Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thursday afternoon - New Year's Eve

They let us off work at 3:00. Nice of them. Tomorrow we have off.

Just ran to the store to get some cat food, etc., since I think Publix is closing early tonight and won't be open tomorrow.

I think I'll head down to Magnum for New Year's. I'll bus it down and cab it back. Will take a nap first.

[Later]

Good nap. Frying a lean hamburger, which I will then top with mayonnaise blended with ketchup. Will catch the 10:38 bus to 79th St., arriving at 11:01. (It's 10:07 now.)

Lousy hamburger. Lean ground beef has no flavor whatsoever.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday night

Back from gym and store, after good nap.

Not much to report. It's interesting that certain Republicans are piling on Obama for causing the Xmas terrorist incident, when they themselves switched from going after Al Qaeda to attacking Iraq after 9/11 and earned the enmity of the Arab world. As a direct result, Al Qaeda quickly expanded. Then the Bush Administration went on to release the Yemeni prisoners from Guantanamo who apparently masterminded this latest attack. I got a kick out of this.

Dick Cheney, Patron Of The Arts

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Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:36:04 PM PST

How many times have we seen Dick Cheney's mug plastered across our TV screens over the past 12 months, spewing garbage about the Obama administration putting the lives of the American people at risk?

Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Northwest bombing in a Monday statement that vowed more attacks on Americans.

American officials agreed to send the two terrorists from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia where they entered into an "art therapy rehabilitation program" and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials.

Somehow this brings to mind what Cheney had to say just weeks after President Obama took office:

When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry.

So, how's that protecting America one still life painting class at a time working out, eh, Dick?

Of course the question now is, will Cheney again be booked on every Fox News to peddle more criticism of President Obama, or will this little "oops" moment mean that Dick is slithering back to his undisclosed location?

Unfortunately not. He opened his trap. Then the Obama people put out this:

There has been a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about our response to various critics of the President, specifically former Vice President Cheney, who have been coming out of the woodwork since the incident on Christmas Day. I think we all agree that there should be honest debate about these issues, but it is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer.

First, it’s important that the substantive context be clear: for seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq – a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion – Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda also regenerated in places like Yemen and Somalia, establishing new safe-havens that have grown over a period of years ...

To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.

Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred" [...]

There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday night

Took yesterday off from here.

Tonight I bought a load of Prilosec to use up the money in my tax-free flex spending account. Really good deal at Walgreens: 50% more free on the 28-tablet package (i.e., 42 tabs total) for $18.99. That's a saving of $5 or $6 per box. I'd already bought some at CVS and returned it after loading up at Walgreen's. (I bought six boxes there.)

There's a Quizno's by the CVS, so bought lunch there for tomorrow: a large Italian sub with double meat. Had to have a little when I got home. Mmmmmm! Good stuff! (They toasted the meats, cheese and onion first -- no olives for me -- then added lettuce, tomato and banana peppers.) Wrapped it back up real tight. Can hardly wait for lunch.

Watching "Tabatha's Salon Takeover." She's at a gay salon in a gay area of Chicago.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday night

Was at gym and store till around 7:00. Waiting for "60 Minutes" to come on.

Finally it's on, 52 minutes late after a football game. California is dysfunctional now. Their constitution has to be changed. (I've blogged on this already.) Their Propositions, etc., have gotten them in a heap of trouble.

One more hurdle and the holidays will be over: New Year's. We have Friday off at work. (Andy Rooney doesn't like New Year's either.)

[Later] Been watching "Clean House."

Two years ago on New Year's Eve, B. was all dressed up and going to a party down by the pool after midnight. (I hadn't been invited and wouldn't have gone anyway--way too loud.) I remember B. and me standing out on the terrace overlooking the pool, having a glass of champagne, and B.'s psychopathic-looking current BF staring up at us. (So they were rendezvousing under my nose.)

Boy, I can't wait till the holidays are over. Too many bad memories.

Remarks from Arianna Huffington

Christmas came a day early this year for health insurance and drug companies when the Senate passed a health care bill crammed with more industry-friendly gifts than Santa's sleigh. "I'll be rolling up my sleeves," said President Obama, pledging to take a hands-on role in merging the House and Senate bills. Before he dives in, the president should spend some time reacquainting himself with his campaign promises to "break the stranglehold that a few big drug and insurance companies have on the health care market," "let Medicare negotiate for lower prices," and "allow the safe re-importation of low cost drugs." Back then, Obama said, "I'll have the insurance and drug companies at the table. They just won't be able to buy every chair." Turns out they did. Here's hoping that, at the 11th hour, the president changes the seating arrangement to include the people who elected him. (Source)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Miracle of Christmas Past

It's miraculous how, with Christmas behind me now, today I returned to "normal," sweeping the terrace, watering plants, cooking (I hadn't cooked anything in days). Tonight I'm doing a roast and made chili.

Went to see the movie "It's Complicated." I found it disappointing on the whole but some parts were very funny, some moving. I loved watching Alec Baldwin. Went to the Intracoastal Cinema in Eastern Shores and caught the 7:35 showing. The theater was mobbed but I managed to get a good seat (easier when you're by yourself). Got there early to buy ticket and then had a loaded slice of pizza a few doors down from the theater while reading a magazine. Then got in a long line (which eventually extended past the pizza joint) I was really surprised, but glad I'd bought my ticket earlier.

Miami-Bound Beetle Hates Your Guacamole

Story here.

It's like inevitable doom in a horror flick: coming, slowly, killing everything in its path, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Or is there?

That's the question facing Miami-Dade County avocado growers and scientists locked in a race against a deadly killer stalking its way from the Carolinas through Georgia and currently found as far south as Central Florida thanks to free rides on firewood transported south. That's right -- the Redbay Abrosia beetle is coming, threatening to destroy the county's $30 million dollar avocado business even as farmers are enjoying prices nearly 50% higher than a few years ago.

Holy guacamole! How would we top our tacos? . . .

Early Saturday morning

Christmas officially over. Yea!! I survived.

By the way, I drove by B.'s place of business tonight and he was working.

I'm about ready to invite Maid Green back for a cleaning. First I'll try to get rid of the old rear-projection TV that's been just sitting in the living room now for a couple of months, taking up space.

I haven't finished reading this article yet ("Green Giant: Beijing’s crash program for clean energy"), but I'm beginning to view people who deny that global warming is caused by human activity in the same way I view Holocaust deniers.

