Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Screw the State of the Union speech tonight -- make your own now! Just drag the phrases you want to hear into the speech box, and when you're satisfied, listen to Preznit Blithering Incompetence read them back for you.

Thanks to my pal Jeff for alerting me to this handy site.

Good Times

The New York Times posted an editorial a couple of days ago that bitch-slaps fact-checks the hell out of Preznit Caligula's recent assertions that his NSA spying program is perfectly justifiable and legal. Because not everyone can access the Times online, and because it's such a righteous smackdown, I'm reprinting it here in its entirety.

Spies, Lies and Wiretaps

A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.

The first was that the domestic spying program is carefully aimed only at people who are actively working with Al Qaeda, when actually it has violated the rights of countless innocent Americans. And the second was that the Bush team could have prevented the 9/11 attacks if only they had thought of eavesdropping without a warrant.

Sept. 11 could have been prevented. This is breathtakingly cynical. The nation's guardians did not miss the 9/11 plot because it takes a few hours to get a warrant to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail messages. They missed the plot because they were not looking. The same officials who now say 9/11 could have been prevented said at the time that no one could possibly have foreseen the attacks. We keep hoping that Mr. Bush will finally lay down the bloody banner of 9/11, but Karl Rove, who emerged from hiding recently to talk about domestic spying, made it clear that will not happen — because the White House thinks it can make Democrats look as though they do not want to defend America. "President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," he told Republican officials. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

Mr. Rove knows perfectly well that no Democrat has ever said any such thing — and that nothing prevented American intelligence from listening to a call from Al Qaeda to the United States, or a call from the United States to Al Qaeda, before Sept. 11, 2001, or since. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act simply required the government to obey the Constitution in doing so. And FISA was amended after 9/11 to make the job much easier.

Only bad guys are spied on. Bush officials have said the surveillance is tightly focused only on contacts between people in this country and Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Vice President Dick Cheney claimed it saved thousands of lives by preventing attacks. But reporting in this paper has shown that the National Security Agency swept up vast quantities of e-mail messages and telephone calls and used computer searches to generate thousands of leads. F.B.I. officials said virtually all of these led to dead ends or to innocent Americans. The biggest fish the administration has claimed so far has been a crackpot who wanted to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch — a case that F.B.I. officials said was not connected to the spying operation anyway.

The spying is legal. The secret program violates the law as currently written. It's that simple. In fact, FISA was enacted in 1978 to avoid just this sort of abuse. It said that the government could not spy on Americans by reading their mail (or now their e-mail) or listening to their telephone conversations without obtaining a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The court has approved tens of thousands of warrants over the years and rejected a handful.

As amended after 9/11, the law says the government needs probable cause, the constitutional gold standard, to believe the subject of the surveillance works for a foreign power or a terrorist group, or is a lone-wolf terrorist. The attorney general can authorize electronic snooping on his own for 72 hours and seek a warrant later. But that was not good enough for Mr. Bush, who lowered the standard for spying on Americans from "probable cause" to "reasonable belief" and then cast aside the bedrock democratic principle of judicial review.

Just trust us. Mr. Bush made himself the judge of the proper balance between national security and Americans' rights, between the law and presidential power. He wants Americans to accept, on faith, that he is doing it right. But even if the United States had a government based on the good character of elected officials rather than law, Mr. Bush would not have earned that kind of trust. The domestic spying program is part of a well-established pattern: when Mr. Bush doesn't like the rules, he just changes them, as he has done for the detention and treatment of prisoners and has threatened to do in other areas, like the confirmation of his judicial nominees. He has consistently shown a lack of regard for privacy, civil liberties and judicial due process in claiming his sweeping powers. The founders of our country created the system of checks and balances to avert just this sort of imperial arrogance.

The rules needed to be changed. In 2002, a Republican senator — Mike DeWine of Ohio — introduced a bill that would have done just that, by lowering the standard for issuing a warrant from probable cause to "reasonable suspicion" for a "non-United States person." But the Justice Department opposed it, saying the change raised "both significant legal and practical issues" and may have been unconstitutional. Now, the president and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales are telling Americans that reasonable suspicion is a perfectly fine standard for spying on Americans as well as non-Americans — and they are the sole judges of what is reasonable.

So why oppose the DeWine bill? Perhaps because Mr. Bush had already secretly lowered the standard of proof — and dispensed with judges and warrants — for Americans and non-Americans alike, and did not want anyone to know.

War changes everything. Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the authority to do anything he wanted when it authorized the invasion of Afghanistan. There is simply nothing in the record to support this ridiculous argument.

The administration also says that the vote was the start of a war against terrorism and that the spying operation is what Mr. Cheney calls a "wartime measure." That just doesn't hold up. The Constitution does suggest expanded presidential powers in a time of war. But the men who wrote it had in mind wars with a beginning and an end. The war Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney keep trying to sell to Americans goes on forever and excuses everything.

Other presidents did it. Mr. Gonzales, who had the incredible bad taste to begin his defense of the spying operation by talking of those who plunged to their deaths from the flaming twin towers, claimed historic precedent for a president to authorize warrantless surveillance. He mentioned George Washington, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These precedents have no bearing on the current situation, and Mr. Gonzales's timeline conveniently ended with F.D.R., rather than including Richard Nixon, whose surveillance of antiwar groups and other political opponents inspired FISA in the first place. Like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Bush is waging an unpopular war, and his administration has abused its powers against antiwar groups and even those that are just anti-Republican.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is about to start hearings on the domestic spying. Congress has failed, tragically, on several occasions in the last five years to rein in Mr. Bush and restore the checks and balances that are the genius of American constitutional democracy. It is critical that it not betray the public once again on this score.

Dems vs. Dems

The Washington Post reports that the Democratic party is essentially under attack by those of us in the lefty blogosphere. We're accused of trying to take the party too far to the left, of ignoring those mythical "centrist" voters that are out there just waiting for more Joe Liebermans, more Joe Bidens, more Ben Nelsons and Hillary Clintons, triangulating and arguing for flag-burning amendments and abortion restrictions and basically playing Republican-Lite.

"The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to win elections," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who advised Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. "The trick will be to harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a captive of the activist left."

The blogs-vs.-establishment fight represents the latest version of a familiar Democratic dispute. It boils down to how much national candidates should compromise on what are considered core Democratic values -- such as abortion rights, gun control and opposition to conservative judges -- to win national elections.

Many Democrats say the only way to win nationally is for the party to become stronger on the economy and promote a centrist image on cultural values, as (Gov. Timothy) Kaine did in Virginia and as Bill Clinton did in two successful presidential campaigns.

You know what? I'm goddamned sick and tired of weak-kneed, spineless, capitulating Democrats who are afraid of their own fucking shadows. Who the hell is Steve Elmendorf? Didn't he advise a campaign that ended up losing the election? Why should we listen to him now? The way Republicans win elections is by energizing their base. The Democratic base is liberal, and proudly so. Yet Democratic politicians would rather appeal to unicorns and fairies some huge alleged coalition of "moderates" out there than align themselves with the people who should be their first consideration -- which is why they end up losing elections, time after time, even when running against the most corrupt and ethically bankrupt opponents in the history of America.

