night

Jello is made. I don't know what I was thinking when I bought raspberry, in addition to pineapple and peach. It's red. No red or green allowed! So I just walked over to the convenience store and got some orange. I wanted to have a variety. I didn't get the sugar-free, since I figure I need all the nutrients I can get and don't need any extra chemicals. I'll make the MoviPrep tomorrow. I bought some bottled water today and have that chilling in the fridge.

Saturday evening

The sun is going down right now and it's all golden outside. Lucky's out on the terrace and Bootsy's sitting at my feet.

I managed to enjoy the day and tried not to think about the next two days. After coffee across the street (my magazine did come in the mail, but I bought a Herald anyway), I drove up to Biscayne Commons and had dinner at T. G. I. Friday's (forget the crepes--I was hungry). It was overcast and sprinkling but never really rained. I sat outside under the overhang, just in case. Had mozzarella sticks for appetizer and then a sirloin steak with wild mushroom sauce and fried onion rings on the side. Everything was delicious. Ate all the mozzarella sticks but have a bit of steak and a few rings left over for later. If not later, then Monday, after I get back from the ambulatory center. I'm pretty full.

While I was driving north, I noticed B.'s BF's car wasn't in the parking lot of his place of business, meaning B. didn't drive it to work or didn't work today. One my drive back south after dinner, however, B. was outside his place, going in, and I honked the horn at him. I guess he saw the truck. (There's a separate storage shed off the parking lot, which would explain B.'s being outside.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

TGIF

Was back at the gym tonight after a nap. I'd lost five pounds. Tonight I was doing seated rows and could feel a twinge in my recently treated shoulder when I was releasing the weight, so I released it more slowly and that seemed to help.

Tonight I picked up the colonoscopy prep stuff from Walgreens. My co-pay on my insurance was $50! WTF! This stuff, MoviPrep, is made of common, inexpensive chemicals, like polyethylene glycol and table salt.

[Polyethylene glycol] is the basis of many skin creams . . . and sexual lubricants . . . .

PEG is used in a number of toothpastes as a dispersant . . . .

PEG is also one of the main ingredients in Paintball fill since it's thick and flexible. . . .

The drug companies are really taking advantage with their pricing these days. And they can't justify it by saying they need to cover their research and development costs. (They spend more money on marketing than R&D!) Read this book by Merrill Goozner.

I paid the co-pay with pre-taxed money (flex card) and will also get a $20 rebate from the MoviPrep company. Maybe the company (Salix Pharmaceuticals) is beginning to feel some public outrage over their prices.

RALEIGH, NC, May 5, 2009 – Salix Pharmaceuticals, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SLXP) today announced financial and operating results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2009.

Total product revenue was $44.8 million for the first quarter of 2009, compared to $34.3 million for the first quarter of 2008. . . .

(And we're in a depression.) One blogger wrote, of MoviPrep:

I had to get up early this morning, forgo breakfast and drink MORE of this overpriced, foul tasting swill and spend more time in the loo. . . .

Somebody else wrote on a message board:

If pricing doesn't matter, and market share does, why not lower the price or give coupons for MoviPrep. You could always go back to being overpriced after the doctors appreciate the product. . . .

Enough said about that. It just infuriates me when I get ripped off by drug companies. Of course I don't like being ripped off by anybody, but it just seems the drug companies are the most brazen about it. And meanwhile people's lives are at stake.

I also went grocery shopping tonight for a few things, including Sunday's liquid diet. Got three boxes of Jello, two bottles of Gatorade (Jello and Gatorade can't be red or green), some apple juice, ginger ale, and a bunch of chicken broth. I'll make the Jello tomorrow, along with the MoviPrep, so it'll be nice and cold for Sunday.

Tomorrow I'll treat myself to a nice meal at Biscayne Commons. Nothing heavy. There's a French bakery/restaurant that I'd like to try. They have classic sandwiches, omelets, crepes, etc. But I may end up getting a steak at T. G. I. Friday's (after the crepes). I hope I get a magazine in the mail tomorrow so I'll have something to read.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lady Gaga talks about sex and men

From Towleroad. (Click on "YouTube" to watch in larger format.)

Republican-owned car dealerships targeted by Obama?

See Digby here.

As we know, there is nothing that upsets the wingnuts more than the government bailing out the auto companies. It's a socialistic, fascistic takeover of the economy and signals the end of the American way of life as we know it. The proper course is for the companies to go bankrupt (and break that union that has ruined everything for everyone).

However, when an auto company is allowed to go bankrupt and is forced to close many of its dealerships (also known as small businesses) they scream like stuck pigs, claiming that the administration is forcing the poor company to divest itself of jobs against its will and targeting Republicans to boot. (It's ok to fire the people who make the cars, you see, but firing people who sell them is a betrayal of capitalism.)

Anyway, the facts are just a little bit less scandalous than the wingnuts will admit. They looked at the list of auto dealers being shut and determined that most of them were Republican donors. And that could only mean that Republicans were being targeted to the advantage of Democratic donors. But FiveThirtyEight looked at the donor lists and found out that 88% of car dealers are Republicans. So unless the company targets Democrats very specifically, it's pretty much shooting fish in a barrel that more Republicans will lose their franchises. . . .

Canoodling Catholic priest joins Episcopal church, will marry

This is the priest who was photographed on the beach with a woman. Now he can canoodle all he wants to. Jesus never said anything about celibacy for his future priests (:-) ), and we know nothing about Jesus's own sex life (or whether he even had one) or his attitudes toward sex. Miami Herald story here.

''Father Cutié is removing himself from full communion with the Catholic Church and thereby forfeiting his rights as a cleric,'' Favalora said, later adding that Cutié is still "bound by the promise to live the celibate life which he freely embraced at ordination. Only the Holy Father can release him from the obligation."

Not so, Bishop Frade said Thursday afternoon. ''That promise is not recognized by our church. If you can find it in the Bible that priests should be celibate, that will be corrected,'' Frade said. "The only thing we can say is that we pray for ecumenical relations. . .I am sorry they are sorry, and we love them.'' . . .

Thursday night

Took a little nap, had tea and read a short story, treated Bootsy.

I'll be glad when Monday is over (the day of the colonoscopy/gastroscopy). This week the ambulatory treatment place was supposed to call me about arranging for the van service to and from the place. They didn't call so I called them. They said the nurse would call me later but never did. I'll have to call them again tomorrow. This is important.

Tonight I had a message on the house phone from Home Depot's general contractor. They want to have the final plumbing inspection. Meanwhile the plumbing's broken (the water line to the fridge still needs to be repaired). Didn't hear from the plumber about that. I'll have to call the general contractor tomorrow and tell them what's going on. (The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.) I do miss my ice maker and water dispenser.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday night

Not much time to write. No nap. Slept comfortably on bus (now that shoulder is better). Cooked stuff for dinner and lunch tomorrow. Then went to Walgreens to give them the scrip for the stuff I have to drink the day before the colonoscopy.