[I]n 2001, Chinese officials abruptly expanded one program in particular: energy technology. The reasons were clear. Once the largest oil exporter in East Asia, China was now adding more than two thousand cars a day and importing millions of barrels; its energy security hinged on a flotilla of tankers stretched across distant seas. Meanwhile, China was getting nearly eighty per cent of its electricity from coal, which was rendering the air in much of the country unbreathable and hastening climate changes that could undermine China’s future stability. Rising sea levels were on pace to create more refugees in China than in any other country, even Bangladesh.

In 2006, Chinese leaders redoubled their commitment to new energy technology; they boosted funding for research and set targets for installing wind turbines, solar panels, hydroelectric dams, and other renewable sources of energy that were higher than goals in the United States. China doubled its wind-power capacity that year, then doubled it again the next year, and the year after. The country had virtually no solar industry in 2003; five years later, it was manufacturing more solar cells than any other country, winning customers from foreign companies that had invented the technology in the first place. As President Hu Jintao, a political heir of Deng Xiaoping, put it in October of this year, China must “seize preĆ«mptive opportunities in the new round of the global energy revolution.” . . .

Unfortunately in the U.S., we have a vocal contingent of people who put no stock in science, since they believe (according to the Bible, New Testament, Book of Revelation, for example) that the physical world is coming to an end anyway and there's no stopping it. Let the destruction continue. It's God's plan. We're at "the End Times." (Viz., Sarah Palin.) (Interesting that Sarah Palin's father was a science teacher. Is there some rebellion going on?)

Note also that this same contingent puts no stock in one of the signature features of our constitutional form of government: the separation of church and state. From the link directly above:

Palin’s church of over 20 years, Wasilla Assembly of God, is led by a pastor who is dedicated to the movement’s ideology, and the church has been a gathering spot for national leaders of the New Apostolic movement for years. Palin was “anointed” in a ceremony at Wasilla Assembly of God by Kenyan Thomas Muthee in 2005, prior to her campaign for state office. Muthee had been featured in a series of movies titled “The Transformations,” produced by the movement to teach spiritual warfare as a way to take Christian “dominion” over government and society. In the ceremony Muthee talked about the seven spheres of society over which the New Apostolics believe they must take control. This ideology is taught through the “Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture” campaign, which promotes the end of separation of church and state and religious pluralism.

Palin returned to Wasilla Assembly of God June 8, 2008, to give the speech at a graduation of Master’s Commission students, a ceremony in which the senior pastor of spoke openly about Alaska as a refuge state in the end times and which culminated in the presentation of swords to the graduating students.

This is just a small fraction of the information that our research team gathered on Palin’s relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation . . . .

[Emphasis added.]

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas night

Just back from Flanigan's. Glad I went. Was busy and festive there, and I was hungry. Sat at the bar with a magazine, as I normally do. Started out with New England clam chowder, then a 12-oz. New York Strip steak with dirty rice and cole slaw, and lastly key lime pie. Everything was great except the pie (nothing special and topped with fake whipped cream instead of the real thing, as billed on the menu).

They had CNN on a couple of the overhead TV monitors -- no sound and no captions -- reporting on the terrorist episode on the plane from Amsterdam to Detroit. First I'd heard of it. With all the security at airports now, how can someone board a plane with a bomb (or even a firecracker)?! Is security lax in Amsterdam? (But I think the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security would have been conducting the security there.)

Christmas evening

I think I'll get cleaned up and go over to Flanigan's for a steak dinner.

Reached father on the phone. (They'd gone to Christmas dinner at the neighbor's across the street.)

Paul Krugman: 'Tidings of Comfort '

His full column is here.

Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible.

The truth is that there isn’t a Congressional majority in favor of anything like single-payer. There is a narrow majority in favor of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan. But given the way the Senate rules work, it takes 60 votes to do almost anything. And that fact, combined with total Republican opposition, has placed sharp limits on what can be enacted.

If progressives want more, they’ll have to make changing those Senate rules a priority. They’ll also have to work long term on electing a more progressive Congress. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed, with a few tweaks — I’d especially like to move the start date up from 2014, if that’s at all possible — is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get.

And for all its flaws and limitations, it’s a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care. . . .

Merry Christmas

Just chilling today. Did enough running around yesterday, on top of working.

Dad called while I was still in bed. Tried calling him back but they must be out.

The Harry & David pears from my friend in STL/FTL are ripe and delicious. Ate one today and put the rest in the fridge.

Jane Hamsher's gone off the deep end

See here. (I wonder if Rachel Maddow will keep having her come on her show.) (I doubt it.) Rachel Maddow is one of the most level-headed pundits around. Far saner than Keith Olbermann.

(I have fun coloring black-and-white photos.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Was at the office over six hours today. Got a lot done. I had four chili dogs and a double fish sandwich from Checkers while I was there. Then went to Flanigan's afterwards for a bowl of steak soup and a couple of potato skins (brought two home). I left there a little after 9:00. I was already dressed from work and didn't feel like calling it a night yet.

Good post on the health care bill here ("We're Not Done Yet"). See here too ("Making the Bill Better").

And it is my duty to warn the Congress and the White House about the flaws in the bill that could cause millions of Americans to rebel against their health reform in the 2010 elections, the way seniors rebelled against the costly Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 and got it repealed the very next year, damaging Ways and Means Committee Chair Dan Rostenkowski and endangering many Democrats.

So I am trying to get today's Democrats to understand that

* if they force Americans to purchase health insurance, it better be affordable, and

* taxing middle-class health insurance policies is a formula for political disaster. For more information on this battle, go to www.nomiddleclasshealthtax.com. . . .

Tired. Was very busy today, on top of it being the much dreaded holidays.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday night

Was at gym and store tonight, after brief nap.

Just found out I have to go in to work tomorrow. Not till 1:30. I volunteered but had hoped they wouldn't need me. No biggie. I'll drive in and stop at Checkers to pick up some chili dogs along the way.

Since I have no more family here to spend Christmas with and am now alone, I've decided to go see the movie "It's Complicated" and then have a meal at P.F. Chang's China Bistro. Don't need to go to Aventura Mall to see this one, and P.F. Chang's is a few minutes' drive from the theater. (Somebody at work gave me a $25 gift certificate for the restaurant. Never been there but I've had some of their food and it was good.)