As Elmendorf says, they're happy to take our money and let us post ads on our sites and work the phone banks and walk the precincts for them, but they'll be damned if they're going to actually do anything for us when and if they get elected. Criminey. I'm almost as sick of Democratic weakness as I am of Republican corruption. Where is someone I can vote for?

Daou Reporting

Peter Daou has more on his contention that the so-called liberal media is actually the best tool the right-wing has had in getting its message out over the past twenty years. He responds to a winger who disputes his claim, offering up little besides over-used Republican talking points and the old canards about "left-leaning reporters." It's a pretty enjoyable smackdown, even if the underlying message remains the same. Check it out, then laugh or cry (or both), depending on your perspective.

Caught My Eye

This photo of a woman waiting for a plane in a Taiwan airport went out over the AP wires yesterday, and the wording on the sign just struck me funny for some reason. What could it mean? I don't know, but I liked it so much that I wanted to post it and share it with all of you.

Monday, January 30, 2006

No Turd in Bush's Punchbowl

Crap. Shit. Fuck. Son of a bitch. God damn.

Apparently there aren't nearly enough Democrats with testicles (or Republicans with brains and/or ethics) in the Senate to do any of us any good. The filibuster proposed by Massachussetts Senators Kerry and Kennedy has been shot down before it even had a chance to get going. Now Emperor Chimpy the Unitary gets to drool all over the podium during the SOTU speech tomorrow night while announcing that his good buddy Sam "I Never Met an Authority That I Would Question" Alito has been confirmed as the final direct stab in the heart of the Constitution Supreme Court replacement for Justice for Sandra Day O'Connor.

Personally, I can't watch it. I'm going to be in Union Square at 6 PM (9 EST) tomorrow night, whacking a cowbell, along with a whole lot of other people there trying to drown out the lies and the mendacity that will be going out over the airwaves.

For all the good it will do.

Assorted Links (Hot, Sweet and Spicy)

I've had a lot of email accumulating in my inbox over the past few weeks; it's about time I did some house-cleaning, and pass some of the links that people have sent me on to you, my adoring reading public.

  • First up is this link to an online mall that my brother set up to help benefit Secret Cinema, a movie site that you should all be checking out regularly. Lots of cool stuff, and SC gets a percentage of every dollar spent there.
  • Also from my brother -- and this is really cool -- it's Radio Free Otis, a streaming radio station playing music from his personal collection. Rock out while you blog out!
  • "As a Christian..." Noel Hurley writes reviews on Amazon for a wide variety of books, and he's funnier than a rubber crucifix. Thanks to my good friend Scott for finding this.
  • The Best Ideas Since Sliced Bread? Well, there are a few here that are pretty good. Check out what many Americans have proposed, and vote for those you think are worthy of pursuing. Thanks to my pal David B. for this.
  • My good friend Marty is a very accomplished photographer, and he is in the process of posting a number of his pictures taken over the past year or so on a site that makes it easy to scroll through and see larger versions with a click of the mouse. These are some winter shots of Highway 395 in California.
  • Thanks to my pal Ken (not to be confused with Enron's Kenny Boy), here are the 101 Dumbest Moments in Business. Jeez, only 101?
  • Finally, as those of you who were in attendance at Saturday's BARBARian gathering know, the good Dr. Laniac was unable to join us. He has a very good excuse, though -- he was busy getting the word out, in conjunction with the Freeway Blogger, about the possibility of filibustering Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court. We'll forgive the good doctor this time, as he was obviously doing something that we all support and want to see happen.

That's it for the moment. There will be more political content for you readers of this site looking for that sort of thing soon. Right now, though, I've got fish to fry here in the meat world.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ale, Ale, the Gang's All Here

As Ram Dass once said, "Free beer now!" (Or was it "Be here now!"? I always get those two confused.)

Well, regardless, we took the saying to heart and that was a lot of fun, a lot of beer and for once, I didn't end up in an alley with my pants around my ankles the next morning (not for lack of trying, though). I'm talking, of course, about a rare weekend get-together of the BARBARian Blogging Ethics Discussion Committee and Drinking Society, which happened Saturday afternoon at the 3300 Club at Mission and 29th Streets in San Francisco. A number of the usual suspects were there -- Scaramouche, the King of Zembla, Paperwight, fyrste from suckful and now his new site, The Afterist, Shystee, Mags from You forgot Poland!, Angie from Ang's Weird Ideas, Brian (our resident and token Political Moderate) from 1000 Buffalo Stampede -- am I forgetting anyone? -- and, as we always like to see, some new faces: Kevin from Brother Kenya's Paradigm (along with his lovely wife, whose name and website I'm embarrassed to say I've forgotten, though I'm sure someone will enlighten me in the comments), Bill/Kvatch from Blognonymous and Tom from If I Ran the Zoo. Add those sites to your BARBARian blogrolls, folks, and hope that their proprietors can all make some of the future gatherings.

It was a wet, rainy Saturday afternoon, and the 3300 Club -- recommended by our resident barrespondent Drew of Scamboogah!! (who, along with his lovely wife Teri, was unfortunately a no-show) -- made for a nice refuge. We had just about enough room at the one big table for all of us to sit and converse and pet the occasional dog that came in. Early on, we commandeered the bar's one and only pitcher and kept the bartender filling it with Humboldt Hemp Ale*, and the money that had been collected from the overpayment at Ben & Nick's at the last gathering lasted for over three hours of refills. Because some of the regulars at the bar were celebrating their January birthdays Saturday, the staff laid out some hors d'oeuvres of chips and cheese and salami and cupcakes and other goodies, and everyone there was invited to partake. Nice place, that 3300 Club, just a regular, honest neighborhood bar with a decidedly Irish cast to it, nothing pretentious or fancy.

*You folks that participated might want to stay away from any drug-testing for the next couple weeks. Who knows what that hemp in the ale might do -- you might be able to create tennis shoes or T-shirts or plastics or industrial solvents or any number of items with your urine now if you're not careful. Personally, I never take drug tests unless they're multiple choice.

Anyway, it was a grand time out, and we look forward to the next one, whenever that might be. There was some noise about a BARBARian barbecue and even a softball game, but that will have to wait until the rain stops some time in the spring. In the meantime, we'll all just keep pounding away at our keyboards and finding the time every four to six weeks to meet up and hoist a few glasses together while discussing politics and postings, cabbages and kings.

Until then, cheers all.

***Note: This has been cross-posted at the BARBARian blog.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Miserable Failure, Year 5

No real surprise here -- a majority of Americans believe that Preznit No Doubt is failing in his second term. While I would argue that he's failed miserably since the day he took office, I'm somewhat comforted to know that 58% of those polled at least agree with me now. I just wonder who the idiot 42% who think he's still doing a good job are.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's Filibusterin' Time!

Senator John Kerry has just announced that he will lead a filibuster in an attempt to keep Samuel Alito off the Supreme Court. I applaud him heartily for that, and urge all of you to contact your senators and encourage them to support him in this endeavor. It's about time some Democrat -- any Democrat! -- demonstrated that he has a functioning pair of cojones.

