Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Lies About Hillary

I hate the idea of supporting the right wing financially by purchasing their cruddy books. Generally what I try to do is stand around the bookstore and read from the right-wing garbage bin, so that I have some idea what lunacy they are trying to spread -- and I always, of course, re-shelve the book upside down or place a left-wing book on top of the pile or something like that -- or wait until the public library has wasted its money on the trash.
But I may be compelled to buy and read the latest scummy attack on Hillary Clinton, Edward Klein's The Truth About Hillary : What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President, just because I feel it's important to understand the particular lies they will be spreading in the run-up to 2008.
I think one of the biggest mistakes made in 2004 was the delayed response from John Kerry to the scurrilous Swift Boat attackers. By waiting a month before responding, the Kerry campaign allowed the lies to become part of the public consciousness -- hell, some otherwise reasonable people seem to still believe there are questions to be answered on the Kerry issue.
The Clintons have done the right thing by immediately denigrating the book as the fiction it surely is, but it seems to me there needs to be a concerted, continued effort to place this book firmly in the trash bin where it belongs, especially in light of the somewhat respectful profile of Klein in Salon yesterday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Playing Politics

Goergie boy has me confused again.
Why is it "playing politics" for the Democrats in the Senate to demand documentation on John Bolton's past official actions before voting on his nomination to the post of UN Ambassador, but not "playing politics" for the President to refuse to provide the information, and to hint that hemay circumvent the Senate approval process on Bolton by making a recess appointment.
Why is it not "playing politics" when the president makes the inflammatory selection of a dangerous, confrontational idealogue for a post leading international diplomacy?
And isn't this whole controversy over something that normally is called a "political appointment"?


This one is simply unbelievable. George W. Bush ran for re-election last year largely on the false premise that he was the candidate who would keep us safe from the terrorists. And now we find out that illegal aliens have been working at our nuclear facilities??!?!?!?!?
Fuckin' A.
Thanks to Americablog for pointing it out. I'm actually having a hard time believing that CNN found it worth mentioning ...

Sunday, June 19, 2005


There is absolutely nothing I can easily do right now that I feel like doing.
I'm not hungry. I don't feel like watching TV. I'm not in the mood to read. I may take an egg out of the fridge and start a pysanky later on, when it comes to temperature, but I'm not sure I feel like doing that either.
If I have my workbench and some scrap wood I might saw some things up.
But I don't.
And that's my problem -- nothing that is at hand appeals to me at the moment. I could go to the gym, or to a movie, but neither option excites me.
Am I bored with my life?
Right now, I guess.
Sad thing is, I know that tomorrow when I have to work, I'll want to do all of the things stated above that I don't feel like doing now.
What a sucky Sunday afternoon.
I spent the last 7 hours in the car, driving my daughter up to the mountains to summer camp, then back with my wife and mother-in-law (I made my wife drive home, and sat, surly, in the passenger seat).
Maybe it's that I miss my daughter terribly, even though she is such an angry teenager that in some ways it seems a relief she'll be gone for two weeks. I like having her around, though. Somehow, we understand each other even when we're feuding.
Maybe that's the whole of it. My comfort zone is about to come apart for the summer. My wife and mother-in-law are leaving for a summer trip to visit family later this week. When my daughter gets out of camp, she'll fly east and join them. So it's pretty much going to be me and the pets for the next several weeks.
I'm looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. Solitude is great when you want it, but not when others foist it on you.
I'll be better later, I guess.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Pissing Sand

Had lithotripsy on Wednesday. This is an ultrasound procedure that breaks up a big kidney stone into sand-like particles that can be passed. The cost to me, above and beyond what my insurance would pay, was $1,420. I'm told insurance paid 90 percent, so an hour on this machine went for $14K! Damn. Seems like I should have at least gotten off for that much money.
The worst of it was Wednesday night, after the morphine wore off. By 11 pm, I was in so much pain that my wife drove me over to the emergency room. There, I waited for hours to be seen by another doctor, who shot me up with more morphine, and wrote me a prescription for Percocet. Arrived home at 3:30 am, and spent most of Thursday and Friday in a Percocet haze.
Although they took an imprint of my credit card at the emergency room, I haven't seen any charges against my account yet. Can't wait.
It's probably too soon to go into another rant about national health insurance, but I sure wish we had us some. My wife spent Friday near tears over her own medical issues -- couldn't get the pharmacy to give her two months worth of her prescriptions because she is going on a summer trip. She has to go see her doctor next week in order to get it straightened out.
Our health system is so badly broken that I can't believe anyone still is suffering under the delusion that we have the best health care in the world. We have shorter life spans, higher infant mortality rates, more paperwork and much, much bigger costs than the rest of the industrialized world. The fantasy that we benefit because we can choose our doctors is ridiculous.
Ever tried to see a doctor who wasn't on your "plan"?
Ever been caught between a doctor who recommends treatment and an insurer who won't authorize it because it isn't listed on their actuarial tables?
When the accountants are determining the course of medical treatment, the world is upside down.
Some days it's hard to decide which is worse -- the doctors or the insurance companies. I guess it would have to be the insurance companies, though. They're the ones that have trained today's doctors to be afraid of their shadows. It's safer to take the day off and play golf than to actually treat a patient.
Don't blame the lawyers. They're just reacting to the ridiculous situation that the health care industry has created. I'm tired of lawyers being the target. Everybody hates them until they need one.
Wow, this really is a rant. I don't care. The whole situation pisses me off.
Anyway, I've been pissing sand and blood clots for the past 3 days. The kidney pain has more or less abated, although I did take some drugs around noon today when I felt a twinge. I don't need another round of emergency room treatment. Interesting thing is that actually passing the granules is much less painful than it is when they leave the kidney and enter the urinary tract. I thought it would be the opposite.
I'm glad to have it over. I've dutifully collected all my sand particles in a jar so they can be analyzed and the docs can try to figure out what caused my kidney stone. I would be very happy to do whatever it takes to avoid another one.