[Later] Tried to make a reservation at P.F. Chang's for Christmas and they're booked (first tried making it before the movie and then after). I'll call them and ask whether I can sit at the lounge (if they have one), since it's only me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday night

Today I received a colorful ProFlowers evergreen arrangement from my cousin in Tampa. Lucky claimed the box.

Howard Dean was on Rachel tonight. As he said, down the road you could include a public insurance option or Medicare buy-in in the new insurance exchanges that will be set up by the health care legislation (barely) moving through Congress.

Florida GOPers In Civil War

From TPM here.

The Florida Republican Party organization is now in the midst of a civil war, with the latest shoe to drop being that embattled party chairman Jim Greer has called for a special executive committee meeting, in response to a request that he be ousted as chairman -- but at the same time, he's telling his enemies that the motion itself isn't allowed under the party rules.

Greer, an ally of moderate Gov. Charlie Crist, has come under fire by intra-party critics who accuse him of mismanaging the state GOP's finances. For his part, Greer is putting the blame for this controversy on allies of former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, the more conservative challenger against Crist in the Senate primary. And Greer has accused these critics of "slander," "libel," and even "treason" against the Republican Party! . . .

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who are leading figures in the Cuban-American GOP political community, have rescinded their endorsements of Crist. Lincoln Diaz-Balart wouldn't elaborate on the reason, except to give this cryptic comment: "We take our endorsements seriously, but the governor knows why we withdrew and he left us with no alternative."

The Miami Herald speculates that this might have happened because Crist snubbed the Diaz-Balarts in their attempt to have a friend of Lincoln's son appointed as a judge, instead picking a different candidate. Could something this picayune have led to a retraction of a Senate campaign endorsement? . . .

Ugandan Pres. to Veto Antigay Bill

From The Advocate here.

The president of Uganda has said that he will veto a bill making its way through parliament that would severely punish people for aiding or abetting homosexual activity.

A state department official told the DC Agenda that President Yoweri Museveni pledged to diplomats that he would reject the antigay bill. The legislation, introduced by legislator David Bahati, would impose the death penalty on repeat violators of the already standing ban on gay sex, as well as on those who have same-sex relations while HIV-positive. . . .

From Rep. Anthony Weiner live chat tonight

I missed the live chat but am reading it now. Some asked about "reconciliation," a budgeting process which doesn't require a filibuster-proof (at present, 60%) majority in the U.S. Senate. (He apologized at the outset for his typos.)

Anthony: reconciliation is possible but not easy. it means that a lot of the new policy things in both the bills would have to be let go. but we should start to prepare a "medicare for all" option that goes via reconciliation. . . .

Anthony: its nice that we are talking about single payer. in fact, if you consider how much more you are paying for health care than you need too, you realize that medicare is the way to SAVE a lot of money. it has a tiny over head and needs to raise zero profits. these savings can go back into health care or into tax cuts to help you pay your premiums. . . .

Anthony: i have not given up on the single payer idea. my collagues run from me now when i approach them because they know what i believe. what is interesting is that more and more members of congress quietly tell me they agree. . . .

FL-Sen: Diaz-Balarts abandon Crist

From Markos here.

Pull a Specter, Charlie.

U.S. Reps Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami have pulled their endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist for the U.S. Senate.

Lincoln offered few details as to why, just that Crist had "left us no alternative and he knows why."

He said the withdrawal has nothing to do with Crist's slumping poll numbers, and in fact, the decision was made weeks ago. But their names were only recently pulled off Crist's webpage. He said the two Miami Republicans are unlikely to endorse anyone else in the race.

The surprising decision is the latest bit of bad news to sack Crist, whose poll numbers have dropped as opponent Marco Rubio surged. The withdrawn endorsement is doubly surprising, considering the closeness between Crist and Mario Diaz-Balart. The two served together in the Florida Senate and were always chummy.

So much for Crist's institutional support. With this decision, Crist has lost the south Florida Cuban America machine. They'll be happy to work for fellow Cuban American Rubio. County party committees in the rest of the state are all abandoning Crist as well. What machine support he has left will crumble and wither away long before he has a chance to use it in the primary.

Crist still seems to think that his dominant fundraising will help him carry the race. It won't. Crist is apparently also banking on a barrage of negative media coverage that Rubio is supposedly about to get from Florida news outlets -- probably fueled by Crist oppo researchers. Yet that won't make a dent on Rubio. All he has to do is rail against the "liberal media" attacking him to parlay such attacks into big bucks. Being an anti-establishment candidate allows one to ju jitsu such attacks fairly effortlessly. Crist is screwed.

I've been told that Crist values political survival above all else. If that's true, then the path forward is clear -- he either switches parties, or he perishes. He'll dominate a general election, but there's no way he gets there as a Republican.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday night

Rachel has been talking about the filibuster for weeks. She was talking about it again tonight with WaPo blogger Ezra Klein.

Chilling now with Anthony Bourdain. (I didn't watch his Xmas show.) (Trying to avoid Xmas stuff.)

Latest news from The Advocate

New Gay Newspaper for South Florida

Despite the challenging climate for newspapers, a Broward County attorney and gay media entrepreneur has announced his intention to launch a newspaper for South Florida’s LGBT community. The first issue of the South Florida Gay News will be published around January 25.

Mexico City Approves Gay Marriage

With a 39-20 vote, Mexico City legislators passed a bill Monday to legalize marriage equality in the city.

Government-Backed Gay Bar Opens in China

A gay bar backed by the Chinese government for the purpose of addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic opened in the city of Dali in the southwestern province of Yunnan on Saturday after its opening was postponed because of intense media scrutiny.

Gaga Strips for LaChapelle

Lady Gaga partnered with out photographer David LaChapelle for art included in the deluxe limited edition of her new album, The Fame Monster.

AMA Endorses Senate Health Care Bill

From TPM here.

The American Medical Association today endorsed the Senate health care reform bill.

The organization's president-elect, Cecil Wilson, spoke at a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Senate Democrats.

"After close and careful review, the AMA is pleased to announce its support for passage of the amended health system reform bill," Wilson said.

He said the AMA supports several "key benefits" in the bill, including "improvements in choice and access" and the elimination of denials for pre-existing conditions.

"America has the best health care in the world, if you can get it. But for far too many people, access to care is out of reach because they lack insurance," he said. "And this is just not acceptable to physicians." . . .