You go, Senator Kerry!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Boycott MSNBC

Tired of being called a "traitor" simply because you disagree with the Idiot King president and his policies? So am I. Join with AMERICAblog and others in boycotting Hardball and MSNBC until they apologize for Chris Matthews' comments equating Michael Moore (and, by extension, virtually all Democrats) with Osama bin Laden.

Chirp, Tweety, you smirking bastard.

Take Back the Media

Peter Daou of the Daou Report has an excellent piece up on the current state of American media and how it serves to deliver the right-wing spin of the Republican party so well. For those misguided idiots people out there who still believe in a "liberal media," all I can say is that you're just not paying attention. Here's a very brief excerpt; you should really read the whole thing to understand why Democrats and progressives continue to get the short end of the stick lately when it comes to disseminating information and the "common wisdom."

To illustrate the power of the media to shape public opinion, simply imagine what would happen if the cable nets and the print media and the elite punditocracy treated the warrantless spying scandal with the same round-the-clock intensity as the Swift-boating of Kerry or the Natalee Holloway disappearance. Suppose Lewinsky-style headlines blared about impeachment and presidential law-breaking. Suppose the question of the day on every cable net was, “Should Bush be impeached for violating the Constitution?” The media can create a crisis -- and can squelch one. The media can deliver narratives, they can frame events, they can shape the way Americans see the political landscape. A disproportionate amount of power is wielded by a handful of opinion-shapers, and when these individuals tell America a story that favors the right and marginalizes the left, the remedies are few.

Wednesday Vacation Blogging: Llandudno, Wales

Early in the European vacation, Wales was a quiet second stop on our journey around the UK. We took the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, and from there took the train to Llandudno (Wales' largest resort!). Llandudno is a quiet, faded seaside town (though not without a certain residual charm) that has as its main attractions a Victorian pier that dates from the late 1800s, a long beachfront Promenade, lots of older hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, a few decent local pubs, and the Great Orme, which is essentially a big hill overlooking the town and the sea and which contains a whole lot of sheep, an ancient copper mine and a bar/restaurant/gift shop. Nearby is the town of Conwy, with an ancient, well-preserved castle.

As always, click on the pictures for larger versions.

The view from the train station at Holyhead.
Waiting for the train.
The pier and the Grand Hotel. The hotel has seen better days, like when Winston Churchill stayed there some 70 years ago or more.
The view across the bay from the pier.
The Promenade stretches for miles along the beach.
A Victorian-era bandstand along the Promenade.
Mostyn Street, the main street of the town, is full of shops and restaurants, and, unfortunately, at least one KFC.
City Hall. The Welsh flag, with its red dragon against a field of green and white, has to be one of the coolest flags in the world.
The town is filled with old Victorian and Edwardian hotels like this one. This is the White House!
The tram has been taking visitors to the top of the Great Orme for over a hundred years. It also takes them down, for which we were very grateful.
My father wanted to buy this property and turn it into a Welsh version of Hollywood's Magic Castle (he's a member there). Either that or Llandudno's first and only Internet cafe.
Just a quiet vacation home in the country, overlooking the sea. This was near the village of Conwy.
The pier, which still features a number of Victorian-era food stalls, bars, entertainment arcades and shops of various kinds.
Typical British (or Welsh -- same difference) fare available on the pier. Mmmm... gravy...
A restaurant at the end of the pier.
Nearby Conwy Castle, well-preserved and open for tours.
The village of Conwy.
Some of the local residents.
A last look at Conwy Castle and the bridge on our way out of town.

The Lying Never Stops

I'm a bit late to this, I know, but as someone who was once accused of "blaming the president for a hurricane," I feel like I should at least acknowledge and link to this story from the NY Times. It seems that, just as they were warned that Osama bin Laden was "determined to strike in the US" (a warning that Preznit Pet Goat felt safe in ignoring), so too was the administration warned about the catastrophic potential for the devastation of New Orleans if hurricane Katrina hit with the force expected. This, of course, led to Brownie's "heckuva job" and Clueless George's comment -- backed up by his crony Michael Chertoff -- "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

No, George, no one could have expected that -- unless they read the goddamned report, maybe.

Now the administration is trying to stonewall the investigation into the bungling and mismanagement of this terrible disaster -- just as they stonewalled the investigation into 9/11 and every other incident that has happened on their watch, that has been royally fucked up by their ineptitude and that shows once again just how completely overmatched and incompetent they are.

Pathetic. It would almost be funny if it wasn't so damn tragic. Just like this entire cabal of clowns and snake-oil salesmen administration.

Hoist On Their Own Petard

Glenn Greenwald nails the Dumb and Dubya Flying, Spying and Torture Circus to the wall for their shifting reasons, hypocrisy, mendacity and outright lies concerning the NSA warrantless spying operation. Greenwald is fast becoming the go-to source for those of us on the left side of the blogosphere who want reasoned arguments and good, factual information with sources to back it up. Here's Glenn:

In light of Gen. Hayden's new claim yesterday that the reason the Bush Administration decided to eavesdrop outside of FISA is because the "probable cause" standard for obtaining a FISA warrant was too onerous (and prevented them from obtaining warrants they needed to eavesdrop), there is a fact which I have not seen discussed anywhere but which now appears extremely significant, at least to me.

In June, 2002, Republican Sen. Michael DeWine of Ohio introduced legislation (S. 2659) which would have eliminated the exact barrier to FISA which Gen. Hayden yesterday said is what necessitated the Administration bypassing FISA. Specifically, DeWine's legislation proposed:

to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to modify the standard of proof for issuance of orders regarding non-United States persons from probable cause to reasonable suspicion. . . .

In other words, DeWine's bill, had it become law, would have eliminated the "probable cause" barrier (at least for non-U.S. persons) which the Administration is now pointing to as the reason why it had to circumvent FISA.

During that time, the Administration was asked to advise Congress as to its position on this proposed amendment to loosen the standard for obtaining FISA warrants, and in response, they submitted a
Statement from James A. Baker, the Justice Department lawyer who oversees that DoJ's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, which is the group that "prepares and presents all applications for electronic surveillance and physical search under the Act to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court or Court)." If anyone would be familiar with problems in obtaining FISA warrants, it would be Baker.

And yet, look at what Baker said in his Statement. He began by effusively praising the Patriot Act on the ground that the 72-hour window provided by the Patriot Act had given the Administration the speed and flexibility it needed in order to engage in eavesdropping:

The reforms in those measures (the PATRIOT Act) have affected every single application made by the Department for electronic surveillance or physical search of suspected terrorists and have enabled the government to become quicker, more flexible, and more focused in going "up" on those suspected terrorists in the United States.

One simple but important change that Congress made was to lengthen the time period for us to bring to court applications in support of Attorney General-authorized emergency FISAs. This modification has allowed us to make full and effective use of FISA's pre-existing emergency provisions to ensure that the government acts swiftly to respond to terrorist threats. Again, we are grateful for the tools Congress provided us last fall for the fight against terrorism. Thank you.

And then, regarding DeWine's specific proposal to lower the evidentiary standard required for a FISA warrant, Baker said that:

The Department of Justice has been studying Sen. DeWine's proposed legislation. Because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues, the Administration at this time is not prepared to support it.

