Wednesday, October 31, 2007


It's Waterboarding, Not Apple Bobbing

You have to admire Michael Mukasey's academic integrity on the question of whether waterboarding can be defined as a form of torture.

Mukasey has dodged the questions of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the practice, saying that he doesn't have the security clearance for making an informed statement. That's telling 'em, Mike!

Sometimes I wonder how people like Patrick Leahy keep from exploding during confirmation hearings. The issue of waterboarding, after all, starts at the top, like every other assault on the Constitution, Geneva Conventions, and human decency. Asking these questions must be the height of absurdity.

Dubya wasn't going to select a Petraeus who wasn't going to bullshit Congress, nor a Mukasey who won't play along with the assembled chickenhawks.

If Mukasey wants to buy a little credibility for a whiz-bang finish to the hearings, he ought to head down to Guantanimo and experience a little waterboarding for himself. Then he can lay the question of whether or not it's torture to rest on an experiential basis.

Actually, since our Commander-in-Chief has such cojones grandes, we should probably start with him. I'm sure it wouldn't faze him a bit. He and El Cheney could go on a field trip.

Now there's something that definitely should start at the top.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Bush Replaces Meat Inspectors with St. Adrian

President Bush fired hundreds of USDA meat inspectors today and replaced them with statues of St. Adrian, patron saint of butchers. "These will be on the floor of every meat packing house," he declared jubilantly.

"What I mean to illustrate today is the power of prayer," the President told a stunned audience at the annual meeting of the Nebraska Cowbelles. "It's important to take our faith-based initiatives to the next level."

The president dismissed criticisms of such groups as the Food and Water Watch organization, which recently pointed out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has blocked meatpackers from implementing their own mad cow testing programs. According to the group, the US has permitted mad cow vulnerable Canadian cattle into its meat supply and has permitted meatpackers to take such short cuts on unsanitary meat as irradiation and the dipping of carcasses in toxic disinfectants.

"The simple fact is that the cows aren't mad or contaminated; they're sinful. And sinful cows won't respond to all this mental health claptrap and federal regulation. What they need are our prayers. St. Adrian is going to drive the demons right out of those so-called mad and dirty cows."

Mr. Bush advised American households to install St. Adrian statues, which are available from, in their own kitchens. "We can't be too careful about imports, since we only inspect about 1 per cent of 'em, and we haven't prayed over any of them. You will need to provide Christian correction to any products coming from non-Christian nations."

Advisor Ann Coulter added that meat coming from Israel would still need Christian "perfection."

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Viva, Rio Blanco!

Last night was our village's annual Halloween parade, and what a jolly event it was.

I live in White River Junction, one of the less affluent towns of the Upper Connecticut Valley. We're near the more prosperous Norwich, VT and the wildly affluent Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College. WRJ hosts the county's social service offices, has several thrift stores, and nicknames from other towns that I won't even post here. When our football team beats those of richer towns, they cheer, "That's all right, that's okay, you'll be working for us someday."

Suffice it to say that we're poor cousins.

So it was with great glee that my darlin' and I have been witnessing the adoption of WRJ by a group of artists who see great potential here. One guy bought the old Tip-Top bakery building and revamped it for artist studios
and high tech businesses, with a nice dollop of public service (the local public access TV station and the Turning Point Club, a large AA meeting place). Matt Bucy (seen here on his trusty, two legged steed) is the Mayor of Merriment in WRJ, which he and his buddies have nicknamed Rio Blanco. They even printed tee shirts saying, "White River Junction: it's not so bad." Aside from running the Tip Top, Matt has his own movie company, Unwatchable Films.

Since Matt's inventive efforts, other creative businesses have moved in, other buildings have been renovated. The Center for Cartoon Studies offers a college for cartoonists. Garry Trudeau was here last Monday in a fundraiser for the school. Last night the parade took us past a whole new area that we hadn't even been aware of--lots of exercise, martial arts, and wellness businesses, more artist studios, a tapas bar.

Of course, I digress. (What is this blog but a series of digressions?) Last night's party was delightful--a fire organ which plays eerie music from an application of a torch to its pipes, an energetic and skillful band called Pariah Beat, some wild women in a walking bathtub, along with spacemen, ghosts, neon fireflies on tall posts, people on stilts and stilt ponies, the Statue of Liberty, drummers, bagpipe players, guitarists, and a cast of thousands. (OK, hundreds. This is Vermont, after all.)