U.S. Senate: 'A Dangerous Dysfunction'

From Paul Krugman here.

Unless some legislator pulls off a last-minute double-cross, health care reform will pass the Senate this week. Count me among those who consider this an awesome achievement. It’s a seriously flawed bill, we’ll spend years if not decades fixing it, but it’s nonetheless a huge step forward.

It was, however, a close-run thing. And the fact that it was such a close thing shows that the Senate — and, therefore, the U.S. government as a whole — has become ominously dysfunctional.

After all, Democrats won big last year, running on a platform that put health reform front and center. In any other advanced democracy this would have given them the mandate and the ability to make major changes. But the need for 60 votes to cut off Senate debate and end a filibuster — a requirement that appears nowhere in the Constitution, but is simply a self-imposed rule — turned what should have been a straightforward piece of legislating into a nail-biter. And it gave a handful of wavering senators extraordinary power to shape the bill.

Now consider what lies ahead. We need fundamental financial reform. We need to deal with climate change. We need to deal with our long-run budget deficit. What are the chances that we can do all that — or, I’m tempted to say, any of it — if doing anything requires 60 votes in a deeply polarized Senate?

Some people will say that it has always been this way, and that we’ve managed so far. But it wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were filibusters in the past — most notably by segregationists trying to block civil rights legislation. But the modern system, in which the minority party uses the threat of a filibuster to block every bill it doesn’t like, is a recent creation.

The political scientist Barbara Sinclair has done the math. In the 1960s, she finds, “extended-debate-related problems” — threatened or actual filibusters — affected only 8 percent of major legislation. By the 1980s, that had risen to 27 percent. But after Democrats retook control of Congress in 2006 and Republicans found themselves in the minority, it soared to 70 percent.

Some conservatives argue that the Senate’s rules didn’t stop former President George W. Bush from getting things done. But this is misleading, on two levels.

First, Bush-era Democrats weren’t nearly as determined to frustrate the majority party, at any cost, as Obama-era Republicans. Certainly, Democrats never did anything like what Republicans did last week: G.O.P. senators held up spending for the Defense Department — which was on the verge of running out of money — in an attempt to delay action on health care.

More important, however, Mr. Bush was a buy-now-pay-later president. He pushed through big tax cuts, but never tried to pass spending cuts to make up for the revenue loss. He rushed the nation into war, but never asked Congress to pay for it. He added an expensive drug benefit to Medicare, but left it completely unfunded. Yes, he had legislative victories; but he didn’t show that Congress can make hard choices and act responsibly, because he never asked it to.

So now that hard choices must be made, how can we reform the Senate to make such choices possible?

Back in the mid-1990s two senators — Tom Harkin and, believe it or not, Joe Lieberman — introduced a bill to reform Senate procedures. (Management wants me to make it clear that in my last column I wasn’t endorsing inappropriate threats against Mr. Lieberman.) Sixty votes would still be needed to end a filibuster at the beginning of debate, but if that vote failed, another vote could be held a couple of days later requiring only 57 senators, then another, and eventually a simple majority could end debate. Mr. Harkin says that he’s considering reintroducing that proposal, and he should.

But if such legislation is itself blocked by a filibuster — which it almost surely would be — reformers should turn to other options. Remember, the Constitution sets up the Senate as a body with majority — not supermajority — rule. So the rule of 60 can be changed. A Congressional Research Service report from 2005, when a Republican majority was threatening to abolish the filibuster so it could push through Bush judicial nominees, suggests several ways this could happen — for example, through a majority vote changing Senate rules on the first day of a new session.

Nobody should meddle lightly with long-established parliamentary procedure. But our current situation is unprecedented: America is caught between severe problems that must be addressed and a minority party determined to block action on every front. Doing nothing is not an option — not unless you want the nation to sit motionless, with an effectively paralyzed government, waiting for financial, environmental and fiscal crises to strike.

See here also.

The filibuster has been an undercurrent of political junkie complaints and academic papers, but that has migrated to The Atlantic and the op-ed page of the New York Times, where Paul Krugman takes it on today. Democrats have tried and failed to get the media interested in the narrative of obstructionism from the GOP. But now, it’s impossible to ignore.

This is not only dangerous for implementing an agenda mandated by voters in an election year, it’s dangerous for democracy as a whole. A government that is almost choked off from responding to its challenges fails its people.

Before action is taken, the public must hear about the nature of the problem. And that’s what’s happening currently.

I wish Jane Hamsher and others would focus their energy on this issue and push to use reconciliation down the road for a public option rather than push to "kill the bill." The Senate is crippled now.

Email from Obama re: health care hurdle

[Moi] --

Early this morning, the Senate made history and health reform cleared its most important hurdle yet -- garnering the 60 votes needed to move toward a final vote in that chamber later this week.

This marks the first time in our nation's history that comprehensive health reform has come to this point. And it appears that the American people will soon realize the genuine reform that offers security to those who have health insurance and affordable options to those who do not.

I'm grateful to Senator Harry Reid and every senator who's been working around the clock to make this happen. And I'm grateful to you, and every member of the Organizing for America community, for all the work you have done to make this progress possible.

After a nearly century-long struggle, we are now on the cusp of making health insurance reform a reality in the United States of America.

As with any legislation, compromise is part of the process. But I'm pleased that recently added provisions have made this landmark bill even stronger. Between the time when the bill passes and the time when the insurance exchanges get up and running, insurance companies that try to jack up their rates do so at their own peril. Those who hike their prices may be barred from selling plans on the exchanges.

And while insurance companies will be prevented from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions once the exchanges are open, in the meantime there will be a high-risk pool where people with pre-existing conditions can purchase affordable coverage.

A recent amendment has made these protections even stronger. Insurance companies will now be prohibited from denying coverage to children immediately after this bill passes. There's also explicit language in this bill that will protect a patient's choice of doctor. And small businesses will get additional assistance as well.

These protections are in addition to the ones we've been talking about for some time. No longer will insurance companies be able to drop your coverage if you become sick and no longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for treatments that you need.

Under this bill families will save on their premiums; businesses that would see their costs rise if we don't act will save money now and in the future. This bill will strengthen Medicare and extend the life of the program. Because it's paid for and gets rid of waste and inefficiency in our health care system, this will be the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade.

Finally, this reform will extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans who don't have it.

