Monday, May 31, 2004

Two quick news items for your Memorial Day dinner discussions:

Iraqis Chafe at U.S. Block on Choice of President: Yep, the occupation will soon be over, and the Iraqi's will have complete control over their own government. That means they get to choose their own leaders. But only if they guess right. Free to choose, as long they choose the guy that Washington has in mind.

Cheney Office 'Coordinated' Halliburton Deal -Time: No surprise, of course, but a leaked memo puts no doubt to the question of whether or not the Vice President is still working on behalf of Halliburton.

You may go back to your grills now.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Word is that John Kerry has called in Big Bill Clinton to hit the campaign trail for the last few months of the contest. Many in the Kerry camp were against the idea. Not for the same reasons Al Gore separated himself from Clinton (Monica, Whitewater) but for the same reason that others in the Kerry camp want Clinton: He has a personality.

Which brings us to something I've been feeling for months now, and have just got to say. The presidential campaign that John Kerry most seems to be most emulating is that of Bob Dole in 1996.

So, will the addition of Big Bill prop the candidate up, or overshadow him completely?

The danger, they say, is in appealing only to the yellow-dog Democrats who will vote for Kerry whether or not he has a pulse, and turning off the swing voters. The thing to remember, in that case, is that it's the swing voters who helped Clinton defeat Bush Sr. and the afore-mentioned Senator Dole.

Will Willie's magic work again? I think it might. It sure as Hell can't hurt at this point.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Sorry to be a little slow to post a reaction, but I'm still a bit under the effects of surgery. Anyway, did you happen to catch that presidential address the other night?

Somebody is getting desperate to have us believe he knows what he's doing, and I think it's the President. Unfortunately, the setting of the speech (the Army War College) didn't allow for any questions (not going to make that mistake again), but I have a few anyway:

1 - If major fighting supposedly ended a year ago, why has it taken until now to come up with a plan for a quick turnover?

2 - If we are hand-picking the new Iraqi government, keeping 138,000 troops in country, and their soldiers must do as our commanders say, how can we claim that the "occupation is over" on June 30?

3 - Are they (the Bush administration) so stupid, so off on their own planet, so out of touch with reality, that they really believe any of this will work?

I had others, but I took some pain pills and managed to forget them. I'll have to take some more pain pills to try to forget the speech.

Right now I'm more concerned with the big vote. Who will it be? And was the vote fixed? Some claim electronic voting eliminates fraud, others say it only makes it easier. I think this is far too important a choice to leave up to untested technology.

Of course, I'm talking about American Idol. Not that other meaningless election coming up in a few months. No, the important question is Fantasia or Diana... Who's our New American Idol?

Anyway. Yesterday I was back at the gastroenterologist, and I'm scheduled to have the ERCP next Tuesday. What the deal is is that they got the gall bladder out last Friday, but there's still a stone (or more) floating around the bile duct irritating my liver and causing all sorts of trouble.

The ERCP is an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography procedure (but you knew that); they stick a tube down my throat through the stomach and duodenum to the common bile duct opening, where it goes on a search and destroy mission to locate, photograph, and eliminate the rogue stone(s) before they hit the pancreas and cause real trouble. But I get to go home right after.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Well, I just had an interesting long weekend. Here's just the quick recap for the record, before I forget:

Thursday night I woke up at about 11:55 PM with severe abdominal pain. By 12:15 my vomiting had woken Leslie up, and she had the presence of mind to call the late night advice nurse from our doctor's office.

The advice she had was to take me to the emergency room immediately. Between 1:00 and 4:00 AM I had lots probes and tests, culminating with an ultrasound that identified several large gall stones, including one in the neck of the gall bladder, blocking the bile duct. Ouch.

Calls were made to find a surgeon associated with my medical group, and Friday morning at 10:00 AM, they removed my gall bladder. Which, they kept reminding me, is the third most popular surgery in America today. After awakening Friday afternoon, I wrote the following song:

They'll stone you when you're at the kitchen table
They'll stone you for having bacon with your bagel
They'll stone you for eating fatty foods
They'll stone you and you'll think that it is rude
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody gets gall stones...