We came home delighted with the quirky path that our town is on and very glad to be here.

Viva, Rio Blanco!

Friday, October 26, 2007


His Kind of Disaster

DUBYA: Hi there. What's yer name?
VICTIM 1: Scott.
DUBYA: Scott? Scotty? Scotch tape? How 'bout I call ya Sticky? My name, BTW, is Mister President.
SCOTT: I know, Mister President. It was nice of you to come out today.
DUBYA: No problem at all, Sticky. This looks like a real nice place you used t'have. Is that a tile roof I see at my feet?
VICTIM 2: It sure is, Mister President. It was a beautiful, Mediterranean style split-level.
DUBYA: 'Scuse me a minute, Sticky. I got to spread the love here. What's yer name, Little Lady?
VICTIM 2: Lorraine.
DUBYA: (gallantly) A purty name for a purty lady, Lainie. Come on now--group hug!
LORRAINE: I can't believe it's really you! We voted for you --both times!
DUBYA: Well, yeah, Lainie. You can bet your Bible I wouldn't be here if you hadn't. The time of the President of the United States of America can't be spent just anywhere. And I'm countin' on you to bring this state into the fold in '08. I was talkin' to my friend God just this morning, and He told me why He smited you with a thousand blazes. Y' let him down, Sticky, when this state ended up in the blue column both times! (He gives him a sharp little squeeze). He was not well pleased, Sticky!
SCOTT: (still in the clinch, muffled) I'm sorry, Mister President. We did the best we could.
DUBYA: (a little absently) Well, that's all right, Sticky. (Releases him) I'm lookin' forward to your rebuildin' this place, and I'm lookin' forward to eatin' dinner with you when you do.
LORRAINE: You'd really come, Mister President?
DUBYA: Well, sure. You're m'base, after all. You're white, well off, and I can sense that you hate to pay taxes. Is that a little burned down stable down there? I thought so. Did you getcher horses out? Good, good. I feel comfortable with you. Comfortable with your income.Comfortable with Arnold. Yall'll invite Arnold, too, won't you, now?
LORRAINE (breathlessly): Of course, Mister President!
DUBYA: Y'know, I had my own little tragedy this mornin on my way out here. I scalded the roof of my mouth when m'coffee was too hot. (Opens his mouth) You can see right here how red it is. Dang! It hurt like grasshoppers!
LORRAINE: Yes, it's very red. Poor Mister President! You certainly have suffered.
DUBYA: But it's gonna heal, because I'm a optimist. Optimism heals things, and I'm optimistic about your house. It's gonna rise again! About the time the surge restores order to Iraq, that's when your house will be rebuilt and we'll all be enjoyin' a nice meal right on this terrace!
SCOTT: You'll be our first guest!
DUBYA: That's First Guest to you, Sticky.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Truth? Never Touch the Stuff

Are these things intentional?

In today's Valley News we have the following headlines:

White House Slashes Testimony on Climate Change Impacts, and
Troop, Civilian Deaths in Iraq Drop Again.

In the first article we learn that the White House deleted 10 pages of a 14 pages from a report by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the impact of climate change and global warming on health. All references to health were dropped; only sections on the CDC's efforts at preparedness were left in.

It's 'cause, you know, the president is an Optimist. No need to bum out the American people on things he's not going to do anything about, anyway.

In the second, we are supposed to believe that "October is on course to record the second consecutive decline in U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths and American commanders say they know why: the I.S. troop increase and an Iraqi groundswell against al-Qaida and Shiite militia extremists."

Would we be likely to hear anything else?

In yr dreams.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


When Lulu Gets the Blues

It's been a tough week. I've fallen behind in work on my novel. I've been so dispirited that I haven't been entirely certain that it mattered whether I worked on it or not.

The lingering warm spell has me focused on global warming--the colors
muted here, rather than the screaming reds, oranges, and golds that filled mountainsides when I first moved to New England; the knowledge that certain corporate SOBs are just waiting for the polar ice cap to melt in order for them to move in and mine the minerals that lie beneath it, penguins and polar bears be damned; the fear I feel for folks who already live in the hot tropics whose lives may be altered even more than ours.