About rising health care costs, check out this article by Atul Gawande ("The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care"). I'll comment more on this when I have time.

Francis Bacon retrospective at the Met

Abstract of article here. The writer admits at the outset that Bacon is his least favorite painter of the 20th Century. I like him myself. (And he was gay.) The writer prefers Bacon's Abstract Expressionist contemporaries over him, but Abstract Expressionism (which I like) turned out to be a dead end (about which I'm glad). (I can't imagine artists never painting "real" things again.) (And they did.)

All about Sonia Sotomayor from Move On

Today, President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. Of course, the Right is already fighting against her confirmation—so we need to get the facts out about her impressive qualifications and background.

Below is a list of 10 key things about Sonia Sotomayor that you might not know. Can you check it out and send it to 10 friends today? If each of us forwards the list, we can start to get the word out about Judge Sotomayor, and help to ensure that she gets a speedy and fair confirmation process.

Ten Things To Know About Judge Sonia Sotomayor

1. Judge Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the bench than any Supreme Court justice in 100 years. Over her three-decade career, she has served in a wide variety of legal roles, including as a prosecutor, litigator, and judge.

2. Judge Sotomayor is a trailblazer. She was the first Latina to serve on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and was the youngest member of the court when appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York. If confirmed, she will be the first Hispanic to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

3. While on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has consistently protected the rights of working Americans, ruling in favor of health benefits and fair wages for workers in several cases.

4. Judge Sotomayor has shown strong support for First Amendment rights, including in cases of religious expression and the rights to assembly and free speech.

5. Judge Sotomayor has a strong record on civil rights cases, ruling for plaintiffs who had been discriminated against based on disability, sex and race.

6. Judge Sotomayor embodies the American dream. Born to Puerto Rican parents, she grew up in a South Bronx housing project and was raised from age nine by a single mother, excelling in school and working her way to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University and to become an editor of the Law Journal at Yale Law School.

7. In 1995, Judge Sotomayor "saved baseball" when she stopped the owners from illegally changing their bargaining agreement with the players, thereby ending the longest professional sports walk-out in history.

8. Judge Sotomayor ruled in favor of the environment in a case of protecting aquatic life in the vicinity of power plants in 2007, a decision that was overturned by the Roberts Supreme Court.

9. In 1992, Judge Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate without opposition after being appointed to the bench by George H.W. Bush.

10. Judge Sotomayor is a widely respected legal figure, having been described as "...an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind," "highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character would be assets," and "a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity."

Judge Sotomayor is an historic, uniquely qualified nominee to the Supreme Court. Let's get the word out and make sure we get a prompt, fair confirmation on her nomination.

Thanks for all you do,

–Nita, Kat, Daniel, Ilyse and the rest of the team

Sources for each of the 10 things:

1. White House Statement, May 26, 2009. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51451&id=16226-14200794-TbAfVDx&t=1

2. White House Statement, May 26, 2009. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51451&id=16226-14200794-TbAfVDx&t=2

3. Cases: Archie v. Grand Cent. Partnership, 997 F. Supp. 504 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) and Marcella v. Capital Dist. Physicians' Health Plan, Inc., 293 F.3d 42 (2d Cir. 2002).

4. Cases: Flamer v. White Plains, 841 F. Supp. 1365 (S.D.N.Y. 1993), Ford v. McGinnis, 352 F.3d 382 (2d Cir. 2003), and Campos v. Coughlin, 854 F. Supp. 194 (S.D.N.Y. 1994).

5a. "Sotomayor's Notable Court Opinions and Articles," The New York Times, May 26, 2009.
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51454&id=16226-14200794-TbAfVDx&t=3

5b. Cases: Bartlett v. N.Y. State Board, 970 F. Supp. 1094 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), Greenbaum v. Svenska Hendelsbanken, 67 F.Supp.2d 228 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), Raniola v. Bratton, 243 F.3d 610 (2d Cir. 2001), and Gant v. Wallingford Board of Education, 195 F.3d 134 (2d Cir. 1999).

6. "Sonia Sotomayor: 10 Things You Should Know," The Huffington Post, May 26, 2009. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51452&id=16226-14200794-TbAfVDx&t=4

7. "How Sotomayor 'Saved' Baseball," Time, May 26, 2009. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51455&id=16226-14200794-TbAfVDx&t=5

8. "Sotomayor's resume, record on notable cases," CNN, May 26, 2009. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51453&id=16226-14200794-TbAfVDx&t=6

9. "Sotomayor's resume, record on notable cases," CNN, May 26, 2009. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51453&id=16226-14200794-TbAfVDx&t=7

10a. Judge Richard C. Wesley, a George W. Bush appointee to the Second Circuit.
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51451&id=16226-14200794-TbAfVDx&t=8

10b. "Sotomayor is Highly Qualified," The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2009. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51456&id=16226-14200794-TbAfVDx&t=9

10c. Honorary Degree Citation, Pace University School of Law, 2003 Commencement.

Want to support our work? We're entirely funded by our 5 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Chip in here.

PAID FOR BY MOVEON.ORG POLITICAL ACTION, http://pol.moveon.org/. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday night

Today I talked to the condo manager about the water leak from the kitchen. To make a long story short, Home Depot will be sending the plumber back here to check it out and hopefully fix it at no cost to me. (The manager basically said the water line to my fridge hadn't been installed properly--it needed some kind of special "coupling.") Good news is that the water leaked out into the hallway, rather than down into someone else's apartment. So the carpet got a little damp. It seems fine now.

I also talked to the manager about getting one of the housekeeping people to come in and periodically clean my floors. She'll call me back tomorrow about that. If someone does the floors, I'll do the rest.

I'm kind of getting back "into" the kitchen and look forward to finishing it off. (I just needed a hiatus from it.) I'm still thinking about what kind of tiles to put on the backsplash. I'd originally thought iridescent glass. But maybe little marble tiles. I'll figure it out.

Tonight I almost thoroughly cleaned the kitchen, which is not that difficult with everything being new and easy to clean. (It's usually pretty clean anyway, except for the floors, which aren't even that bad.) I just wanted it to look freshened up if contractors are going to be coming back around and housekeeping people are coming in.

Basically, if it weren't for the cats, the place would stay a lot cleaner, but the cats are worth it.

Worked late today. No nap for me. That's OK. Looking forward to going back to the gym on Friday. Shoulder is doing fantastic. Have a colonoscopy/gastroscopy on Monday. Not looking forward to that.

Obama introduces Judge Sonia Sotomayor

Former Interrogator Rebukes Cheney for Torture Speech

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday night

Tonight I re-watched online the second half of the final "Desperate Housewives" episode. I'd missed a few things last week while I was puttering around.

Today I went back up to Biscayne Commons and had that sausage and pepper pizza at Pizza Fusion. Good but not as good as the pizzas I (infrequently) order from an authentic Italian pizza joint in the neighborhood (Bari). I'm spoiled. No more Pizza Fusion, although the atmosphere is certainly nice.