Okay, it still needs a little work. But I was highly sedated at the time.

The sent me home Saturday evening, reluctantly. My enzyme levels are apparently still way off, so I'll be going back for more testing and an ERCP procedure over the next few days to a week or so.

Meanwhile, I lounge around the house like a geriatric rap star: I'm wearing sweats, but with the pants halfway down my butt, because I can't pull them up to the incision in my belly button.

Why I don't have my regular computer with my address book is another story - Let's just say my iBook went into the emergency room a couple of hours before I did.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The first of the US Military Police to be sentenced in the Iraqi abuse scandal just received a one-year prison term. This hardly seems enough, although he faced the least charges of the seven indicted. I'll wait to see what the others get before I call the whole thing a joke.

"But Ken," I hear some of you thinking, "they were just following orders!"

That's a familiar excuse. It's the same one used by the Nazi defense at the war crimes trials that followed the Second World War. The principals set forth at that time, and incorporated in international law, clearly stated that immoral or illegal orders should not be followed, and are no excuse or defense.

So, yes, even though I have a certain amount of sympathy for them and the position they were put in by their superiors, I still think these seven need to serve their prison terms. But that's not enough. It's barely a start.

New reports in Newsweek and elsewhere document that top administration officials knew exactly what they were doing when they argued that the Geneva Conventions do no apply in this war.

It's not enough for these seven to go to jail. It's not enough for Rumsfeld to resign. It's not enough for Bush to be defeated in November. There needs to be real war crimes trials before an international court, and the real price needs to be paid. And we need to enter it as a nation willingly and without reserve.

It's the only way to regain our position in the world. Without it, we have no credibility at all - and we have damn little of it now as it is.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Civil Rights Landmarks Today: It's the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated American schools, and the first fully-legal same-sex marriages are being held in Massachusetts.

Today's breakthroughs are likely to lead to legal challenges which may still end up before the Supreme Court. So, where was current Chief Justice Billy Rehnquist fifty years ago, when history was being made? He was a young law clerk writing a memo to his boss that said, “Plessy vs. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.”

You see, there are reasons why I'm not as optimistic about today's news as I should be.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Well, the book signing was pretty much of a bust; with three authors there we sold only a couple of books each. But, for those of you in the East Bay, I did leave six copies of Aaron's Intifada on consignment. The store is "A World of Books" at 137 Pelton Center Way in San Leandro. The rest of you can always order online, you know.

It was an interesting afternoon anyway, with some amusing characters stopping by to chat, and getting to know the author who organized the event, Jack Schroder, a bit better... maybe too much better...

Jack on the molestation of children by Catholic priests: "A survey shows that only 4% of priests are pedophiles. That's far lower than in the general population, so what's the big problem?" Questioned about how prevalent he thinks pedophilia is in society, Jack says, "about 80%," and points to a teenager in the immediate vicinity: "Take that girl there. You know she's being f***ed by an uncle or a brother..."

Later, pointing to another teenage girl who happens to be dressed provocatively: "Look at that. But if I tweaked her bottom, you know she'd be calling the cops in a second."

Jack, after selling one of his "children's books" to a very nice woman: "I just hope she doesn't flip out if her daughter starts asking questions about the prostitute." A prostitute in a "children's" book? "It's alright; she gets what she deserves in the end for her immorality."

Jack on immoral characters in general, in response to a question about one of his books that takes place in an AIDS hospice: "Four of the five men die for their immoral acts, but I let the one with a pure heart live."

Jack on his wife: "She thinks I'm a sociopath." Me to Jack: "She might be right."

Friday, May 14, 2004

Book Signing Tomorrow...

Saturday, May 15, I'll be at the "World of Books" bookstore in San Leandro (137 Pelton Center Way) with several other local, Bay Area authors.

Beginning at noon, I'll be signing (and selling, we hope) copies of my "Aaron's Intifada and Other Short Stories."

Hope to see you there...

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Improvements at

I've been having a little fun exploring the updated site and some of the improvements to the system.