Jeb Bush's Crusade Against Reason

Two days after the release of the autopsy reporting that shows conclusively that Terri Schiavo was indeed hopelessly brain-damaged, Jeb Bush announces that he has ordered an investigation into the timing of Scott Schiavo's call to 911 more than 15 years ago.
To what end?
Having failed miserably at gaining public support for his crusade against Scott Schiavo in the courts, Gov. Bush now decides to launch a vindictive personal crusade against Schiavo. Evidently he plans to hound him through the rest of his life. The reality of Terri Schiavo's condition means nothing, nor does the family's need to finally put this sorry story to rest.
The entire Bush family is a stain on the American body politic and on humanity. They are the exact opposite of public servants -- they are petty, vindictive, small-minded and behave in virtually every instance in a way contrary to the public good.
They are the shame of the nation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Right Wing's Attack On Science Continues

Having staked out strong positions against the medical community (stem cell research), biologists (evolutionary science) and environmental scientists (global warming), the right wing has broadened its battle by taking on the very idea of scientific research.
Today's New York Times reports that the right-wing Heritage Foundation has released a report that "rebuts" two recent studies by Columbia and Yale scientists that showed that young people who take virginity pledges are more likely to engage in oral and anal sex, and developed sexually transmitted diseases at about the same rates as teens who did not take pledges.
The Heritage Foundation found -- big surprise -- that virginity pledges do not correlate to risky sexual behaviors and result in lower STD rates. Only problem -- their "scientific" research flies in the face of accepted research techniques.
Their statistical analysis showed a "glaring error" in the significance level, according to an independent reviewer, and relied on self-reporting of STDs, rather than actual testing, meaning that levels were likely to have been significantly underreported.
Bottom line is that here we have another example of the right wing attempting to misuse and distort the language of science when actual science does not support its ideological ends.
Odds are that there are a significant percentage of people in the scientific community who have voted Republicans into office over the years. The evidence is mounting that such people are contributing to the trivialization, if not the destruction, of their professions and their intellectual disciplines.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Missing In Action

Should we be outraged at the lateness and paucity of the MSM's coverage of the Downing Street Memo? Of course.
Should we be surprised? Not at all.
I think the Downing Street non-coverage is, by and large, a byproduct of the right wing's success at burying the CBS coverage of George W. Bush's National Guard service lapses under a ton of diversionary baloney.
Another secret document surfaces. Is it authentic? Who knows. Should we try to verify its authenticity? Let's let somebody else do it first. That way, if a mistake is made, somebody else can take the heat and we can act all outraged that they didn't do a better job of authenticating it.
It's a pathetic but understandable response from a media that has been threatened and bullied for five years if its members even notice anything strange about the Bush administration.
It's safer and easier to focus on celebrity scandals and limit government coverage to repeating the press releases issued from the West Wing.
But now NBC News has begun authenticating the follow-up documents that surfaced in the United Kingdom last weekend. The Washington Post covered the documents over the weekend. Is there a new wave of courage coming on?
I doubt it. The media is responding to the outpouring of criticism it has received from the blogosphere and from its own watchdogs. At the moment, that criticism is louder and hurts more than the threats coming from the White House. Oddly, investigative reporting is today's path of least resistance.
So what do we do? Keep up the pressure.
The MSM will cover this story as long as people out there don't allow them to drop it. I suspect that even The New York Times, which has done a particularly shameful job on the story so far, will print a major thumbsucker on it, probably next Sunday.
The media are commercial enterprises. They respond to the loudest demands. For the moment, on this issue, those demands are coming in from the left. But if we stop, the shouts of the right will bury this story once again.