The sky was dark and I sat outside in the loggia, eagerly awaiting a thunderstorm that never materialized. I also had a steak taco at Lime* and a bowl of broccoli cheese soup at T.G.I. Friday's. It was fun, acting touristy. Afterwards I had a coffee at Starbucks.

My shoulder is almost back to normal. Amazing. Today I was able to do everything--take a shower, dry myself off, put on clothes, open and close the driver's seat window in the truck, pull the truck's door closed--normally, with full use of my left arm..

_______________
*I prefer Taco Bell for the hard-shell taco. Not as brittle. My Lime taco quickly disintegrated. Stick with the excellent burrito. (I'll try a soft-shell taco next time.)

Nite!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday night

Shoulder gets better. Stopped taking the aspirin.

Tonight I had dinner at Lime Fresh Mexican Grill up at the Biscayne Commons "upscale outdoor shopping and dining complex." Sat outside under an overhang, since it was sprinkling. Had the Lime beef burrito again. Loaded up the accompanying chips with fresh Pico de Gallo. Also had quite a bit of the black bean/corn salsa. Ate that with a fork. All good stuff. Shopped at the Publix there afterwards.

After yesterday, today was kind of a letdown. But I'm glad to have the long weekend. It reminds me that I need a vacation, however.

Watching a new "House Hunters" about a lesbian couple buying a condo in San Francisco. One BR, 1 bath for over $400,000. Yikes.

[Later] Had a tea across the street and then treated Bootsy's ears after I changed clothes. Tonight I slipped off my knit shirt with both arms extended above my head (i.e., the normal way). Hadn't been able to do that in days. I'd been pointing both arms toward the floor and slipping off the left side with my right arm (the good arm) and then shrugging out of it.

I think tomorrow I'll go back to Biscayne Commons and have a pizza at Pizza Fusion. I'll get the personal size Sausage & Tricolor Pepper. It's a holiday and I'm celebrating.

Conservative radio host waterboarded, calls it "torture"

See here.

Saturday night

Had a great time tonight with my two partnered (with each other) lady friends from Brickell, who live in a condo on Brickell Bay Drive facing the bay and Key Biscayne. One's a lawyer and the other's a nurse. I've known them for years (the lawyer at least 20). Upon my arrival, we walked a couple of blocks west from their place to Dolores but you can call me Lolita, where we had dinner. We sat outside on the upper deck beneath a canopy. This restaurant, the old Firehouse Four, offers two groups of fixed-price dinners (one $18+ and the other $23+) that include an appetizer, of which there's a large assortment. I had gazpacho for my appetizer and oven-roasted prime rib with a mushroom Cabernet reduction ($23+). All the desserts are $2.50, so we had those, too. I had the tiramisu (excellent--tasted like more). I'm not a big fan of your typical bloody prime rib, but I was hungry and this was good--a generous portion served up sliced and bathed in the gravy. It also came with a potato side dish (OK). The menu offered a nice variety of entrees. I'd go back there again (esp. if I could walk there).

The restaurant sits across a side street just south of Mary Brickell Village. This is a new development that encompasses approximately two city blocks. It's attractive enough and has kind of an Old Key West feel and is totally pedestrian-oriented (you can have your car valet-parked or save some money and drive yourself into the enormous garage, which is disguised as an apartment building, of which there are many in the area). Unfortunately, the development is suffering in the current economic climate. And apparently it also suffers from a drainage problem. My friends told me that when it rains a lot, the water actually comes up through the drains (vs. going down) and seeps into the stores on the ground level. (I did see a lot of sand bags sitting around outside the stores.) I would hope this can be corrected.

I used to work on Brickell but hadn't been down there in maybe 10 years. While it has changed a lot--new skyscrapers and other commercial buildings that have replaced the houses and low-rise apartments in this once residential area--it has also stayed much the same. The beauty of this old area of Miami, to me, has always been the mature shade trees (live oaks, banyans, mahoganies). The trees are still there. And Mary Brickell Village shares its new space with a lush urban park--a little preserve of the dense hardwood hammock that once comprised the area. (See here.)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Liberty U. bans College Dems

From Salon's War Room here.

Some posts need little explanation.

Have fun with this news.

Prince's wedding draws Swedish royals to Bavaria

Otherwise a slow news day. AP story here.

May 23rd, 2009 COBURG, Germany -- A German prince has married an American woman in a ceremony that drew Sweden's king and queen to the Bavarian town of Coburg.

Hereditary Prince Hubertus of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha, a 33-year-old lawyer, married Florida native Kelly Rondestvedt, 34, at Coburg's Morizkirche church on Saturday.

Among the roughly 400 guests were King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, who were greeted with applause by about 3,000 spectators.

The couple have said they met in 2007 in New York, where both work. They were officially married -- in two languages -- by Coburg Mayor Norbert Kastner.

Germany, once a patchwork of kingdoms and principalities, was united in the 19th century. While noble titles have remained, monarchies long ago lost their power.

According to Wikipedia, they were married in the ancestral palace in Coburg, below. (They also have one on the Danube in Austria. See nice slide show here.) (I wonder if they call him "Your Highness" in New York.) Notice how he's holding his champagne glass so as not to warm up the champagne with the heat from his fingers. (She's not that fastidious.)

A local newspaper says they were married in the church ("Dream Wedding in Coburg").

King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden below.

Saturday afternoon

Quick email to Condo. Assn. president re: water leak in my unit:

Hi, _________,

This morning (at around 7:30) I was sound asleep when the Security Desk called to say I had a water leak in my kitchen and that they needed to get into the apartment on an emergency basis. I had both my phones turned off and slept through the calls. When I did get up, after noon, I noticed my refrigerator had been moved. I then heard the messages from the Security Desk and called them back. They said that the water to my refrigerator had been leaking and that they turned it off.

I noticed yesterday when I got home from work, when I ran the water in the bathroom and then the kitchen, the water (and air) came out in a tremendous blast of pressure that really startled me. I'd never seen the water come out so forcefully. If something happened to the water supply to my refrigerator, I would attribute it to this blast of water pressure. Apparently they were doing something yesterday with the water lines [inside the building].

The water line to my refrigerator was brand new and installed last fall by a plumber during the remodeling of my kitchen.

I'll talk to [manager] about it when she's in the office. Thank you for your attention.

This water line to my fridge runs along the tops of the cabinets and beneath the counter top. There was no water in any of the cabinets. Good grief. I hope this isn't serious. And I hope there was no damage to the apartment below. (But I have insurance for that.)

Actually I was up at 10:00 this morning but decided to stay in bed and let the shoulder heal. I took aspirin when I got up. It seems to be doing well.

When I came out of the bedroom, I noticed the ceiling fan going in the kitchen and then saw that the fridge had been pulled out from the wall. At first I thought the plumbing inspector had been there, but then I listened to my messages.

Friday, May 22, 2009

An email I received today from "Sgt. Phillip Newman"

This was sent to "none" with no subject. The sender is actually turklittle@cox.net.