So, in June, 2002, the Administration refused to support elimination of the very barrier ("probable cause") which Gen. Hayden claimed yesterday necessitated the circumvention of FISA. In doing so, the Administration identified two independent reasons for opposing this amendment. One reason was that the Justice Department was not aware of any problems which the Administration was having in getting the warrants it needed under FISA:

The practical concern involves an assessment of whether the current "probable cause" standard has hamstrung our ability to use FISA surveillance to protect our nation. We have been aggressive in seeking FISA warrants and, thanks to Congress's passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, we have been able to use our expanded FISA tools more effectively to combat terrorist activities. It may not be the case that the probable cause standard has caused any difficulties in our ability to seek the FISA warrants we require, and we will need to engage in a significant review to determine the effect a change in the standard would have on our ongoing operations. If the current standard has not posed an obstacle, then there may be little to gain from the lower standard and, as I previously stated, perhaps much to lose.

So as of June, 2002 -- many months after the FISA bypass program was ordered -- the DoJ official who was responsible for overseeing the FISA warrant program was not aware (at least when he submitted this Statement) of any difficulties in obtaining warrants under the FISA "probable cause" standard, and for that reason, the Administration would not even support DeWine's amendment. If - as the Administration is now claiming - they had such significant difficulties obtaining the warrants they wanted for eavesdropping that they had to go outside of FISA, surely Baker - who was in charge of obtaining those warrants - would have been aware of them. And, if the Administration was really having the problems under FISA, they would have supported DeWine's Amendment. But they didn't.

The second concern the Administration expressed with DeWine's amendment was that it was quite possibly unconstitutional:

The Department's Office of Legal Counsel is analyzing relevant Supreme Court precedent to determine whether a "reasonable suspicion" standard for electronic surveillance and physical searches would, in the FISA context, pass constitutional muster. The issue is not clear cut, and the review process must be thorough because of what is at stake, namely, our ability to conduct investigations that are vital to protecting national security. If we err in our analysis and courts were ultimately to find a "reasonable suspicion" standard unconstitutional, we could potentially put at risk ongoing investigations and prosecutions.

By that time, the Administration had already been engaging in eavesdropping outside of the parameters of FISA, and yet the DoJ itself was expressing serious doubts about the constitutionality of that eavesdropping and even warned that engaging in it might harm national security because it would jeopardize prosecutions against terrorists. Put another way, the DoJ was concerned that it might be unconstitutional to eavesdrop with a lower standard than probable cause even as the Administration was doing exactly that.

The president and his cronies are clearly -- clearly! -- breaking the law. They have been breaking the law for quite some time now, and continue to do so with impunity. It's past time to call them all on the carpet, to put a stop to this criminal behavior and to punish the guilty. Where is a Democrat willing to stand up and speak the "I" word? Where is a Republican who will put the country and the Constitution ahead of partisan ideology? We need some real leaders today, some politicians with spinal columns and intestinal fortitude. We need people who are willing to stand up for the American people, because right now all we've got are craven cowards are partisan hacks, willing to sell the country out to the highest bidder, and not at all interested in protecting the interests of we, the people.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dialing for Truth, Justice and the American Way

I'm posting this by request (I believe it was written by a DU regular), but also because I believe in the cause. I called the offices of both my senators, Boxer and Feinstein, and urged them to support a filibuster of Alito. Whether they will or not remains to be seen, but time is running out for us to make our voices heard. Call now.


1-(800) 426-8073 ask for your Senator(s)

Alito is NOT a “done deal.”

The momentum is building among Democratic Senators. The numbers are growing.

More and more of them are seriously considering an Alito FILIBUSTER.

It is the perfect time to add your voice; they need to know the country is behind them.

It’s time to call your Senators and tell them they will represent YOU by filibustering Alito.

1. Call your Democratic Senators. There are 3 toll-free numbers to the DC switchboard. Ask for your Senator(s) and tell the aide that answers that you urge the Senator to FILIBUSTER Alito. You don’t need to speak paragraphs; all you need to say is that you urge him/her to filibuster Alito.
(888) 818-6641 or (888) 355-3588 or (800) 426-8073

2. Call your favorite progressive talk show. Say that Alito is not a “done deal” as the Republicans want us to believe and that everyone should call their Senators and urge a filibuster. The filibuster was meant for just such a situation as this. Give out the toll-free numbers over the air. A list of progressive talk shows and their phone numbers is available at http://www.nocrony.com .

3. Call Senators other than your own. For suggestions, see: http://www.codepinkboston.org/filibusterAlito

More resources:

Want to talk directly with the staff person of your senator who handles judiciary issues? Or, find fax numbers or contact info for your senator's district offices? Find them at: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home

Here are some of the groups that have opposed Alito’s nomination thus far:

WHAT IF ALITO IS DEFEATED? WON'T THERE JUST BE A WORSE NOMINEE? History shows that when the first two nominees to the Supreme Court are rejected, the third is more moderate. See:
"The Case Against Alito," The Nation, editorial | posted January 5, 2006, http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060123/editors

What is a filibuster?
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster

...And, if you want the animated cartoon version of what’s at stake, go to:

Together we can and must stop the far right’s takeover of the Supreme Court!

Dance, Monkey, Dance

Thanks to fellow BARBARians paperwight and DrLaniac for this hilarious link. It's good to laugh, and it's good to think, and if you look at this, you'll definitely think about laughing. Me, I'm dancing as fast as I can.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Molly Speaks, You Listen

Just to show that I can focus on things other than my own miseries for a minute or two, allow me to link to this column that the great Molly Ivins wrote last Friday, and that every serious Democrat (and a hell of a lot of Independents and even some Republicans with brains -- I know they're few and far between, but they do exist) should read. It's titled "I Will Not Support Hillary Clinton for President," and it makes an excellent case for Democrats abandoning the losing strategy of trying to play to the mythical center, of trying to cast themselves as Republican-Lite in order to woo over conservative voters, and suggests that the numbers are clearly on the side of Democrats who will actually espouse traditional Democratic ideals. The people are leading; it's time for the Democrats -- if they want to have any power in Washington at all, in the near or far future -- to follow.

Here's Molly:

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.


What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

I listen to people like Rahm Emanuel superciliously explaining elementary politics to us clueless naifs outside the Beltway ("First, you have to win elections"). Can't you even read the damn polls?

She's got a lot more to say (she always does, and bless her for that), check it out in full. Then pass it along to any weak-kneed Democrat you might happen to know -- or to have voted for.

God Hates Me

So there I was, last week, thinking I'd turned the corner and was getting better. My throat had scaled down from screaming, raw-ended nerves to a monotonous dull roar and I was starting to eat solid food again. A light had appeared at the end of the tunnel.

It turned out to be a freight train.

For most of the week, I suffered through severe chills and fever, achy body and swollen head and sinuses, the nights worse than the days. One evening I got chills so bad my teeth chattered for hours. Nothing -- not sweatshirts and blankets, not hot tea and handwarmers -- could stop the cold inside me. When I finally got over that, my temperature shot up to 103°, and stayed there for most of the rest of the night. The fever finally broke the next morning, and I found myself drenched in a pool of sweat.