You can see where I've been.

Depression has always been a problem for me, and of course, world events are always there to stoke the fires, dig the pits. Several years ago I was propped up on 325 mg of Effexor a day. Since retirement and sobriety, I usually manage nicely on 75 mg. Usually.

Last night I was reading Jennifer Ackerman's wonderful book, Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body, and I remembered that I hadn't been getting enough exercise. So off Maddie-dog and I went to our favorite local hiking trail, Hurricane Wildlife Refuge.

We hiked in and made for the Monument Trail, one of three trails created by the YCC and the Boy Scouts. Sunlight poured
through the trees, and we strode along, pleased with the shush-shush sounds of our feet pushing through the fallen leaves. We roamed through the hardwood forest, then the soft wood firs, the latter opening up to a wide vale that reminded me of a big room with a brook running through, then back through a final stand of hardwood, down to the pond, and home.

On the way back down we passed a little meeting area, with logs laid out for benches... or pews. If it's a church, I'd like to be confirmed in it. Maddie kindly skirted a big, muddy area, the sort she often likes to roll in, and we made our way back to the parking area.

Our modest hike has brought me back to myself, although I am not by any means "over" my environmental concerns. I simply have immersed myself in what is worth saving and am hoping and working toward helping others to see that it is worth saving, too. Caving into depression isn't going to get me anywhere.

There's the church, folks. Let us pray. Actively!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Hunka, Hunka, Hunka Burnin' Love

I suppose Fred Thompson couldn't resist the entreaties of his little lady when she ragged on him to run for President.

It's a lot like being encouraged to wear the clothes that you should no longer wear: best done in the privacy of your own home.

It's sort of difficult to run for President in your own home, but it could probably turn into great boudoir fun with the right accessories.

On the stump (see how much more exciting that word is in this context?), the Man Who Ought to Lead the Free World could be naked for his speechifyin' and debatin'. During debates he could take on all the roles of his opponents, or in a an open marriage, he could bring his opponents into the nuptial chamber. The master bedroom could be draped in red, white, and blue bunting. Wifey could don one of those patriotic straw hats you see at national conventions and act out the role of the libidinous campaign worker. They could play sound effects CDs of the crowd going wild. Thank you! Thank you! God Bless America! The band could strike up "You're a Grand Old Flag."

Why should a mere few alpha males with governmental experience and a massive sense of entitlement have the experience of a presidential run? Let every man feel the possibilities of the potential president! Every woman should be a our next first lady!

And Fred is just the fella to lead the way.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I'm Not Bitter--Really.

One of the best things about flying is flipping through the Sky Mall catalog. On the way home from DC I tried to engage my spouse in finding the most useless object offered for sale, but she tends to lose focus quickly.

It's just as well. She's really very sensitive to sexist slights, and if she'd seen these gravity-defying shoes, she might have been furious that they are offered only to men. If she had seen the many features available to that other sex, such as the Hidden Height Enhancer, or the Industrial Grade Master Spring, or the High Grade Polymer Sole, I don't know what she would have done. We might have gotten kicked off the flight.

I should probably point these stylin' shoes out to my friend, Zippie, who has been quite footwear minded in recent weeks. Even though they are for guys, perhaps she'd like to slip on a pair for her final days at what has turned out to be a most disappointing workplace. She could defy gravity as she strode the halls those last times, armed to the teeth with the following:

That's right, consumers--a marshmallow gun! I'm sure that this worthy weapon is covered by the Second Amendment, and it might do Zippie a world of good to fire away on that final day. If nothing else, she could develop a new line of Ultimate, X-treme S'mores.

It's so wonderful to live in the USA where consumer options include a fine firearm like this one.

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

You don't have to be, since Elvis is alive and well and morphed into a robot. He's dressed handsomely (if partially) in the black leather of his '68 comeback and ready to entertain you and your chums with some of your favorite songs! You can remain in the court of the King for life!

As a semi-retired old biddy on a budget, I can't quite decide whether I can choose between having Elvis serenade me on 8 "D" batteries, or whether I'd just prefer to give my trailer hitch a sense of humor with a Don't Shoot! Deer waving desperately from atop its ball. Or shall I shoot my wad on an E-Z Chord Kit that will have me playing my favorite songs on the guitar in just one hour with one finger?