Scattered Small Thoughts on the Acquittal of Michael Jackson

There's nothing important about the Michael Jackson case, but like much of America, I was riveted by the announcement of the verdict yesterday afternoon. I have nothing profound to say about it, but a few small thoughts to share:

Michael Jackson commands our attention because his has been the most spectacular celebrity train wreck of a career since Judy Garland's (with the possible exception of Garland's daughter, Liza Minnelli). Like Garland, Jackson was an astonishing young talent brought low in middle age by the inability to manage personal demons. In some ways, Jackson may be the most spectacular train wreck ever. Not only has he buried his enormous talent under an avalanche of scandal and speculation about his personal life, he has gone to the extreme of physically destroying himself with plastic surgery and skin-bleaching treatments. Twenty-some years on, it seems almost unbelievable that in the early 1980s, Jackson was best known for a series of spectacular recordings and videos that won him acclaim as the world's greatest young entertainer.


If there is a social benefit to all of the media attention to the trials of Jackson, Robert Blake, O.J. Simpson and others, it is in the reminder that the United States Constitution guarantees that each of us is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Jackson's acquittal, like those before him, is not an "exoneration," despite the overuse of that term by television announcers. Rather, it says that the state did not meet the burden of proof necessary to convict him. These jurors weighed the evidence and found it insufficient to send a man to prison.


That there was "reasonable doubt" in this case that should lead to acquittal was evident from the early days of the trial, when witness after witness was caught giving inconsistent, contradictory testimony. Many people, myself included, harbor strong suspicions about Michael Jackson's behavior around young boys, but it was clear from the outset -- and should have been clear to the prosecution before countless millions were wasted on this trial -- that questions about the veracity of these accusers was bound to doom the case before a conscientious jury.


Most of the blame and scorn for this case has been directed at the mother of the young accuser in this case. But it seems to me that a fair share should be targeted toward the prosecutor, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon. If the accuser's mother is as tawdry a character and unconvincing a witness as has been described, how could this not have been apparent to an experienced prosecutor and his staff? If the inconsistencies and holes in the evidence were as glaring as they appear to be, wouldn't this have been obvious during discovery? Couldn't the prosecutorial team have made a decision -- before wasting countless millions of taxpayer dollars -- that there was not a supportable case here?
Mr. Sneddon has pursued various allegations against Michael Jackson for more than 10 years. Like Kenneth Starr before him, he tempts comparison to Javert, the relentless and, finally, pathetic, detective who pursued Jean Valjean to his death in Les Miserables. And unfortunately, that puts Michael Jackson in the position of the unfairly demonized Valjean.


Last night at 8 pm PDT, the beginning of prime time, I did a quick survey of the cable news outlets. On each and every one of them -- MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNN Headlline News, CNBC -- the fare was 100 percent Michael Jackson. Nothing else of note evidently happened anywhere in the world yesterday.
Finally, I turned to C-Span and watched a videotape of a press conference held by Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. It was pretty bad -- Hunter's defense of military practices at the Guantanamo detention center was based almost entirely on multiple recitations of a sample menu for detainees (Lemon fish! Fried chicken! Two kinds of vegetables! Two kinds of fruits! It's better than what the troops eat!) But it veered into the pathetically comic toward the end when Hunter attempted unsuccessfully to entice members of the press into tasting the sample meal he had laid out for their inspection. As the room cleared out, he moved folding chairs around a little table and did his best to strong-arm reporters into sitting down with him to enjoy (I'm not going to let this good food go to waste!)
A pitiful display of our democracy in action.
But at least it wasn't Michael Jackson.

Monday, June 13, 2005


For those of us who worry that the implications of the Bush administration's acts are more serious than is generally acknowledged, this site is interesting. I'm not sure I go along with all of it, but we stand warned.