We sincerity of heart, I SEEK YOUR INGULGENCE IN THIS Business proposal: I have a business proposal of funds shipment from Iraq to you. With immense benefit to the both of us. If you are interested, I will furnish you with more details.

Sincerely,

Sgt. Phillip Newman.

Big Florida bank goes under

Story here. (I used to work for the founder.)

The failure will cost the FDIC insurance fund an estimated $4.9 billion -- which is the second-biggest hit to the fund during the current downturn, eclipsed only by the $11 billion cost incurred with the failure of IndyMac, of Pasadena, Calif. . . .

Camner's wife, Anne Camner, stood in the wings, fretting that the bank's collapse had been an emotional jolt to her family. ''We devoted 25 years to building this company,'' she said in an interview. "This was our baby.''

Anne Camner said her family was left in the dark. ''I found out yesterday at 5:15 p.m. that the bank had been seized,'' she said.

Camner, who resigned last October as chairman and CEO shortly after federal regulators slapped the bank with a cease-and-desist order, filed suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court to force the company to hold a shareholder meeting. . . .

From a related Q&A:

"The bank was making option-ARM loans. It was making those mortgages and also selling those mortgages in the secondary market. And we all know with the downturn in the housing market, a lot of those loans went bad. Enough went bad to where the bank had to be closed by the OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision] today [Thursday] and the FDIC has to step into protect the depositors.''

Friday night

In today's mail I got an updated plumbing permit from Home Depot. Now we can have the plumbing inspection and then the final, general inspection. It's now been over a year since this kitchen remodeling project began.

I took some more aspirin a little while ago. I'm using the left arm almost like normal again but still won't try to raise it. The shoulder is still tender. But I'll be able to drive down to Brickell tomorrow for dinner with friends at the new Mary Brickell Village. I've never been there, but I've been to the restaurant we're going to--it used to be the Firehouse Four restaurant, which I always loved going to, and before that, a working Firehouse 4. There was even a brass pole going from the second to the first floor (but it was railed off so you couldn't slide down it--or fall down the hole). Can't wait to see the new stuff they've built around it.

We have dinner once or twice a year, usually at the Flanigan's down the street from me.

When I go back to the orthopedic surgeon in two weeks, I'll ask him all about the procedure and report back to you. Tonight I've been trying to find out more about it online, without much success. I did come across an article about "needling" the calcium deposit. Yikes.

I was glad I was able to nap on the bus today. I'd not been able to do that in days, on account of the nagging pain. Didn't take a nap when I got home. Wasn't tired. Had Earl Grey tea at Starbucks while reading the latest New Yorker that came in the mail today.

I've never screamed in a doctor's office before, that I can recall, at least since I've been an adult. But that hurt like a MFer, and, as I said, it wasn't a quick thing--it was protracted. I don't mind getting shots or getting pricked to have my blood drawn, but this was not your normal shot. It was more like . . . torture. Now I'm just so relieved. Actually, I'm so happy I could stay up all night (as is my tendency) and celebrate, but I won't.

Today I found out I have to pay 20% of the cost of my colonoscopy/gastroscopy, or $166 or something. I'll pay this out of pre-tax income, but that sucks. See here. This feature of my employer's health insurance went into effect about two years ago, I found out today from the benefits manager. I had a colonoscopy three years ago and the whole thing was covered. And I certainly didn't elect the colonoscopy. This is an appreciable increase in my own medical care costs, and I'm not a wealthy person, but even if I were...

Health care is a necessity for the good of society, like firefighting or police protection. I think we should pay doctors out of our taxes, also, rather than filter their wages and other services through umpteen for-profit insurance companies with all their duplicative bureaucracies, high-flying executives, and departments set up to figure out ways of denying people's legitimate claims for treatment and then letting them die. Imagine a fireman letting your house burn down if you didn't show a him a fire insurance card.

Friday evening

What a horrendous time I had at the doctor's today. That had to have been the worst experience I've ever had either at a doctor's or a dentist's. (Had I known what was going to happen, I'd have taken some of that Valium.) The people in the office were very nice, however, and I liked the doctor. He was just doing the "standard operating procedure" based on the canon.

After they first x-rayed my shoulder, I didn't have to wait long to see the doctor. It turns out I have a calcium deposit in the joint. (The doctor said it was "like a bean" and showed it to me on the x-ray before I left.) Apparently it has moved into a position to cause maximum pain. I took my shirt off, as instructed -- that being a pain in itself -- and, with my help, the doctor probed my shoulder till he found the spot of maximum pain, told me to take a deep breath, and then jammed a needle right into it! I was breathing deeply, but this went on for several seconds (I wasn't watching what he was doing) and became so unbearable that I screamed out in pain. (The doctor accused me, in jest, of tying to give him a heart attack.) The hypodermic was very long, by the way, and I learned later that it contained cortisone and lidocaine.* The doctor told me to put an ice pack on my shoulder and to make an appointment to see him again in two weeks.

(I asked him whether they can dissolve the calcium deposits and he said no. I later went online and found out that these can be removed by laparoscopic surgery.)

I then took the bus back to work.

Back at work, I took two packs of Alka-Seltzer and waited for the pain to subside. It didn't subside, however. It gradually got worse. I ordered $25 worth of Greek comfort food for lunch and dinner and tried not to think about it. At around 3 o'clock, however, the pain had gotten so bad--much worse than before the needle procedure--that I went back to the first aid kid and grabbed two packs of ibuprofen and an instant ice pack. I'm not sure how much ibuprofen I took (a double dose, in any case) but it worked. And the ice pack helped, too. (It even sat on my shoulder by itself, so that my hands were free to get some work done.)

I was able to nap a bit on the bus home. Back home I took two aspirin and am feeling better. (They don't have aspirin at work, except for what's in the Alka-Seltzer.)

_____________________
*Or maybe there were two separate shots--as I said, I wasn't watching. And it did seem to take a long time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cheney's Chutzpah

From MyDD here.

Almost self-parody:

Behind the overwrought reaction to enhanced interrogations is a broader misconception about the threats that still face our country. You can sense the problem in the emergence of euphemisms that strive to put an imaginary distance between the American people and the terrorist enemy. Apparently using the term "war" where terrorists are concerned is starting to feel a bit dated. So henceforth we're advised by the administration to think of the fight against terrorists as, quote, "Overseas contingency operations." In the event of another terrorist attack on America, the Homeland Security Department assures us it will be ready for this, quote, "man-made disaster" - never mind that the whole Department was created for the purpose of protecting Americans from terrorist attack.

Dude, you just used the term "enhanced interrogations" one sentence earlier. It's torture.

Repower America

(Hadn't seen this ad before) (See here)

Thursday night - at random

Dick Cheney can say all he wants to to justify his torture, but the truth is the Bush Administration put Al-Qaeda on the back burner when they got into office -- against the all manner of warnings -- and the 9/11 attacks happened on their watch. Also, the information they got without using torture was more valuable than the information they got using torture.