These are not small changes. These are big changes. They're fundamental reforms. They will save money. They will save lives.

And your passion, your work, your organizing helped make all of this possible. Now it's time to finish the job.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

[Bold italics mine. Bold in original.]

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Later

Bootsy's being mean to Lucky, and Lucky's acting dejected. Apparently Bootsy chased him off my bed and now Bootsy is lying there in Lucky's space. What a bitch. Lucky's on the settee in the living room now. Poor thing. He's such a good cat and just wants to get along. (When I got him, the Humane Society told me he likes other cats. Then when he got here, Bootsy would like to have killed him. Lucky didn't get it.) (I love this cat.)

My toe is still sore. If it's not better by the end of the year, I'm going to the doctor's. It could be broken or something. This happened two weeks ago.

Three more days of work and I'm off for a 4-day weekend.

Rundown of new health care bill here.

Sunday night

Today I ordered a jumbo pizza from my favorite place and later (after gym) had fried chicken fresh out of the fryer, from Publix. Comfort food.

Alec Baldwin was interviewed on "60 Minutes" tonight. I plan on seeing his new movie co-starring Meryl Streep, "It's Complicated," when it comes out at Xmas. Tonight they played a brief clip from this skit, which I'd never seen before. Hilarious.

More Sam Worthington, star of 'Avatar' (Australian actor)

Saturday night late

Had a call from my friend in STL/FTL (he's in FTL till Xmas nite). Things not going well with the schizophrenic BF, who's been declared incompetent and will now collect Social Security. I had an earful from him tonight (hostile, but not directed at me, or even at my friend--he went on and on, a mile a minute, barely comprehensible). He needs to go back on his meds. Yikes! Sad.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday night

Caught the bus at 3-something to the mall. Took a while to get up there -- traffic was bad. But I had plenty of time to eat at Johnny Rockets, across from the theaters, before the movie started at 5:20. Had a patty melt and a strawberry malt (then got a hot dog and an Icee in the theater). The patty melt was good if a bit messy. (The hot dogs in the theater are excellent.) Strawberry malt was a real treat. At 5:20 we were told to put on our 3D glasses and then we had to sit through at least 10 minutes of 3D movie trailers before "Avatar" started.

I really liked the movie, and the 3D was fantastic. I don't think I'd ever seen a 3D movie before, though they've been around forever. I ducked a couple of times when I had the sensation something was flying toward me. I liked this movie better than "Titanic," Cameron's last blockbuster. (I loved "Aliens" and thought "Terminator" was good.)

Movie was over at around 8:30 and I was back home before 9:30. Took a magazine with me to read on the bus. Reading an article on the architect Zaha Hadid. New Yorker slide show here.

Saturday afternoon

Going to catch the 5:20 showing of "Avatar" (3D) at Aventura Mall. I was going to go someplace closer (Eastern Shores) but they're not showing it in 3D. I'll take the bus so I don't have to deal with the holiday traffic and parking. Purchased online through Yahoo.

I'll arrive early and try to get a bite to eat at Johnny Rockets (a chili dog). Just had some cottage cheese on melba toast to tide me over.

Obama's weekly address: Health reform

Friday, December 18, 2009

American Exceptionalism Stops at Water's Edge

From Tapped here.

The most interesting thing about James Inhofe flying all the way to Denmark to rant about global warming conspiracy theories to some seriously baffled European journalists isn't that Inhofe was rightly described as "ridiculous" by a Der Spiegel reporter, it's that there are real limits to the bubble of American exceptionalism people like Inhofe surround themselves in. In the United States, I'd be reading RSS feeds from major news organizations repeating Inhofe's easily refutable claims without remotely questioning them. Outside of the bubble, he's treated like the fool he is. . . .

See also Think Progress here.

Movie Review: 'Avatar'

From The New York Times here:

With “Avatar” James Cameron has turned one man’s dream of the movies into a trippy joy ride about the end of life — our moviegoing life included — as we know it. Several decades in the dreaming and more than four years in the actual making, the movie is a song to the natural world that was largely produced with software, an Emersonian exploration of the invisible world of the spirit filled with Cameronian rock ’em, sock ’em pulpy action. Created to conquer hearts, minds, history books and box-office records, the movie — one of the most expensive in history, the jungle drums thump — is glorious and goofy and blissfully deranged.

The story behind the story, including a production budget estimated to top $230 million, and Mr. Cameron’s future-shock ambitions for the medium have already begun to settle into myth (a process partly driven by the publicity, certainly). Every filmmaker is something of a visionary, just by virtue of the medium. But Mr. Cameron, who directed the megamelodrama “Titanic” and, more notably, several of the most influential science-fiction films of the past few decades (“The Terminator,” “Aliens” and “The Abyss”), is a filmmaker whose ambitions transcend a single movie or mere stories to embrace cinema as an art, as a social experience and a shamanistic ritual, one still capable of producing the big WOW. . . .

TGIF

The rain subsided today. Now it will cool down. Bootsy seems back to normal today. I heard him snort only once. Last night I put a tiny dab of Vicks on his nose before I went to bed. He was back to his old self this morning, waking me up to get fed. (Cats got ejected from bedroom and I went back to sleep till the alarm went off.)

I think I'll go see "Avatar" tomorrow. It's playing right near me. I don't have to go to Aventura Mall and deal with the holiday traffic, parking, etc. Looking forward to it. There's a pizza joint by the theater too, so I'll buy my ticket and then go for a meaty slice before the movie starts. There's also a grocery store by the theater and I can stop in there.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Later

Bootsy is feeling a little puny. He's had some kind of sinus condition for years and it's getting to him today. The vet knows about it since I took him for a check-up several months ago. She didn't say anything about it that I recall. He spasmodically snorts a lot when it's aggravated. I stick Vicks Vapo-Rub (Publix generic) under his nose when I hear him having a fit and it seems to help. (I've been doing this for years.) I think he'll be happy when the weather cools off again and he can go out on the terrace. Neither cat has spent much time out on the terrace lately in this unseasonable heat.

I just put down some catnip in the kitchen for him (in paper plate) and he came out of the bedroom to eat it. He wallows in it and gets it all over him. Feeling better already.

(I'll clean up the mess later.)