So, for the past 10 days I've been suffering from a kidney stone. The pain has, fortunately, been intermittent, though at times quite intense. On Wednesday I go into the hospital for an ultrasound procedure to break up the stone. I'm not looking forward to the after-effects, which involve passing the fragments of the broken-up stone. Eww. Plus, the doctor tells me the ultrasound procedure works only 80 percent of the time.
Nevertheless, I've got to count my blessings (between self-pitying whines).
My itinerary over the past 10 days:
  • Saturday, 6/4: Phone conversation with my GP, who was on weekend call
  • Monday, 6/6: X-rays, Office visit with GP, who made a referral to a urologist
  • Tuesday, 6/7: Lab visit for blood and urine workup
  • Wednesday 6/8: Additional X-rays
  • Thursday, 6/9: Office visit with urologist
  • Friday, 6/10: Pre-op workup at hospital, with additional blood and urine workup
My medical outlay over the past 10 days: $25. That's $15 for a co-pay at my GP's office, plus a $10 copay on a bottle of Extra-Strength Vicodin. The urologist did not require a co-pay, nor were there charges at the X-ray or medical labs.
I shudder to think what the costs would have been were I not one of the "lucky" Americans with employer-provided healthcare (for which I pay significantly, by the way).
The pain was so intense the first night that I considered going to the emergency room, and might have if I did not fear emergency rooms on Friday nights more than pain, and if a fourth wave had come on before I fell asleep.
But the emergency room might have been my only option if I did not have insurance.
I'm quite sure that poor people get kidney stones. I don't like thinking they should have to suffer more pain than I did, without proper care. I would be more than willing to pay a higher tax rate to ensure a system that provided everyone with health care. I think most Americans who have suffered health-related pain would agree.
I consider supporting universal health coverage a moral value. And I am outraged that the "values" crowd and their political heroes do not support this issue. Ted Kennedy is calling it "Medicare For All." Sign me on.
I lived for a few years in the United Kingdom, and thoroughly enjoyed the convenience of the national health system. No paperwork, no co-pays, doctors who are in the profession because they care, and not because it affords them membership in exclusive country clubs.
Bring it on.

I Wanna Be VP

I think I could do it.
From what I can see, there's not much to it. You curse at people who disagree with you, then feign indignation when people criticize you. Oh, yeah, and you hold top-secret meetings with your buddies in your tree house (sort of like the "He-Man Women Hater's Club" in Our Gang).
I'm not sure my wife could manage to be as phony as Mrs. VP, but I'm quite sure I could do the VP thing.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Google Torture

In a fascinating display of twisted logic, the right wingers are now pointing to the fact that a Google search turns up more references to "human rights abuse" linked with "United States" than with any other country they searched as evidence that reports of abuse are false.
I read through the comments and I still don't get the logic. Evidently, the right-wingnuts believe this happens because the press is lazy. Well, the press is pretty lazy, but that doesn't mean that human rights abuses by U.S. personnel haven't happened. The logic for the connection isn't there. What happens when the press is lazy is that stories critical of the governments under which the press organizations operate don't get told. The laziness of the U.S. press has not a whole lot to do with the paucity of news coming out of Burma. Plus, doesn't it make at least a little bit of sense that the U.S. press, even the lazy members, would report a little bit more on abuses committed by our government than abuses abroad? Give it up, guys. Here's a rule that has generally worked for me: Where there's smoke, there's fire.

Deep Throat

Tuesday' revelation that W. Mark Felt was "Deep Throat," the anonymous source who tipped off Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on some of the most important information in the Watergate story, has been a bit overwhelming.
Watergate, of course, was the news story that turned me and many of my generation towards journalism. Along with the Pentagon Papers a few years earlier, it illustrated the power of the press in the strongest possible terms. By unearthing the truth behind a seemingly minor burglary, a power-hungry U.S. president was brought down.
What a long and sad distance we've come since then.
Dozens of factors -- economic, political, personal -- have led to the decline in the media's independence and stature. Consolidation in the publishing industry has given rise to risk-averse, conservative press organizations that would rather concentrate on celebrity scandals than controversial investigations. The right wingers have learned to strike poses of phony outrage at the first sign that reporters may be getting too close to the truth of an issue, and have developed their own sense of the kind of scandal that can divert the attention of reporters away from the important stories and toward sensationalized trivialities. Contempt for and threats against journalists -- including, increasingly, the prospect of jail time for protecting anonymous sources of information -- have weakened journalistic resolve and undermined the sense that the press performs a vital public service. And, of course, there is the fact that it's a lot easier and less stressful to repeat the words of officials rather than challenge them.
I do feel for reporters today. The stress of daily journalism -- among other things, the unfairness of being called a liar when you have done your damnedest to tell the truth -- is one of the reasons I walked away from the profession at 30.
I hated being hated. But I also miss the adrenaline rush of working against deadline on a breaking story, of confronting someone with the evidence that they have lied to you, of knowing that you have exposed what someone worked feverishly to hide. I know journalism is still full of those who feel that thrill. If only they would direct their energy toward George W. Bush instead of runaway brides, human vegetables, and plastic pop stars.
Ted Turner was right yesterday when he said that CNN has descended into "pervert of the week" territory. The competition from Fox News has dragged them down this path to some degree, but so has Time Warner's corporate ownership and so has the pressure to prop up share value rather than provide public value.
The blogs seem to be where passionate journalism has gone to rebuild. Not this one, but folks like Brad Friedman and John Aravosis, who daily do what the MSM has given up on. Here's to you, guys. You earn and deserve our respect.