Anderson Cooper, in an interview with Liz Cheney, pointed out that her father is defending policies the Bush Administration moved away from. Earlier, on Countdown, someone said Dick Cheney is probably worried, and that they're making a good case against him over in Spain.

I'm really looking forward to this doctor's appointment tomorrow (I never thought I'd utter those words--wow!). I've got two alarm clocks set (including the cell phone).

David Gergen says the American people have spoken on these issues. Enough said, Dick. "Depart, I say, and let us have done with you!", Olbermann said.

Watching Rachel Maddow now. I don't agree with her comparing Obama's "prolonged detention" of dangerous terrorists to "preventive incarceration" in the movie "Minority Report."

Cheney still wants to link Iraq with Al-Qaeda.

If waterboarding is effective, you shouldn't have to do it 180 times on one person.

I'm not treating Bootsy's ears tonight. They look really good and I don't want to grapple with him with my shoulder the way it is. I can do it tomorrow. Hopefully my shoulder will feel better. I hope the doctor injects all kinds of stuff into it.

Re: the anesthesia they use for the colonoscopy/gastroscopy. If I'm conscious (but not remembering, i.e., will have amnesia afterwards), I'm just afraid of what I'll tell the doctor and the nurses while I'm undergoing these procedures. I hope I give them a thoughtful, intelligent earful. (I was on Wikipedia, researching the procedure. One of the anesthetics was likened to Sodium Pentothal--the "truth serum" they used to use in interrogations.)

I'm happy I'm no longer "tortured" about the situation with B. I got a lot out of our last chat. It's better to talk things out.

Oh, God. Chris Matthews has Pat Buchanan on again. Time to chill. Chris Matthews is too much entertainment for me.

Dueling speeches

Thursday evening

Re: shoulder injury. Today I called that orthopedic surgeon back and was told their computers were still out but that they had no openings today, don't keep office hours on Fridays, don't accept emergencies, and wouldn't be able to give me an appointment until next week. So I called my doctor's office back and got a couple more referrals. One place didn't accept my health insurance (United Healthcare). So I have an appointment at another place at 9:30 a.m. It's on Arthur Godfrey Road and getting there should be easy. Meanwhile I can't say that my shoulder has gotten any better.

Apparently our condo is in trouble vis-a-vis maintenance fee collection. We got an email from the president of the Condo. Association today, in red ink. Last month they collected only $99,000 when they had $147,000 budgeted for collection. Looks like this month is going to be bad too. They might have to make an assessment. Meanwhile they're urging people who can afford it to pay next month's fees early. (I'll have to look at my finances.)

Having another one of those StarKist SeaSations frozen microwaveable fish entrees for dinner. The Mediterranean tomato/basil is just as good as the lemon/herb I bought last time.

No nap today. I'm not tired, and I want to be tired at bedtime, since I have to wake up a little earlier than usual to make the doctor's appointment.

I just heard Cheney say on Keith Olbermann that if we bring Gitmo detainees to the U.S., we'll have to spend U.S. tax dollars here to provide for them. WTF! As if we weren't spending tax dollars right now running Gitmo! (And how much did it cost to build, when we already had super-maximum security prisons here?!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Message from Obama on health care

Got this email today.

[MOI] --

The chance to finally reform our nation's health care system is here. While Congress moves rapidly to produce a detailed plan, I have made it clear that real reform must uphold three core principles -- it must reduce costs, guarantee choice, and ensure quality care for every American.

As we know, challenging the status quo will not be easy. Its defenders will claim our goals are too big, that we should once again settle for half measures and empty talk. Left unanswered, these voices of doubt might yet again derail the comprehensive reform we so badly need. That's where you come in.

When our opponents spread fear and confusion about the changes we seek, your support for these core principles will show clarity and resolve. When the lobbyists for the status quo tell Congress to hold back, your personal story will give them the courage to press forward.

Join my call: Ask Congress to pass real health care reform in 2009.

By declaring your support for the three core principles, you have already taken the first step -- thank you. Now, consider sharing your personal story about the importance of health care reform in your life, and the lives of those you love.

I will be personally reviewing many of these signatures and stories. If you speak up now, your voice will make a difference.

http://my.barackobama.com/HealthCareStory

American families are watching their premiums rise four times faster than their wages. Spiraling health care costs are shackling America's businesses, curtailing job growth and slowing the economy at the worst possible time. This has got to change.

I know personal stories can drive that change, because I know how my mother's experience continues to drive me. She passed away from ovarian cancer a little over a decade ago. And in the last weeks of her life, when she was coming to grips with her own mortality and showing extraordinary courage just to get through each day, she was spending too much time worrying about whether her health insurance would cover her bills. She deserved better. Every American deserves better. And that's why I will not rest until the dream of health care reform is finally achieved in the United States of America.

Share your personal story about why you too will not rest until this job is done.

http://my.barackobama.com/HealthCareStory

Last November, the American people sent Washington a clear mandate for change. But when the polls close, the true work of citizenship begins. That's what Organizing for America is all about. Now, in these crucial moments, your voice once again has extraordinary power. I'm counting on you to use it.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Speaking of Starbucks...

This just in from Robert Greenwald's "BraveNewFilms."

Wednesday night

No gym tonight. I want to hear what the doctor says about the shoulder (sometime tomorrow, I hope). I don't want to exacerbate whatever it is. (Nap helped. I lay on my back the whole time.) It only hurts when I try to raise my arm. (Putting on and taking off shirts is a bitch.)

A couple of people in my department had something similar to what I have. They went to the doctor and the doctor injected cortisone into the joint, and their condition improved. Sounds good to me. Fortunately I'm able to do my job. Now watch them want to replace the joint in my shoulder.

So the Senate voted (overwhelmingly) not to fund the closing of the military prison at Guantanamo, created by Bush. Are people really afraid of having terrorists transferred to our prisons? As Dibgy and Rachel Maddow pointed out today, imprisonment is one of the things we do best here in the U.S. I saw tonight on Keith Olbermann that they have plenty of room at a new prison in Montana. See this also.

(I lived in Montana for a couple of years and had a great experience. I followed my first partner there after we met at FSU.) (It was his idea.)

Wednesday evening

Shoulder still hurts like hell. Today I got a referral from my doctor to an orthopedic surgeon. I called their office and explained the situation, and the receptionist said I could probably get an appointment for tomorrow. (The office is at the Miami Heart Institute.) She said the computers were down, however, and asked me to call back in an hour. I called back and computers were still down. She again said to call back in an hour, and the computers were still down. Then she said to call back in half an hour. When I did, the office was closed. I'll call first thing in the morning.

Just took some aspirin and will try to take a nap.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday night

This afternoon I did something to my left shoulder (the bad one)--maybe I wrenched it while I was stretching, or something--and now it hurts like hell. I hope it's better when I wake up in the morning. (Didn't get a nap since I worked late.) It's throbbing. It hurts too much to blog (almost). I may end up going to a doctor about it (which I'd considered already)--it's that bad. It had been improving over the past year and a half, with new mattress, pillows, etc., but something really bad happened today. Maybe the pain can be relieved with some kind of shot. Who knows.