Quote of the Day

From an article on Warren Buffett in the latest Harper's Magazine:

The man is the richest in the world, except for certain years when he is the second richest. “If I wanted to, I could hire 10,000 people to do nothing but paint my picture every day for the rest of my life,” is the example he once gave of how much his money could buy, if what he wanted was money to spend.

[I did a quick search for a photo and an old photo popped up in the first row of the first page of the search. I decided to post it after correcting it some. Buffett was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1930.]

Thursday night

I get off work at 5:30 and didn't make it home till 7:30-something tonight, on account of rain. Well, we need rain. And then we'll get some cooler weather. We've been setting record high temperatures here. Way too warm and sticky for this time of year.

Bernie Sanders on Olbermann. Now Howard Fineman. Keith is in a better mood today.

I think the American people deserve better than they're getting from this deadlocked Congress, the Senate in particular. I think the Senate should plan on using reconciliation in the future (where allowed by the Byrd Rule). Forget about the nay-saying Republicans and the handful of preening "moderates."

Rachel now. It's still raining.

(Lucky was in a strange mood when I got home. Maybe the rain outside all day long, with thunder and lightning?)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Best Health Care In The World

From Andrew Sullivan here. (Andrew must be on vacation.)

By Patrick Appel

Reason editor-in-chief Matt Welch gets 90 percent of his health care in France:

In France, you are covered, period. It doesn’t depend on your job, it doesn’t depend on a health maintenance organization, and it doesn’t depend on whether you filled out the paperwork right. Those who (like me) oppose ObamaCare, need to understand (also like me, unfortunately) what it’s like to be serially rejected by insurance companies even though you’re perfectly healthy. It’s an enraging, anxiety-inducing, indelible experience, one that both softens the intellectual ground for increased government intervention and produces active resentment toward anyone who argues that the U.S. has “the best health care in the world.”

Clive Crook has further thoughts on why it is hard to apply the French system to America.

Rockefeller On Dean: 'Irresponsible' And 'Wrong'

Watch video at TPM here.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) fired back at former DNC chairman Howard Dean on MSNBC today over Dean's comment that the current health bill is not "real reform" -- something Rockefeller said characterized as "irresponsible" and "nonsense."

Rockefeller also said that "coming from [Dean] as a physician it's stunning. And he's wrong." . . .

Poll: Just 32% Say Obama's Health Reform Plan A Good Idea

From TPM here.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll coming out later today will show opposition to the health care bill growing -- mainly from disappointed liberals, who are very much disappointed to see the public option getting thrown out.

The poll has 47% saying the Obama health care plan is a bad idea, to only 32% who say it's a good idea.

Chuck Todd writes on Twitter: "Most of the movement on the 'bad idea' comes from some of the president's core support groups, folks upset about lost public option." He also writes: "Still, large majorities of the president's core support groups believe his plan is a 'good idea,' but the margins have shrunk."

In addition, 44% now say it's better to not pass this bill -- seemingly a large bloc of conservatives, plus some liberals -- to 41% who say it's better that something pass: "First time NBC-WSJ poll had that upside down."

Time for Crist to Pull a Specter?

From MyDD here.

Interesting numbers out of Florida:

Governor Charlie Crist and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio are now tied in the 2010 race for the Republican Senate nomination in Florida.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely GOP Primary voters finds Crist and Rubio each with 43% of the vote. Five percent (5%) prefer another candidate, and nine percent (9%) are undecided.

A month and a half ago, when the Club for Growth began setting its sights on Charlie Crist, I asked how long it would take Charlie Crist to pull a half or full Specter -- that is, pull out of the GOP primary and run either as an Independent or a Democrat. With numbers showing it decreasingly likely that the somewhat moderate Crist can make it out of a GOP primary, decision time might be nearer than we previously thought.

WaPo Poll: 63% Favor Medicare Buy-In

(Source)

(It could be perceived that the Senate seems more concerned about the health of the health insurance companies than it is about the health of the American people.)

Wednesday night

Back from the gym and the store. (The Ben Affleck doppelganger was at the gym.) Just needed some cat food at the store. Gained back the 5 lbs. No surprise, with all the holiday goodies sitting around our office, of which I gladly partake.

Got an H1N1 flu shot today. Feel fine.

Watching Anderson Cooper. No importation of pharmaceuticals for us. (The drug companies have spent over $20 million so far this year on lobbying.)

Had an email from my cousin the librarian today. (She had received my gift.) She wrote: "I hope you are up (psychologically) and well and getting into the spirit." I told her for the most part I was doing "OK." (She also gets bogged down during this time.) She's taking two weeks off starting this Friday and going on a vacation.

Since I missed Rachel Maddow while I was at the gym, I'll check it out at 11:00. (Olbermann was insufferably bombastic.) Rachel is fine.

Enough. On to HGTV.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday night

Anderson Cooper talking about CT scan cancer risk. Scary. (Sanjay Gupta video here.) (After several tries, I was unable to watch it.)

Enough current events. Relaxing now. Some HGTV and now "Tabatha's Salon Takeover" on Bravo. I find this entertaining.

Anthony Weiner Mocks Lieberman For Medicare Flip-Flop

From The Huffington Post here.

On Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) responded to the news that his support for a Medicare compromise helped inspire Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to oppose the idea.

The progressive congressman said in a statement, "If this wasn't so sad, it would be amazing." Responding to reform supporters who suggested progressives should have kept quiet about supporting the Medicare buy-in, he added, "that suggests we all agree to live in an Alice in Wonderland world of saying the opposite of what we mean." He implored the senator to "do the right thing."

. . .

Joe Lieberman is a megalomaniacal enfant terrible on a power trip.

Lieberman: Liberal Enthusiasm Convinced Me To Oppose Medicare Buy-In

From The Huffington Post here.

In an interview with the New York Times, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) revealed Tuesday that he decided to oppose a Medicare buy-in in part because liberals like Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) liked it too much.

[I]n the interview, Mr. Lieberman said that he grew apprehensive when a formal proposal began to take shape. [...]

And he said he was particularly troubled by the overly enthusiastic reaction to the proposal by some liberals, including Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, who champions a fully government-run health care system.

"Congressman Weiner made a comment that Medicare-buy in is better than a public option, it's the beginning of a road to single-payer," Mr. Lieberman said. "Jacob Hacker, who's a Yale professor who is actually the man who created the public option, said, 'This is a dream. This is better than a public option. This is a giant step.'"