I thought it was a flu bug I'd picked up somewhere by foolishly taking a couple of short walks around the neighborhood. I'd been suffering from cabin fever, looking at the same walls since I got home from the hospital, and figured a little exercise could do me good. Walking just a few blocks was more difficult than I expected; not having eaten anything, I had no strength at all. In fact, I lost 25 pounds in the first ten days after I came home, and haven't gained it back yet (that's a good thing, I suppose). Anyway, I went out, walked around, caught a couple movies at the local theaters (Match Point, The Squid and the Whale), and figured I was well on the mend. Then I got hit by the train.

I've since figured out that it wasn't a flu bug at all, but rather an infection in my throat. I talked to a doctor, who phoned in a prescription for some antibiotics that I'm about to start taking, and with luck, I'll be better soon. Unless that bastard God -- who I don't believe in, by the way, are you listening up there, you non-existent bastard? -- decides to send something else my way, like frogs or locusts or boils.

Boils. Wouldn't that be a way to go?

Oh yeah, and during all this, Wilson Pickett died. God damn, now that's just plain-ass mean.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Getting Back in the Game

Surprisingly enough, the outside world has not stopped and held its collective breath while I recuperate. Rather, it has gone on headlong and pell-mell into the void, and here are a few links to some events and commentary that I might have noted earlier had I not been so preoccupied with my own misery.

From my brother, M Otis (My Main Man in China, the Hoodoo of Chengdu), comes this now rather old-ish link to an excellent piece by one Bruce Schneier regarding the NSA wiretapping scandal. Though this was written nearly a month ago, the issues are still very much alive. The article itself is quite thought-provoking, and there are a ton of links within it. (Related -- as noted in the indispensable Dr. Laniac's Newsletter today -- is this current article in the NY Times revealing that virtually all the information gathered by the NSA -- all the leads, the phone calls, the computer links, the email addresses, everything -- since Septemeber 11 has led to zip, zilch, nothing, nada, dead ends all. Sure makes me feel safe and secure.)

AMERICAblog has a couple of very good posts up (do they ever put up a bad post?) about the ongoing conflict between the Weaselpenis Bush maladministration vs. the military, here and here, for instance. Tell me again, someone, anyone, why any member of the military with two brain cells to rub together -- or his or her family -- would support Preznit Chickenhawk and I Had Other Priorities Dick? It remains a pure mystery to me, given that they are doing everything in their power to reduce veterans' pay and benefits and get them killed in record numbers for nothing but the most transparent of lies.

Rapidly becoming a major player in the blogosphere, Glenn Greenwald writes today about the difference between corporate journalists and bloggers, and why there is so much enmity between them (especially from the journos' quarters). Not everyone agress with Glenn -- Ezra Klein, for instance, disputes his theories -- but I think he's pretty close to being right on the money.

Also from Dr. Laniac comes this account on the Carpetbagger Report of Al Gore's fabulous speech from yesterday (the text of which you can find here), and if you haven't heard at least a few of the more incendiary clips from it yet, I really don't know where you've been or how you found your way onto this site in the first place. Here's the money quote, if you did happen to miss it: "At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently." Breaking the law. Repeatedly and insistently. You tell it, Al.

The Supreme Court gets one right, affirming Oregon's assisted suicide law 6-3 and giving the smackdown to the wingnut religious zealots Bush and Ashcroft argument that the feds should be allowed to impose their will on the people in that state who voted for it. Too bad they didn't follow this same line of reasoning when it came to medical marijuana. The one telling point of this decision was who the dissenting three were -- Scalia and Thomas, predictably, but more importantly, new Chief Justice John Roberts as well. Guess now we know what side of the fence he'll be falling in future decisions (as if there was ever any doubt).

The Poor Man has more new tales of right-wing wankery up, enough to make you laugh and cry in the same breath. Go, vote, sob and guffaw!

Finally, from my pal Dean in Connecticut comes this comparison/contrast of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell by Neil Postman that I found rather interesting:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

~Neil Postman

Pain in the Neck

A status report from the biggest, whiniest baby you ever knew.

Jesus pancake-flippin' Christ, this is rough. This has been possibly the toughest twelve days of my life. Here's the good news: I've lost 25 pounds since my surgery -- I look a lot better in the mirror, my pants are loose on my hips -- and I've virtually stopped snoring when I sleep. (That's when I can sleep.) I can feel the difference in my nose and throat. With one breath, I can get about as much air into my lungs as it used to take me three huffs and puffs to deliver. I never knew there could be such a noticeable difference. It's like Roto-Rooter snaked out all my air passages and made them half again as big as they were before. But day-umm! It's come at one hell of a price.

My brother-in-law asked me a couple days ago if it was all worth it; I told him the jury is still out.

Of course, that's the short-term answer. I'm sure that in a month or six months or a year from now, I'll look back and say yeah, it was a bitch while it lasted, but it was definitely worth it in the long run. To be able to breathe at night, to not wake up gasping for air or disturb the residents of the apartment building three doors over with my sawing logs all nights will absolutely have been worth all the pain and misery I'm going through now. But I'd be lying if I said that I felt that way yet.

Yesterday, I'll admit, I turned a corner of sorts. After not being able to eat anything at all for over a week, a week where every sip of water was spiked with carpet tacks, I'd begun to handle a few spoonsful of yogurt or Jello or applesauce in the past couple days. Then last night, for the first time since they cut me, I had some honest to god grown-up food, some real-people food. I was actually able to eat a little bit of chicken and pasta, and it didn't kill me to swallow it. For days now, I've been having fantasies -- not sexual fantasies, but fantasies of pizza slices, of bowls of corn flakes with fresh blueberries, of grilled cheese sandwiches -- and just smelling the small bit of roast chicken that Mrs. Generik tentatively put in front of me last night about sent me over the edge. If I hadn't been able to eat it, I probably would have just given up right then and there, and tried to stab myself in the heart with a chicken bone.

I even slept longer than usual last night. Typically, I've been able to stay asleep for no more than three or four hours before the pain wakes me up. Last night I made it almost six hours before the swelling and the pounding of raw nerve ends in my throat forced me to get up. I could probably sleep longer if I was still using the Vicodin, but I had to quit a few days back because I just couldn't stand being that doped up all the time. Besides, it had gotten to the point where it wasn't alleviating the pain any more at all, so why bother? I also quit the Lidocaine mouth rinse a few days back, because it would only last an hour or so, and it seemed like it made my mouth that much more sensitive each time it wore off. Plus, it tasted like crap. So I'm fucking John Wayne-ing it through this, tough guy, I don't need no stinkin' pain medication, what am I, a wussy?

Well, yeah, actually I am. I am a wussy. Why would I be whining like this to all of you if I wasn't?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wednesday Vacation Blogging: Venice

It was extremely hot and muggy when we got to Venice. We discovered right away, though, that we had made the best mistake of our European vacation by booking a hotel out on the Lido, the resort area far from the main part of town, which gave us beach access. So in addition to taking all the usual tourist pictures featured here, we got to spend a day just lying on the beach and swimming in the Adriatic. It was wonderful, and just the break we needed.

The city of Venice itself is a marvel, though I think next time we go there, it will have to be at a time of year when it isn't so damned hot. But we definitely will go back. Just walking out of the train station onto the Grand Canal is like entering another world entirely. It is truly an amazing place.