"The Stagers" was good. Another new one.

Got my car washed tonight in the driving rain while I was at the store and then Starbucks, sitting under the overhang with my magazine and my tea. It needed it. Looks good. It sits in the garage most of the time collecting dust.

'Credit Card Restrictions Close to Enactment'

From The Washington Post here. I saw this at Salon earlier. This is the original lede paragraph. New lede paragraph follows. (Actually, on closer look, the entire story was redone.) (Original title: "Senate passes credit card crackdown".)

Original:
The Senate today overwhelmingly passed a bill that would sharply curtail credit card issuers' ability to raise interest rates and charge fees, taking a critical step in reforming an industry that has gone largely unregulated for decades.

New:
Landmark credit card legislation, poised to reach President Obama's desk by Memorial Day, will force the card industry to reinvent itself and consumers to rethink the way they use plastic.

Interesting how the story morphed from its consumerist angle to a corporatist angle. Poor banks, which got public bail-out money and then turned around and sunk their fangs deeper into the throats of the struggling middle class. (I put no stock in The Washington Post.) (See graph below.)

A period of impressive growth? Not so much.

From Mary at The Left Coaster here.

Both Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias commented on Niall Ferguson's contention that the go-go years since Reagan was elected should be given credit for the growth in GDP up to the Bush debacle. Matt provided this chart to show how little the average American saw of this growth. [Click on graph to enlarge.]

But I think what is even more telling than the fact that the income stagnated for most of the country, is that this picture doesn't show how over that time Americans experienced a serious erosion in their ability to buy things that matter. The cost of housing, health care, and education have all sky-rocketed while the loss of time and the increase in debt combined with a fraying safety net have severely diminished the quality of life for most people. Maybe all that financial innovation wasn't so grand.

Unfortunately, the American people have apparently been dumb enough to let this happen by the way they've voted (not me!). Maybe they're wising up.

Vote for your own self-interest, people! Don't fool yourselves. You've been systematically turned into an underclass. Don't let your bigotry get in the way of your own self-interest (which the Republicans have been exploiting in you for years, obviously to your financial detriment).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Engineered antibodies fight AIDS virus in monkeys

This is another article on the vaccine research I posted about yesterday. Read the whole thing for additional information.

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2009 (Reuters) — Researchers may have discovered a technique that will eventually lead to a way to vaccinate against the AIDS virus, by creating an artificial antibody carried into the body by a virus.

This synthetic immune system molecule protected monkeys against an animal version of HIV called SIV, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Medicine.

While it will be years before the concept could be tested in humans, it opens up the possibility of protecting people against the fatal and incurable virus.

"Six of nine immunized monkeys were protected against infection by the SIV challenge, and all nine were protected from AIDS," Philip Johnson of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and colleagues wrote. . . .

HIV Vaccine From Engineered Plants: Mice Form Antibodies Against HIV Protein

[Story here.]

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2009) — A research team at Örebro University in Sweden has succeeded in changing the genes in plants so they can function as a vaccine against HIV. Through gene modification the plants have acquired the capacity to produce a protein that is part of the virus, and the project has taken a giant step forward in that mice that have been fed the plants have reacted and formed antibodies against the protein.

The findings are presented in a new academic dissertation at the university.

“A major problem with the HIV virus is that it mutates rapidly and therefore exists in several different variants. In other words, it’s not possible to create an effective vaccine that is based on the entire virus. Moreover, this would be far too risky. Instead, we have selected a protein, p24, that exists in all HIV viruses and looks roughly the same in the various virus lines,” says Ingrid Lindh, author of the dissertation.

To get plants to produce the p24 protein, the gene that underlies the process must be a part of their own genetic make-up, but since it’s impossible to transfer the gene directly from the virus to the plant, the researchers had to take a detour. This was done by first placing the gene into a bacterium that could then transmit it to the plants. The attempt succeeded; the plants produced p24 and also passed on this ability to their offspring.

In the next phase, mice were fed with the p24 plants, and these trials also proved to be successful. The mice’s immune defense reacted just as the researchers had hoped, producing antibodies against the protein. In other words, this functioned as a vaccine. This raises hopes that a similar reaction in humans would make them immune to HIV. . . .

“The carrot is a good candidate for producing an edible vaccine, not least because it can be eaten raw, which reduces the risk of the proteins being destroyed by heating. What’s more, it’s a biennial, which means that it doesn’t go to seed the first year, making it easier to ensure that it doesn’t spread its genes to other plants close by,” explains Ingrid Lindh.

Monday night

It's starting to get wet here. I was just over at Starbucks for a tea. I should have driven the truck over there and gotten a free car wash. (Maybe tomorrow.) We really need the rain. Umbrella is drying now.

I had a dentist's appointment at the end of the day for a routine cleaning. Took my (doctor's prescription) Valium beforehand.

Talked to my doctor's office today about finding a different gastroenterologist. They recommended someone who didn't practice near my home, so I guess I'll stick with the other guy. The colonoscopy and gastroscopy are scheduled for Monday, June 1. I did tell my doctor's office about an insensitive/ignorant/ homophobic remark the guy had made (and that will be relayed to my doctor).

I'm so sick and tired of people treating gays like lepers. As you hear nowadays, what would Jesus think? I'm a decent, normal, law-abiding, tax-paying person who happens to be (apparently by nature's or, if you will, God's design) gay. But even if I were indecent and abnormal, remember what Jesus said: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." See here.

Had the roast beef spread for lunch at work today, on sea salt Melba toast rounds. Excellent. My supervisor had some, too, and loved it. It tasted even better after sitting in the fridge overnight. Earlier I prepared some turkey Italian sausage and mixed it up with some spaghetti sauce I'd thawed out from the freezer and will take that to work for lunch tomorrow, along with some vermicelli I'd boiled up earlier. (I just remembered to grate some Locatelli Romano cheese on top of the sausage/sauce.) Looking forward to lunch.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday night

Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, was on "60 Minutes". I knew who she was but didn't know much about her. I didn't know she was British, for example, or that she dropped out of school at age 16. The Merrill Streep character in "The Devil Wears Prada" (based on the novel of the same name) is based on Wintour. That I knew.

The roast beef spread with horseradish came out very good, better than the sweet relish version I whipped up earlier. I always prefer savory to sweet. I had that for dinner.

[Later] "Desperate Housewives" was really really good, but lots of long, loud ads. I think it should be illegal to turn up the volume on the ads. (Maybe it used to be, before that industry was deregulated.) Also, you used to be able to buy TVs that would adjust the volume down automatically on loud ads. I don't know whether they make them anymore. I'll try to find one the next time I buy a TV.

Now "The Stagers" is on. I love it.

Sunday evening

Was out on the bike today, though not for long. (But still.) I'd been meaning to get back out on the bike for months now. First I had to locate the air pump and inflate the tires. Rode it over to Starbucks, had a coffee and a refill, and then proceeded up to Publix to get the horseradish and some beef-and-cheese chimichangas. I try to avoid biking on U.S. 1 (even on the sidewalk).