Lieberman's comments go a long way toward validating the prevalent theory in progressive blogger circles -- that he, as the Washington Post's Ezra Klein put it, "seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals."

Washington Monthly blogger Steve Benen speculated just on Monday about what would have happened if liberals had expressed disappointment with the Medicare buy-in, rather than enthusiasm. "Would Lieberman -- who not only ran on a Medicare buy-in platform in 2000, but also signaled some preliminary support for the idea last week -- be willing to kill reform over the idea now?"

Lieberman had supported a Medicare buy-in as recently as three months ago.

Meanwhile, the fickle senator said he's closer to supporting reform, but still not there yet.

UCLA: Stem Cells Kill HIV

I hadn't seen this, from Dec. 7 at The Advocate here.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, made a stunning announcement Monday: Stem cells can be engineered to kill HIV.

UCLA MEDICAL X100 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, made a stunning announcement Monday: Stem cells can be engineered to kill HIV.

The results, published Monday in the online journal PLoS ONE, demonstrate that human stem cells can be engineered into the equivalent of a genetic vaccine.

"We have demonstrated in this proof-of-principle study that this type of approach can be used to engineer the human immune system, particularly the T-cell response, to specifically target HIV-infected cells," lead investigator Scott Kitchen, assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology and oncology at the Devid Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a release. "These studies lay the foundation for further therapeutic development that involves restoring damaged or defective immune responses toward a variety of viruses that cause chronic disease, or even different types of tumors."

The real reason why Lieberman is obstructing health care reform

See here (includes Hardball video).

FINEMAN: The other half is it's personal with Joe, not with Obama, 'cause don't forget that Obama, the President, supported Lieberman in the fight in the party in Connecticut. It's the grassroots left of the Democratic Party ...

MATTHEWS: That enjoyed his torture.

FINEMAN: That enjoyed his torture and this is payback to them. Obama, excuse me, the President's caught in the middle here. That's my take on it.

MATTHEWS: So he wants Markos Moulitsas to take a hit.

FINEMAN: He wants Moulitsas, he wants Firedoglake, he wants all those people who rode around on the bus of the challenger, who defeated him in the Democratic primary.

Howard Dean says (on Olbermann) kill the bill and start over with reconciliation. I disagree. Ron Wyden just said that things can be added later -- just vote for this thing now. I saw this from Ed Kilgore at Salon here:

...the fact remains that there are only 58 reasonably assured votes for cloture on the recently negotiated Team of Ten "deal" for health care reform. Assuming Ben Nelson can be brought aboard without highly divisive concessions on the abortion issue, that still leaves one vote to be secured from a universe of just three senators: Lieberman, Snowe and Collins. So what are the options left to the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership?

(1) Forget about Lieberman and go after Snowe and/or Collins. It would obviously be satisfying to most Democrats to deny Joe Lieberman the opportunity to be King of the Senate and Arbiter of Health Reform, or more to the point, the chance to screw up or kill the legislation down the road....

(2) Give Lieberman what he wants and then fix the legislation later. The key argument here is that the very items Lieberman is objecting to--an option for some younger Americans to buy into Medicare, and any sort of public option--are budget savers which could without question be added later (say, next year) via the budget reconciliation route, which only requires 50 votes....

(3) Threaten Lieberman with loss of his seniority unless he votes for cloture. Without question, it was a major mistake for the Democratic Caucus to allow Lieberman to maintain his seniority after the 2008 elections without an ironclad pledge that he would support the Caucus on all procedural votes, including cloture votes....

(4) Reframe the bill to use reconciliation. This is the strategy many progressives have been urging all along, for the obvious reason that it gets rid of the need for more than 50 Senate votes and also would make it vastly easier to craft a Senate bill that's close enough to the House bill to avoid friction in a House-Senate conference....

(5) Go back to the drawing board. Before resorting to any of the above unsavory options, health reform supporters will undoubtedly make some effort to devise yet another compromise that can obtain that 60th vote without losing existing supporters....

Maybe I'm missing something, but these seem to be the options at present, and none of them are particularly good. We may be once again at a crucial juncture where progressives--and most of all, the President--simply have to decide what percentage of a loaf is acceptable.

Tom Harkin says on Rachel Maddow that the bill is not a "mansion" but it has a strong foundation and can be added on to. He said it also has a strong roof -- that it will cover a lot of new people.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lieberman was for the Medicare buy-in before he was against it

This is from September 9, 2009.

(Via Big Tent Democrat)

Monday night

Walked my mile home tonight from the bus stop at Walgreen's. That should counteract some of the holiday bonbons I consumed at work today. (I figured my foot was sufficiently healed -- just one sore toe now.)

Tonight I got a text message saying "Visa service frozen" and giving a number to call. I figured this was a phishing scam. First, I checked my emails and had no messages from my bank or Amazon, where I have Visas. (Nor did I have any phone messages.) Next I checked my bank accounts online and my Visa hadn't been frozen. Then I called the number provided in the text message and got a U.S. government recording, saying the number I called was being used in a phishing scam. It also provided the address of a government website that has information on Internet fraud, etc., here.

The last of my Christmas cards got mailed out today. I bought some stamps at work. They weren't Christmas stamps but they were nice.

Rachel looks nice tonight. (New lipstick?) Starting out with Joe Lieberman obstructing the health care bill.

Chilling with Anthony Bourdain later. Starting out with the Vietnam one. Sad ending. But the reason I like his shows is that he makes me laugh. Indonesia next.

I think the cats sense my subdued funky holiday mood. They're staying away from me. Or maybe they're just full and contented. (Cats are back.)

We're in Sardinia now. This one I haven't seen.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lieberman At It Again

From Joshua Marshall at TPM here.

It's starting to seem like it may just be better for Dems to try to make a deal with Olympia Snow, kick Joe Lieberman out of the party and be done with it. The leadership in the senate thought that Lieberman was on board with the latest compromise. But in an appearance on Face the Nation and later in a sit-down with Sen. Reid, Lieberman said he'd join the Republican filibuster if the Medicare buy-in remained in the bill.

What's most telling about Lieberman isn't his positions, which are not that much different from Sen. Nelson's and perhaps Sen. Lincoln's. It's more that he seems to keep upping the ante just when the rest of the caucus thinks they've got a deal.