So you see, I'm not bitter. If I can't wear gravity defying shoes without looking like a diesel dyke, I can accompany Elvis, and with only one finger.

It's still a beautiful world.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Bits of Thirst

As I came home last night and shuffled through my photos, I did find a vein to mine or pierce or whatever one does with veins these days. I borrow the title Bits of Thirst from that estimable collection of poems by Jack Marshall of over 20 years ago… most of us could use a cool drinka water. The inhabitants of DC are like the rest of us, only more so, what with that free speech and all:

Taxation Without Representation—what’s more un-American than that? It’s enough to get tea dumped in harbors. It’s actually on DC license plates here, and I wonder how advocates ever pushed it through. Of course, there are a few Celebrate and Enjoy DC plates on very late model Cadillacs, but Tax w/o Rep is much more standard. All these uppity Democrats trying to get a voice. Folks in DC pay federal taxes and then have no say in how much the District will get, nor how what they do get will be spent. Stickers calling attention to this are common on trash cans in the neighborhoods, but not down in the Capitol area. The sign says DC Ballot Box: Your Votes Go Here!

Shopworn Communism—We saw this chipped Lenin on the front of a building that didn’t look as if it had been rented lately. Still nice to see an old image powering the people. I want to say to the politicians: remember the people?

Rule of Law?!?--I met the gentleman down in front of the Justice Building. He’s been there for over some time, trying to get some action on what he says are his share of profits from his patents. He had a row of red-lettered boards stating his case, topped with American flags, and bagpipes blasted from a little boombox.

His grievances weren’t always coherent to the casual observer, but his passion was heartfelt. Along with the patents was something about his sister’s kidney and Mother Theresa and her successor. He wanted to give them the millions in income that his patents had generated. Ashcroft wasn’t interested; neither was Little Al. I don't think that the new guy will be, either. Remember--it all starts at the top.

Me, I like a series of red-lettered billboard that uses at least one “turdhead” on them.

Power Pets Only, Pleeze--Not far from the Justice Building is the Commerce Department, which seems to have influenced the selection of entertainment at the National Aquarium next door. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium of my homeland, we gather to watch the feeding of the sea otters. I guess so close to K Street, an emphasis on sharks, piranhas, and alligators was inevitable. What do they feed them? Visitors' poodles? Eeeek. Better to save the otters for Cute with Chris. These are certainly not kinder nor gentler times.

So that’s my little slice of DC. The people were lovely, especially in the neighborhoods, the sights singular.

I miss y’already.

It's home we go to object strenuously to the bombing of Iran! (Read Seymour Hersch's article in this week's New Yorker to behold the administration's thinking (or lack of it) justifying the attack on Iran. Cheney's back to writing fiction.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


More DC

I'm sitting in the Mocha Hut, a great place for breakfast in the Logan Circle area. As I said in yesterday's post, this is Duke Ellington country. In fact, the very wi-fi that makes this post possible comes from the Ellington Building next door. I just downed another plate of the Tuscan breakfast--a slice of roasted portabello mushroom, scrambled eggs with provolone, and two slices of polenta. Ecstasy! Truly something we can't get at home.

Sitting here makes me think of that exchange in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. How come you ain't got no brothas on the wall? Lots of brothers on this wall--several paintings of Marvin Gaye on one wall, Jimi Hendrix on the other. Even Dorothy Dandridge stands behind this unbelievably handsome guy romancing his Blackberry. (The picture can't do him justice, but I don't want to piss him off with repeated flashes.)

Should you ever come to DC in search of a pleasant and reasonable place to stay, I recommend Logan Circle. Nice old buildings, great food. The guest house in which we're staying, Cardozo Guesthouse, is reasonable, lovely, on a nice residential street. Decorated handsomely with African masks.

Tonight's our last night--we're going to see a play by Fugard in the Studio Theater. We went to a reading of a play by
Lanford Wilson there last Saturday, and it was great. A lovely place, and in walking distance, too.

I must make the most of this last day in DC. Yesterday I hopped a bus out to the Anacostia area in search of St. Elizabeth's hospital, which figures into what Anne Lamott would refer to in her book on writing, Bird by Bird as my Shitty First Draft of a novel. As it turns out, St E is being taken over by the Department of Homeland Security, or at least the older part of the campus is, the part with the great view of the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, the part with the historical buildings of where soldiers in the Civil War were given treatment. The general public will never see them again, no doubt.