Will watch "60 Minutes" and, later, the season finale of "Desperate Housewives" (two-hour special tonight). I'll be glad the season's over, since the show tends to rule my Sunday nights.

Gay Marriage, The Real Financial Crisis

From Dday at Hullabaloo here.

It's not bigotry or homophobia, but the cost to small businesses as a result of putting a new set of spouses on the health plan, says Michael Steele. That's why Republicans oppose gay marriage.

Let's set aside the multiple efforts during the Bush Administration to encourage marriage, which would place the exact same burden on those small businesses, only not with the ickiness of the ghey.

But if we really want to talk about the high cost of spousal benefits for businesses, um, Michael? I've got a way around it for you. Stay with me on this one.

NATIONAL HEALTH CARE.

I'll sign on if you do.

Scientists now trying to outflank HIV/AIDS virus

Great news. AP story here.

May 17th, 2009 WASHINGTON -- Like a general whose direct attacks aren't working, scientists are now trying to outflank the HIV/AIDS virus.

Unsuccessful at developing vaccines that the cause the body's natural immune system to battle the virus, researchers are testing inserting a gene into the muscle that can cause it to produce protective antibodies against HIV.

The new method worked in mice and now has proved successful in monkeys, too, they reported Sunday in the online edition of the journal Nature Medicine. The team is led by Dr. Philip R. Johnson of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

That doesn't mean an AIDS vaccine for people is in the wings, Johnson said. Years of work may lie ahead before a product is ready for human use.

Nevertheless, the report was welcomed by Dr. Beatrice Hahn, an AIDS researcher the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who was not part of Johnson's team. "It basically shows there is light at the end of the tunnel," she said in a telephone interview. . . .

According to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, AIDS is one of the most devastating pandemics. More than 20 million people have died so far and about 33 million are living with HIV. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention last year estimated there are about 56,000 new HIV infections annually in the United States. . . .

In a decade-long effort, Johnson, K. Reed Clark of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and their team developed immunoadhesins, antibody-like proteins designed to attach to SIV and block it from infecting cells.

Then they needed a way to get the immunoadhesins into the cells.

The researchers selected the widely used adeno-associated virus as the carrier because it is an effective way to insert DNA into the cells of monkeys or humans. That virus was injected into muscles, where it carried the DNA of the immunoadhesins. The muscles then began producing the protective proteins. . . .

A month after administering the AAV, the nine treated monkeys were injected with SIV, as were six not treated in advance.

None of the immunized monkeys developed AIDS and only three showed any indication of SIV infection. Even a year later they had high concentrations of the protective antibodies in the blood.

All six unimmunized monkeys became infected; four died during the experiment.

The next step is moving toward human trials, Johnson said. He said he is working with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in hopes of getting tests in humans under way in the next few years. . . .

Sunday afternoon

There it is!

Lucky thought this chore was fascinating. He watched me from the counter top the whole time I was grinding the meat.

I haven't been out to get the horseradish yet, but I did make a small batch with sweet relish and had that for lunch on Melba toast. I'll go to the store later.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday night

Earlier I made chili for dinner, but I still have leftovers from last week, including quite a bit of roast beef, and I wasn't sure what to do with it. I could have sliced it up for sandwiches, or made hash, but I decided to do something different: Make a spread.

When I was growing up, my parents made it, using a cast-aluminum meat grinder that clamped onto the kitchen table. I didn't have a meat grinder, however. (And I didn't want to use the food processor, for fear that it would turn out too mushy.) So tonight, after first checking out Target, I headed up to Bed Bath & Beyond and found a meat grinder. (Not as nice as the one my parents had, but it'll do.) I just ran it through the dishwasher, and tomorrow I'll make the spread.

(The meat grinder was $39.99 but I used a 20%-off coupon to get it.)

(And I'm not going to screw it onto my new counters. I'll screw it onto a wooden TV tray.)

Tonight I found a few recipes online. They're all made with mayonnaise (which my parents used), but the flavorings are different. I think I'll make it with horseradish and fresh onion. (I think my parents made it with sweet relish, which was also good.) Tomorrow I'll have to run out and get some horseradish, however, since it appears I'm fresh out.

CIA Director: It's Up To Congress To Figure Out Whether Our Records Are Accurate

"Panetta: We Don't Mislead Congress, But Don't Take Our Word For It." See TPM here.

Bob Graham's diaries refute CIA claims about torture briefings

Bob Graham writes down everything (find out why). (Funny.)


Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Social Security is Safer than Your 401K

Also from FDL here.

Alicia H. Munnell lays it down:

The nation's financial and economic crisis provided a stress test for the nation's public and private retirement system.

The 2009 Social Security Trustees report released Tuesday provides a basis for assessing how each held up. On the one hand, assets in 401(k) accounts -- which are predominantly in stocks -- have declined in value by about a third, employers are suspending matching contributions, and millions of unemployed workers have seen their retirement savings efforts disrupted.

On the other hand, the Social Security Administration continues to send out monthly checks to 35 million retirees and their spouses, 9 million disabled workers and their families, and 6 million families whose breadwinner has died. In other words, the government system has proved to be much less fragile than the private system of retirement savings. . . .

FDL Book Salon - The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized The American Right

Digby reviews book at Firedoglake here.

I grew up in a right wing household, so I'm not one of those liberals who've never spent any time connecting on an intimate basis with conservatives. I spent my early life hearing conservative talk around the kitchen table, drinking right wing philosophy along with my Nestle's Quick.(Not long ago I came across a letter my mother had written to her parents in 1960 in which she lamented the fact that John F. Kennedy had stolen the election out from under that fine man Richard Nixon!)

Until the last 15 or 20 years, I felt that I understood conservatism quite well, even as I disagreed with virtually every aspect of it. And while I found much of it repugnant, particularly the racist side which the Southern Strategy embraced, I had never actually feared it. Perhaps that's because the people I knew might have been right wing, but I had never heard them say that all liberals (blacks/gays/feminists) should be killed. That was new to me. . . .

When I started blogging six years or so ago, I wrote a lot about this, trying to describe what I was seeing and hoping to understand what had happened to the mainstream conservatism I had grown up with and thought I knew. Until I came across Dave Neiwert's blog Orcinus, I didn't even know there was a word for it. Once I read his series of posts called "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism," I did. It's called "eliminationism," which Neiwert defines as "a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination." . . .

Neiwert has been studying the American far right for years, writing about the militia movement and listening to the voices of the right as they grew ever more radical, violent and insular. He understands where many of these people come from, he gets what social elements feed into their paranoid sense of victimization. And he documents all of that in his fascinating new book The Eliminationists. But he does something even more valuable than merely observe this social and political phenomenon. He analyzes how this worldview makes its way into mainstream American culture and that is perhaps the most startling and downright chilling revelation in his book. Once you understand how that happens, you will never see Glenn Beck and Michael Savage as benign figures of fun again. . . .