As always, click on the individual pictures for a larger version.

The main site associated with Venice, Piazza San Marco. This is the wide-angle view from Mrs. Generik's camera.
Basilica di San Marco. The church itself.
Pigeons and the Campanile.
Venice was part of the Bienalle Art Festival that was all over Europe last summer. As such, there were lots of exhibits of public art, like these red penguins seen on various balconies all over the city.
The Bridge of Sighs.
Even in Venice, Mrs. G found flowers to shoot close up and personal.
Public art in Venice: Enormous. (I know that looks like a Klan hood in the background, but I believe it has some other significance in the European Catholic community that has nothing to do with the American racist organization. Still, it was a bit disconcerting to our eyes.)
In the corner of Piazza San Marco.
Detail of the Basilica.
"Follow that vaporetto!" The main transportation around Venice; reasonably cheap, reasonably efficient, not particularly speedy.
The Rialto Bridge.
Basta with the damn red penguins, already.
Ceci ne pas un Mona Lisa.
A face at every window. I believe this is the Opera House.
A garden just below the window where our friends Scott and Julie stayed.
The view of the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge.
Gondoliers jockeying for pole position.
A couple of sweaty tourists on the Accademia Bridge at sunset.
Our last night in Venice, we saw torrential, biblical rain and thunderstorms like we've never experienced anywhere before, ever. It was fabulous. This was the calm before the storm. Ciao!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tales of Blood and Guts Mucus

Featuring nasal slings, partial nudity, heavy drug use and boring personal details. Not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

I don't know at this point if I'm Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey or George Jetson's boss Mr. Spacely or some amorphous, hallucinatory amalgam of the two of them, but I can say for sure right now that I'm not myself, and haven't been for a while. Not since last Thursday afternoon, anyway. Whether I'll ever return to normal (as defined by my previous incarnation, pre-Thursday afternoon) or not remains to be seen, but at the moment, I'm betting the under.

The problem originates with sleep apnea, a condition with which I've suffered virtually all of my adult life. I'm an Apneist, from the Apnean Way. Because I don't get my full rest at night, I fall asleep all day long, any time, anywhere -- meetings, rock concerts, movies, driving, anywhere. I snore, heroically -- seriously, I clear rooms, I move mountains -- and, worse, I stop breathing for long periods of time while I'm asleep. (When attending a long-weekend offsite with a couple of related departments in my company a few years ago up at Granlibakken at Tahoe, I shared a room with five other guys the first night. The second night, and all subsequent nights, I had the place to myself.) I know this to be a fact; my wife has told me, my friends have told me, I have woken myself up on innumerable occasions from my snoring and/or gasping for air. Finally, about six months ago, I underwent a sleep study to determine what I already knew to be true. The results were no surprise: I got approximately 80% or less of the oxygen I should have been getting in my lungs throughout any given night. Something had to be done.

During the sleep study, I was fitted with what most doctors like to recommend (probably because none of them have ever had to wear one or rely on it regularly), an instrument known as a CPAP machine. This torture device -- which is so heinous in its function and construction that even Torquemada Dick Cheney refused to argue for its use by the CIA -- is constructed of a loud fan in a box that gets plugged in somewhere near the sleeper's head, a tube to deliver five or six G-forces of oxygen to the wearer and some sort of mask or other instrument to strap onto the victim's apnea-sufferer's head or face to deliver the oxygen. Some of the machines feature various face-masks that fit over the nose or mouth or both, making the wearer look a bit like Tom Cruise from Top Gun without the Thetan-free smile, ready to shoot down MIGs in his or her sleep. Others have inserts that go directly into the nostrils, up through the nasal passages, and then, as far as I could tell, actually inject pure oxygen directly into the brain itself. It may not help open the air passages, but it sure gives you something to think about.

So the CPAP machine was not a viable option, not in my book. That left as one other option diet and exercise (and a near-complete cessation of alcohol, at least in the "five or six hours before [I was] planning on going to sleep" -- right, Doc, I'll only drink from 11 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon), and I already knew that wasn't the answer, because I had suffered the same symptoms even back when I'd been a young man in my fighting trim. And the last option was surgery, which I was told could be very painful and had about a 60% chance of being successful.

Guess which one I went for.

Lest you think I went rashly into this decision, understand that I discussed it thoroughly beforehand with my regular doctor, the sleep study doctor and the doctor who was to perform the surgery. After examining my nose and throat, that doctor told me I was actually a very good candidate for it, and that he thought there was a much better than average chance of it being successful. It wasn't just my weight or my alcohol intake that was causing me problems; there were actual physical reasons why I have never been able to breathe properly while I'm asleep. Surgery of the type that he performs on a regular basis could very well correct that.

So there I was last Thursday, at the California Pacific surgery center on Clay at Buchanan in San Francisco. It was a lovely day outside; the rain had finally subsided, the sky was clean and blue and the air was crisp without being too cold. First thing they did was strip me of my dignity by taking my clothes and fitting me with one of those big hospital gowns that shows -- no, announces -- your ass to everyone behind you. Worse, the nurse immediately grabbed a larger size than the one she had already laid out for me once I showed up. The doctor had four separate procedures he was going to perform on me while I was blissfully anesthetized; they included taking my tonsils out, reducing the size and shape of my uvula and soft palate and straightening out what he had discovered was a very crooked septum.

The gas doctor lied to me, telling me she was only giving me some pure oxygen for a few minutes before she gave me the gas when she plopped the mask on my face. "Think of where you want to dream about being," she said after a few seconds. I immediately imagined Hawai'i. "Okay," she said, "think about Hawai'i." How did she know? I started to say something about that, but then I noticed that I wasn't getting oxygen any more.

"I can't breathe," I said. "I can't breathe." That was the last thing I knew. No counting backwards from 100, nothing. Just, "I can't breathe," and then, gone.

Mrs. G wanted to take a picture of me when she finally came up to my room after it was over. (Why? To scare the horses, frighten little children?) My face and throat were swollen, distended and bruised, my hair was predictably wild, the pupils in my eyes were dilated down to the size of pin-heads that even angels couldn't dance on and there was blood around my nose. My nose was what was giving me the most discomfort. It was packed full of something, some kind of plastic device in both nostrils pushing it up and splaying it out like a hog at the fair, with holes in it (barely) allowing for the passage of air back and forth, but also oozing blood and mucus. To collect all those semi-precious bodily-fluids, a great piece of rolled-up gauze known as a nasal sling was tied around my face, with a bow worthy of a dentist's office scene in one of the Our Gang comedies atop my head. That was what Mrs. G found so amusing, and wanted to record for posterity, but my baleful look when she suggested it convinced her otherwise almost immediately.

The doctor came in and said something, spoke for ten or fifteen minutes, I don't know, then the various nurses and nurse's aides came in and told me things I didn't understand, and on it went like that through much of the night. I could barely move, hadn't eaten anything since the evening before (and wasn't in the least bit hungry anyway), and spent most of that time finding new ways to moan and new pains to moan about.