If it happened once, a misunderstanding might be a credible explanation. But it's happened too many times. Sen. Nelson has driven Dems to distraction on this bill. But his demands have been fairly consistent over time. Lieberman just doesn't seem to be negotiating in good faith. He keeps pulling his caucus to some new compromise, waiting a few days and then saying he can't agree to that either.

It's coming to a breaking point.

(See Digby here. MyDD here and here.)

Update: See here.

Sunday night

Just got back from gym and store. I'd lost at least 5 lbs. in a week, which I'll attribute to cutting back on the roast beef hash and eating a lot of fat-free cottage cheese on melba toast. (Bought more of that at the store for this week.)

Just removed a 3.29-lb. sirloin tip roast from the oven and letting it stand. I'll have some for dinner with mixed vegetables.

Waiting for "60 Minutes" to come on.

[Later] Had long talk tonight with my friend in STL/FTL. His BF has been declared in Federal court to be incompetent and permanently disabled (due to schizophrenia), cannot go back to work at his job, and has been awarded Social Security and Medicare (he's 43), retroactive to a few years ago. The Fla. family court wants my friend to become his guardian. (He will already become his trustee.) What a mess. Sorry to hear that news. The BF wanted to go back to work and I was hoping he would have been able to. (I know him, as well.)

Didn't hear back from my friend in Canada. Maybe he's snowed in somewhere.

("60 Minutes" was good, by the way.)

Houston Is Largest City to Elect Openly Gay Mayor

New York Times story here.

HOUSTON — Houston became the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor on Saturday night, as voters gave a solid victory to the city controller, Annise Parker.

Cheers and dancing erupted at Ms. Parker’s campaign party as her opponent, fellow Democrat Gene Locke, a former city attorney, conceded defeat just after 10 p.m. when it became clear he could not overcome her lead.

Twenty minutes later, Ms. Parker appeared before ecstatic supporters at the city’s convention center and then joked that she was the first graduate of Rice University to be elected mayor. (She is, by the way.) Then she grew serious.

“Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the door to history,” she said, standing by her partner of 19 years, Kathy Hubbard, and their three adopted children. “I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who never thought we could achieve high office.”

With all precincts reporting, Ms. Parker had defeated Mr. Locke by 53 percent to 47 percent. . . .

White House Condemns Antigay Uganda Bill

From The Advocate here.

In its strongest statement yet, the Obama Administration condemned a homophobic Ugandan bill that would carry a death sentence for acts of homosexuality in some cases.

“The President strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalize homosexuality and move against the tide of history,” read the White House statement that came late Friday in response to an inquiry from The Advocate.

The bill in question would extend the punishment for engaging in gay sex to life imprisonment and introduce the death penalty for those who do so repeatedly or while HIV-positive — acts termed "aggravated homosexuality” within the bill.

But according to reporting by Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin, the tide may be starting to turn on the bill. A senior advisor to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni penned an opinion piece Friday in the state-run newspaper that referred to the measure as "draconian" and concluded "...hunting down people for same-sex love, I believe to be a sin, against Love, one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. (I say all this without being a homosexual.) Parliament should not pass this Bill."

The White House statement came on the heels of a week flooded with conservatives who took strong stands against the legislation. Obama supporter and Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren called on Ugandan religious leaders to stand against the measure.

"The freedom to make moral choices, and our right to free expression are gifts endowed by God. Uganda is a democratic country with a remarkable and wise people, and in a democracy everyone has a right to speak up. For these reasons, I urge you, the pastors of Uganda, to speak out against the proposed law," Warren said in video address. . . .

See here too ("Maddow Reviews Warren's Uganda Record").

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday evening

I'm still here. Heating up the last of the vegetable beef soup, which I ate for lunch at work this week. Came out OK. I just dumped a bunch of Romano cheese on top of it before putting it in the microwave.

Perfect.

Earlier I had a Stouffer's fried fish fillet with mac & cheese.

[Later] I think I'll wait till later tonight to do the errands, when the traffic has died down. Watching "American Greed: Scams" on CNBC (the Kissel case).

[Later] I did get cleaned up and, after stopping for gas, headed down to Walgreen's at around 10:00 p.m. and found some cards, etc. and didn't have to wait in line. Smart of me. (I overheard one of the check-out people telling another one that it had been busy there tonight.) It was good for me to get out of the house.

Called my friend in Canada at 11:00 and left a message.

Watched a really good show on the History Channel about the Manson Family, based mostly on the first-hand recollections of Linda Kasabian, who seemed to be the only person in the Manson Family who had a conscience. (She didn't kill anybody.) Her testimony got the others convicted and sent to prison.

I never knew this, but Charles Manson chose Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate's house to go on his rampage only because the house had previously been occupied by Terry Melcher, a record producer (and Doris Day's son), who had shown an interest in Manson's apparent musical abilities but never got him a recording contract, which Manson expected to get.

Foot is a lot better today, by the way. Still a little swollen and tender.

Saturday afternoon

The holidays are not my favorite time of year. For me, they just throw a wrench in the works. As this little article from the Mayo Clinic states:

The holiday season, which begins for most Americans with Thanksgiving and continues through New Year's Day, often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it's no wonder. In an effort to pull off a perfect holiday, you might find yourself facing a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name a few. So much for peace and joy, right?
. . .
Learn to recognize common holiday triggers, so you can disarm them before they lead to a meltdown . . . .

At least I know I'm not alone. And thank God for the Internet when it comes to shopping and even sending out cards. I still need to buy a few cards and that's it! (No parties, baking, etc. for me.)

I have a "flexible spending account" at work to which I contribute pre-tax dollars from each pay check to pay health insurance co-payments for doctor's visits and prescriptions. I can also use it for over-the-counter medicines (I take Prilosec, e.g.), eyeglasses, dental, etc. At the beginning of the year, you estimate what your expenses will be and hope that by the end of the year you have just enough in the account to pay for your last co-pay or medicine. I did a pretty good job estimating this year (last year I had quite a bit left in the account and bought a load of Prilosec at the last minute). (I've also bought glasses at the end of the year.) I'll have one more co-pay before the end of the year, which will leave me a little over $100 to spend (or lose). I can buy a few boxes of Prilosec with that. (People in other wealthy, industrialized countries don't have to worry about stuff like this.) At any rate, I like this account since it reduces my taxable income.

I guess I'll get cleaned up and run some errands. Still have to get those last few cards. Later I'll call my friend in Canada. They just had a major snow storm up there.