Saturday afternoon

Was back at the gym last night. Slept in today to repair. I actually oversleep on the weekends, but that can't be bad. Before waking, though, my dreams start to degrade and become dull and monotonous and bothersome. (I've thought maybe I'm exhausting the oxygen in the room at that point.)

Had a coffee across the street, then walked up to B.'s place of business. I wanted to give B. the article about the owner of Trixie's, who was recently found dead (after his partner died last year). B. and I used to go there occasionally.

We had a nice conversation -- about 15 minutes. He seems to be doing well. He said his doctor told him that, whatever he's been doing, to keep doing it, since his health is good. He said yesterday was his sister's birthday, and they threw a party for her at his new home and stayed up till 5 a.m. (glad I wasn't around for that). Talked about Bootsy and Lady Gaga on Ellen (he hadn't seen it, since he's at work at that time), work, Lucky, the gastroenterologist, etc.

I'm not going to worry about his situation anymore, but I'll stop by to see him if I feel like it. If things are as rosy as he paints them to be, then the BF shouldn't have anything to worry about. Of course, B. could have been on some kind of drugs just now. (The BF knows how to dose him. After all, he'd a been a doctor in Cuba--he'd told me so himself.) (The BF before me did the same thing.)

Enough! Cleaned out the cat boxes.

Speaking of cats, my friend in Canada sent me this. It goes on a bit long but makes the point. I was supposed to give Bootsy some pills a couple of months ago, but he refused to take them. He wouldn't even eat the food I mixed the pulverized pill into. When I wrapped him up in a towel and tried to put one in his mouth, he refused to unclench his jaws. If I'd have pushed it, he would have attacked me. He was at that point. So I just gave up. The pills would have been gone by now, anyway, and he seems just fine. I think they were antibiotics.

Cuban gays dance conga against homophobia

AP story here.

May 16th, 2009 HAVANA -- President Raul Castro's daughter led hundreds of Cuban gays in a street dance Saturday to draw attention to gay rights on the island.

Participants formed a carnival-style conga line around two city blocks to beat the of drums, accompanied by costumed stilt-walkers. Events also included educational panels and presentations for books, magazines and CDs about gay rights and sexual diversity. . . .

David Plouffe on swiftboating health care

From an email I just received:

We knew healthcare reform would face fierce opposition -- and it's begun. As we speak, the same people behind the notorious "swiftboat" ads of 2004 are already pumping millions of dollars into deceptive television ads. Their plan is simple: torpedo healthcare reform before it sees the light of day by scaring the public and distorting the President's approach.

We need the resources to take them head on with an urgent, grassroots campaign to pass real healthcare reform in 2009.

When the swiftboaters flood the airwaves with distortions, we'll flood the streets with volunteers armed with facts. When they send lobbyists to tell Congress to back down, we'll send millions of calls, letters, and stories from real Americans asking them to stand up.

Can you donate $25 or more by midnight Sunday to fight back against these phony attacks and take our message of reform to the American people? [Click here to donate]

Louisiana Moves to Limit Gay Adoptions

Full Advocate story here.

Critics say the legislation reflects stealth antigay measures such as Act 1, the adoption ban that Arkansas voters passed in November. While not specifically mentioning gay couples, Act 1 outlaws adoptions by unmarried couples, effectively precluding gays and lesbians, who cannot marry in the state.

The Louisiana bill, which has the support of Republican governor Bobby Jindal, now moves to the senate.

RNC chief: Gay marriage will burden small business

AP story here. See here too.

May 16th, 2009 SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Republicans can reach a broader base by recasting gay marriage as an issue that could dent pocketbooks as small businesses spend more on health care and other benefits, GOP Chairman Michael Steele said Saturday.

Steele said that was just an example of how the party can retool its message to appeal to young voters and minorities without sacrificing core conservative principles. Steele said he used the argument weeks ago while chatting on a flight with a college student who described herself as fiscally conservative but socially liberal on issues like gay marriage. . . .

Police break up Moscow gay march

See BBC here. More here.

Foreign policy thought for the night

"Walk softly and carry a big stick." (Who said that?)

TGIF

I think I'm going to try to find a nicer--dare I say, less homophobic--gastroenterologist. (I talked with someone at work today about my doctor's visit.) But I may still go with this guy just because the treatment center is close-by and they send a van.

Gore to Cheney: Stifle, Edith

See here.

Cheney makes no sense

See TPM here.

If we need torture to keep the country safe, why did Bush and Cheney stop doing it in early 2004?

What George Bush wrought: Iraqi Christians had it way better under Saddam Hussein

Half of them (400,000) have fled the country after horrific persecution, brought on by George Bush's ill-begotten invasion of Iraq.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday night

Got back home from the gastroenterologist's at 8:00. I have to say, I don't feel comfortable with this guy, but my regular doctor refers him. My regular doctor is warm and friendly. The gastroenterologist is more like a robot, and I wasn't looking forward to seeing him again. My misgivings were reinforced today. (I'm just glad that's over with.) I don't know why my doctor recommends this guy. (Maybe he's a relative.)

So they're going to schedule me for not only a colonoscopy but a gastroscopy as well. I'd mentioned that I'd started taking Prilosec for heartburn (and it was working), and he decided he should look inside my stomach. Fortunately they do this while I'm still under anesthesia. (He said they just "turn you around" and do it.) I'm not looking forward to this, but at least I won't be conscious (or I won't remember it--a distinction). I still don't like the idea of people probing around inside me (especially if I'm awake but won't remember it). (I don't like the idea of it. It sounds almost illegal.) (But it's for my own good.)

I was actually dreading this appointment today and even lost some sleep over it. Tired. No nap today. But the worst part is over, since I'll be knocked out for the next part. (Also, they drive you to the treatment place and back.)

'We tortured to justify war'

"Dick Cheney keeps saying 'enhanced interrogation' was used to stop imminent attacks, but evidence is mounting that the real reason was to invent evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaida." Joe Conason here.

Perhaps the sharpest rebuke to Cheney's assertions has come from Lawrence Wilkerson, the retired Army colonel and former senior State Department aide to Colin Powell, who says bluntly that when the administration first authorized "harsh interrogation" during the spring of 2002, "its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaida."

In an essay that first appeared on the Washington Note blog, Wilkerson says that even when the interrogators of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the Libyan al-Qaida operative, reported that he had become “compliant” -- in other words, cooperative after sufficient abuse -- the vice-president’s office ordered further torture of the Libyan by his hosts at an Egyptian prison because he had not yet implicated Saddam with al-Qaida. So his interrogators put al-Libi into a tiny coffin until he said what Cheney wanted to hear. Nobody in the U.S. intelligence community actually believed this nonsense. But now, al-Libi has reportedly and very conveniently "committed suicide" in a prison cell in Libya, where he was dispatched to the tender mercies of the Bush administration's newfound friends in the Qaddafi regime several years ago. So the deceased man won't be able to discuss what actually happened to him and why. . . .