The one thing I consistently understood was painkillers. "Do you want more morphine? Do you want more Vicodin? Do you want both? You can have both!" Here's a hint -- always, always take the painkillers when the staff offers, even if you think you don't need them right then. Always.

At one point, one of my nurses gave me a shot of morphine and then, apparently forgetting that she had just administered one to me five minutes before, came back in my room and said she was going to give me a shot of morphine. Thumbs up, honey.

The morphine was administered through the already-established IVs in my left arm, so it wasn't like I was getting a new needle with with each shot. (When they first put the two cannullas in and taped up my arm, I held it up for Mrs. G to see. "Look," I said. "I've been assimilated. I'm the Borg.") The Vicodin, on the other hand, they had to crush up and give me with a spoonful of applesauce, and you don't know what nasty is until you've swallowed a spoonful of applesauce and not-very-finely crushed Vicodin. After the first couple times, they would just crush up the pills and let me spoon in the applesauce and do the mixing myself. It didn't matter; it was still nasty as all get-out.

I tried to sleep through the night as best I could, but it was pretty much an exercise in futility. People were in and out of my room all night -- and that's not to mention all the people attending to my roommate, and his wife, who slept in the same room with the two of us, both of them separated from me only by a flimsy curtain -- giving me meds, taking my temperature and blood pressure, even doing a new sleep study on me from midnight to six. (In that one, I was drawing about 95-96% oxygen, much better than in my previous study, even with all the swelling and junk packed into my nasal passages.) Before the sleep study started, they had defied the Geneva Conventions by strapping me to a CPAP machine for a few hours in an effort to break my will ensure that I was getting enough oxygen in me if I happened to fall asleep. Fat chance.

Also useless to me was the view out my 5th floor window. I could see Alta Plaza, California Street looking west, the dome on the Palace of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito. It was a breathtaking, beautiful view. I didn't give a skinny rat's ass about it once.

Not having eaten or drunk much of anything for 24 hours, I didn't have much urge to use the bathroom facilities, though they did encourage me in that direction numerous times. Finally, about 2 or 3 in the morning, I felt the urge to urinate. Because I was hooked up to an IV, a heart monitor and an oxygen monitor, I wasn't going anywhere without assistance. So I grabbed the plastic urinal that had been on my table and managed to stand up, sort of, with my back braced against the bed. I held the urinal up to myself with one hand, and pulled up the voluminous hospital gown with the other. Finall, after standing like this for what seemed to be twenty minutes or more, I was able to get a small trickle out. At that moment, the nurse's aide to the man in the bed behind the curtain next to me pulled my curtain open and looked at me. She seemed uncomprehending for a few moments, a dumb look on her face. Then her eyes brightened, her face lit up, she pointed to my crotch and said, "Oh! Good!"

She was happy I was peeing.

"Go away!" I explained to her.

Maybe the worst part of all of it, though, was the nasal sling. It looked for all the world like I had a giant tampon strapped across the middle of my face. Really, I don't know how else to describe it. Picture a lengthy roll of gauze, wrapped up in the size and shape of a kielbasa, with knots at either end and enough gauze streaming from those knots to wrap around your head and tie behind your ears. Then imagine wearing one 24 hours a day, collecting all the oozing blood and snot coming out of your nose after major surgery for the next five days. At least they gave me some fresh ones when I left the hospital. You should have seen the looks of the people on the sidewalk when I got out of the cab at my building.

At home, my sleep was still not much better. I was no longer getting pumped full of morphine, but I did have a giant economy-sized bottle of Vicodin (with a refill) to pop like M&Ms, not to mention a couple bottles of viscous Lidocaine to swish around my mouth every couple hours and a regimen of antibiotics "just in case." When I first saw the bottle of Vicodin, I thought, there's no way I'll get through all these, much less need a refill. Now I'm thinking I might need another refill after that. But regular sleep...? Eh, not so much. I nodded here and there, especially if I took more than one Vicodin every four hours, but rarely for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. I tried to keep to a regular schedule, but if I got in bed at 10, I was sure to be awake and up again by 2 or 2:30

Now here it is Tuesday, and the pain just isn't subsiding much. Well, it is, sort of, sometimes, but Jiminey flippin' Christmas, I'm here to tell you that having the back of your throat feel like it's full of broken razor blades every time you swallow is no picnic, no day at the beach. Or night at the Ritz. It's not even as much fun as that scary, gang-graffitied Motel 6 Mrs. G and I foolishly spent the night at in Joliet, Illinois, back in the early '90s. In fact, it pretty much... what's the word? Sucks. Yeah, that's it. It sucks.

Yesterday, Monday, I did get some measure of relief, though. I went to the doctor's office, where he told me he was going to unpack my nose. I didn't realize just how literally he meant that until he started. First, he pulled out the two-pronged inserts that had been shoved up my nostrils to hold everything else behind them in, and allegedly allowed some air passage in while letting the blood and mucus drain out into my face tampons nasal slings. I thought maybe that was all there was, or, if there was more, it was just some gauze packing behind it. Oh no. Suddenly, my nose was a cornucopia, a clown car emptying its contents in the center ring. He started pulling things out of my sinuses that I wouldn't have thought possible to fit in my mouth, much less my nose. (And in doing so, I was reminded of my good friend Scott's regular captioning line: "This came outta ME?!?") He pulled out tongue depressors, cardboard collar inserts, air baffles, pennywhistles, old Cracker Jack prizes. He pulled out volumes G through N of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He pulled out the tailfins to a '56 Cadillac. Then he looked inside my nose and said that it was good.

And my god, I could breathe. I could breathe through those nasal passages like I've never been able to breathe through them before in my life. I could feel air, real, cold air, coming from outside my body straight though my sinuses and into my lungs. I had never experienced that before yesterday.

It began to close up a bit as the evening went on, though, and now today, my nose is somewhat stuffy, what with all the blood still in there and the mucus and such. But it still works better now than it ever had before. As for my throat, water or broth is about all I can handle at this point -- I've tried small amounts of Jello and pudding and yogurt and applesauce and juice, and all of them are too much for me right now -- and though it still feels like every sip is spiked with shards of glass, it does seem like it's going to get better soon. Like in the next few days or so. By next week, for sure. Because ultimately I'm an optimist, and I believe I did the right thing in the long run. I may not be able to ingest anything but clear liquid right now -- and I may have to put up with the evil Mrs. G constantly reminding me of that fact by having the temerity to eat real food right in front of me without contorting every muscle in her body and screaming in pain with each swallow -- but I know someday I'll be better. And it's not as if I can't stand to live off the fat of the land for a while anyway. Not that I'd recommend this as a dieting strategy to anyone, but, hey, you take your opportunities where and when you get them.

Meanwhile, I think it's time for some more Vicodin.

City Life -- It's the Bomb

Mrs. Generik and I were in a taxi coming back from the doctor's office yesterday afternoon when we reached an unusual traffic snarl on Bush Street at Franklin. There were police cars and police tape blocking off the street, and lots of police officers rerouting traffic and generally walking around looking very concerned. When we got to Van Ness, we realized that there were also plenty of firemen on the scene as well. Dozens of what appeared to be employees from local businesses were out on the sidewalks doing a lot of serious milling about, and everyone seemed to be in a lather over something.