Anyway, I must be doing something right, Annie! It really is a shitty first draft!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Ah, DC

When you live in what is demographically, officially the whitest state in the union, it's heaven to get back to being around other cultures.

I remember when I was talking to the superintendent who gave me my first job in Vermont. "We don't have have any trouble with minorities because we don't have much in the way of minorities," he told me with misplaced satisfaction.

I came from a district enriched by Hispanics, Filipinos, and a few African-Americans, which was a very good thing, since we were rounded out by the descendents of Okies, some of whom had stills somewhere on their Prunedale properties. "I kiulled me a Mexican once," a father actually told me once in a parent conference.

As usual, I digress. We dined on soul food last night, and the neighborhood in
which we're staying is nicely diverse. Duke Ellington actually lived down the street from ages 11 to 18 and returned to stay in a first class hotel in segregated Washington once everybody new who he was. Anyhow, I love seeing other races and cultures. The folks at whom I steal admiring glances can't possibly know how good it is to see them. The pictures here are murals at the local Metro station.

Interestingly, DC license plates bear the motto, Taxation Without Representation. How's that for institutionalized irony?

This ain't a rapturous review of DC, but it's full of respect. Yes sir. Yes ma'am.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Seeking the Tools of Protest

After my botched attempt to attend a too-early (for New England) war protest in DC earlier the year, I was happy to be attending one that would not be snowed out.This protest was an add-on to a trip to DC that my spouse and I had already planned. Then Sydney told me that there was going to be a Big March, and voila! I could raise my voice at last!

Our toes fairly twinkled in the steps we took to get there; us up early, the drive easy, the flight on time, the transition from the plane to the train rolling off without a hitch, our hoofing it down the path from Louisiana Avenue to the Capitol and Reflecting Pool, accomplished at warp speed. Too good!

Mother Nature cooperated, even blessed us. A good day to
gather! It was a lovely, sunny day with lots of breeze to ripple the surface of the water and the rainbow flags for peace. Exclaim/Declaim! We walked on the tiers around the pool while speakers blared (speakers speaking on speakers always blare, given the properties of outdoor sound systems), trying to rev up the crowd into sounding as if there were sufficient thousands of them capable of giving rise to the People’s Thunder.

There weren’t. There were maybe a thousand people, quite a few of them selling t-shirts. Down the Mall Laura Bush was hosting a book fair, complete with famous arthurs and a chance for children to meet their favorite book --or TV!-- character. No child left behind!

As a former English teacher, I am painfully aware that the nation isn't so filled with devoted readers as to have to make a painful choice between the two. The turnout sucked.

If there weren’t big numbers for marching –on the White House this time, rather than the Pentagon last spring—there were some interesting individuals along the way. A few folks were in the tradition of political theater: Mister Death took two incarnations. Three achingly sincere young women paid tribute to the real victims of the war—Iraqis, soldiers, and the families they left behind, silent, haunting..

Then there were some cute baby dykes with naughty banners connecting sex and war to Bush’s icky libido. A woman rapped next to a flag-draped coffin.

Like so many coalition efforts, this was a multi-purpose demonstration, all our resentments, frustrations, and petitions rolled into one event. All our second chances. A free Palestine. Health care, not warfare. Justice for Katrina victims. Free the Jena Six. The Socialists were passing out free newspapers. It felt more like an opportunity than an action. In a couple of more weeks, they informed us, we will gather together to shut down the Capitol.

I’m not betting on that. Not with butchers in the White House. We're so many sides of beef to them.

I have to say it all felt weary and thin, just a crowd that couldn’t find its voice because it needed more voices. “It may be that everything’s shifted,” said my spouse as we finally walked away. “Maybe it’s about electronic petitions that flash around the country.” We sure hadn’t heard any oration. One guy scolded us, a few exhorted us with clichés. That’s not oration.

Still, it’s important to show up. Showing up is half to two-thirds of living, depending on who you’re quoting. I’m just not sure what form showing up needs to take in my golden years.

Except paying attention. If you’re not paying attention it makes no difference where you are. You aren’t there. And there's lots to pay attention to.

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