It wasn't until a few hours later that I learned from the TV news what all the fuss had been about.

Scared, me? Hardly. I have other things to worry about.

Scaring the Grim Reaper

How can such a fragile old guy be so hard to get rid of? The Associated Press reported yesterday on Torturin' Dick Cheney's latest in a long series of medical procedures, and it would seem that it's just a combination of misanthropism, inveterate lying, sheer evil and curmudgeonliness that is keeping him alive these days. Maybe he's just too damn mean to die. As is noted in Salon.com's War Room: In addition to an unspecified "foot condition" that forced him to use a cane Friday, the vice president has had "surgery to repair aneurysms behind both knees, four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest."

And that doesn't even get into the cloven-hoof-shoeing and forehead-horn-reduction surgery he has to undergo with some regularity. Nor the increasing numbers of puppies, kitties and virgin Third World babies that must be drained of their blood each morning to supply him with enough vital nutrients to make it through yet another day.

Say, speaking of blood and surgery, I've got a story to tell you folks... but that's for another post. Soon. I promise.

Monday, January 09, 2006

We're Number One!

As much as I enjoy my job, I generally refrain from commenting at all in this forum about the company that employs me. But when that company is listed today as Fortune's Number One best company to work for in 2005, well... it's hard to keep completely quiet. The description of my employer in this article is, I think, both fair and accurate (unlike virtually anything Fox News reports). And, as many people who know me in the meat world can attest, I really do like my job and am proud of the company for which I work. I consider myself a very lucky guy to have ended up in the position I'm in right now, and I look forward to retiring happily from this same company at some point in the not-so-very-near future.

Of course, right now, all this could just be the handsful of Vicodin that I've been tossing back since Thursday talking, but I think not... and even if it is, that's a subject for another, really graphic, post. Which ought to be coming up pretty soon now, if I don't nod out with my head on the keyboard first.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Our Sociopath in Chief

While I have some time, allow me to point you in the direction of my esteemed colleague Jill over at Brilliant at Breakfast, and her very cogent post about how dangerously out of touch the Man Who Should No Longer Be King is. This is just disgusting; addressing a group of wounded soldiers, including many amputees, Preznit Chickenhawk AWOL jokes about getting a bloody scratch "in combat with a cedar" at his "ranch."

Criminey. How fucking insulting can the man be? To equate his useless, idiotic brush-clearing adventures in Crawford with some poor young kid getting blown up in an unarmored Humvee thousands of miles from home has got to be the height (the depth?) of insensitivity. This truly is the Nadir Administration.

The Impeach Project

Over at the Freeway Blogger's place there's word of a new project about to start up -- the Impeach Project. The rules are simple -- create an "Impeach" sign (print, paint, Magic Marker, whatever) and post it somewhere that the public can see it. Freeway overpasses or on-ramps are always good sites, but there are plenty more to choose from. Use your imagination.

I learned about this project via the Liberal Avenger, but it apparently started on Kos, where January 8th has been declared Impeach Day.

Okay, kids, here's a call to arms! Let's put our artistic skills to use and get the word out. All you creative types, start printing/painting/drawing/whatevering!

(On a personal note, your humble host here will be going under the knife a little later today, and so will be somewhat out of action for a while. I hope to be able to at least read email and possibly do some posting here by the weekend, but we'll see. If you don't hear anything from me for a while, that's why.

Wish me luck!)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My Wish List

It's not too early to start thinking about what you want for Christmas, 2006. Here's what I'd like to see... and if this gift comes a little early, so much the better!

(Thanks to my good friend Dave for this image.)

Not Exactly Bipartisan

Bob Geiger, whose blogsite has changed names with the New Year -- it's no longer the Yellow Dog Blog, but simply BobGeiger.com -- has a valuable post up today on the subject of Rat Jack Abramoff and the media spin about him being an "equal opportunity" bribemaster. Put simply, it just ain't so. Going back as far as 1977, Abramoff and his wife (who was apparently quite involved in the passing of the lucre) gave nary a dime to Democrats, preferring instead to line the palms of their right-wing pals with silver -- the better to facilitate Republican control and dominance of the government for their own nefarious ends.

Here's Bob:

An analysis of all donations under Jack Abramoff's name or by his wife, Pamela – who donates under "Pam," "Pamela" and "Mrs. Jack Abramoff" – since 1977 and through January 2, 2006, shows that they made a total of $338,418 in political contributions. Of that, $204,000 went to individual political candidates, while $134,000 went to Political Action Committees (PACs).

Of the $204,000 that went to people running for the House and Senate, not one dime went to a Democrat. Yes, that's correct – 100 percent of Abramoff's personal donations went to Republican candidates or, in an extremely isolated case, he gave $750 to Howard Phillips of Virginia to run for something or other on the Constitution Party platform in the mid 1990s.

Other than that, it was all GOP money. Who were the biggest piglets at that trough? Little Tom DeLay picked up a cool $15,000, or over seven percent of the total all by himself. Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA), who Tom DeLay made one of his lieutenants a couple of years ago, snagged $13,000 and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) took almost $10,000 over the last 10 years.

No wonder when Rohrabacher, who has been frequently linked to Abramoff, was asked about being used as a financial reference in Abramoff's purchase of the Suncruz casino cruise line, he said " "I don't remember it, but I would certainly have been happy to give him a good recommendation. He's a very honest man."

Well, I guess that's true by Republican standards.


So whether it's direct donations -- of which Democrats have received nothing -- or indirect PAC money, which has only been given to a few Democrats in minuscule amounts, there's not much of a personal connection between Abramoff and the Democratic party.

Sorry, mainstream media.

If you would like to look at how the personal Abramoff money has been allocated over the years, I've set up a little web page here with all the details. It's interesting reading -- he even donated to Oliver North's Senate campaign. Remember him?

Now, that's no guarantee that a couple of Democrats won't also be swept up as partners in crime when people starting looking under the hood of the Abramoff money machine and examining where the millions he's bilked from others have gone – but I seriously doubt it.

This guy's never given money directly to a Democrat in his life and, for a crook like him, why hang with Democrats when there are so many of his own kind to buddy up to on the Republican side of the aisle?

And, by the way, Sourcewatch says that Abramoff raised over $100,000 for President Bush's re-election campaign and even became a coveted " Bush Pioneer" in the process.

I'm sure, given yesterday's developments, that Bush will be giving that money back any day now. Won't he?

No doubt Preznit Restoring Moral Authority will give back the tainted funds Abramoff slipped his campaign soon. After all, he's never been known to place himself above the law or push any ethical boundaries before, has he?

***Update*** Similar to the web site (linked above) that Bob put up detailing the various bribes "donations" Abramoff gave to his Republipals, AMERICAblog posts a chart showing who got what and from whom. Culture of corruption? Man, these guys are so deep in shit they must all think they're going to bloom with spring rains.

***Update II: Electric Bribe-A-Loo*** Preznit Unchecked and Unbalanced announced today that he actually will be giving up some of the dirty money. Though Abramoff raised over $100,000 dollars for the Bush-Cheney campaign, George the Lesser says that he will divest himself of only $6,000 in tainted funds. Well, it's a start, I guess.
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