One new feature (or at least, one I've never noticed before) is user profile pages. Taking a look at my profile we can see that I've been blogging since April 2001, averaging three posts per week. I've written 138,079 words over 572 posts with 776 outbound links. Of course, that will all change once I post this.

From my profile page, you can also click on any of my interests, or favorite books, etc., and find other bloggers who share those passions. Like-minded people can now more easily find each other, but is that an improvement? Does that make the world smaller by bringing us all closer together? Or does that just help to isolate us in our own small portion of the big, scary world?

Of course, my small portion is really damn small. A few of my favorite books and movies pull up a list of just me. Turns out, I am unique after all.

(Small twist: while the site has been improved, I'll be less likely to visit it, as I'm now able to more easily post directly through email. It's ironic. You know; like rain on your wedding day?)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Trying to Think Positive

"I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and I thought: What the hell good would that do?" - Ronnie Shakes

Every day I wake up and try to find a way to feel better about the world, and get motivated to go out and do my work, but it's not always so easy. I don't even know how to approach yesterday's beheading of American Nick Berg in Iraq. How do I go about any of the trivial things that are on my to-do list today when such things are possible?

Of course, some of my fellow citizen's reaction - even peace-loving progressive citizens - is quite understandably, "Let's kill those SOBs, torture them, then kill them again." Of course; we're already doing that. And that is the purported reason for the beheading of Nick Berg.

Before the Berg story broke yesterday, there was the story of the Senator from Oklahoma who was "outraged over the outrage" over our treatment of Iraqi POWs. Defending the torture and humiliation, he thought it was nobody's business but our own, and nobody had a right to criticize us. I, of course, was outraged at his outrage over the outrage.

And so it builds, and so it goes. Snowballs, dominoes, whatever metaphor you prefer. There appears to be no end to this growing cycle of violence.

When all outside seems hopeless and impossible, the best thing we can do is look inside ourselves and try to find some small kernel of the goodness we'd like the world to reflect. As Gandhi put, "Be the change you want to see."

In these cynical times, that may seem incredibly naïve and futile. But it's better than the alternatives of giving in to the violence or simply giving up.

"When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world." - Inscribed on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abby (1100 A.D.)

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Gee - I've only just started posted here again, and already I'm getting email from my regular readers commenting on my return. I got to admit that I'm actually surprised by that. I would have thought everybody had given up on checking the page for new posts.

One of those comments came from an online friend who - after welcoming me back online - shared her experiences with local political corruption that led to her withdrawing from the process and boycotting the ballot box. Here's part of my response...

I can't say that I blame you for joining the slumber party. Similar experiences and disappointments - from Gary Hart to Bill Clinton, and a dozen lesser names in the decade between - led to my abandoning the two-party duopoly in 1994.

I still vote: so what? Most people would say I generally waste my vote, and I've had to defend my 2000 support of Ralph Nader constantly to those who attack me as if I were solely responsible for everything that W does. But my feeble statement makes me feel better than not voting. Whatever.

This year, I'm expecting to return to the Democratic fold. It's not that I'm expecting to feel good about voting for John Kerry, or expect him to do anything other than disappoint me for the next four to eight years, I just want to be able to travel overseas and am terrified to so with the enemies that the present regime is making.

And so, with that level of de-thusiasm (what is the opposite of enthusiasm?), you can see why it's been hard to keep up the blogging.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

I'm not always angry. Really. It just seems that way because anger is a good inspiration for blog entries. Even then, I'm never really as angry as it comes across online; it's just that I have a certain way of getting my point across sometimes. With a large mallet.

Today what set me off was a lovely little picture frame in a overly-precious gift shop. Written in a circle surrounding the area where one would put the photo was the inscription, "There's nothing wrong with the world that a competent woman couldn't fix in an afternoon."

Now, I'm not going to give you any anti-feminist, ditto-head crap. You know me too well to expect that here. But come on. Give me a freakin' break here. That's over-simplifying the problems of the world just a tad, and explaining it away with a little bit of sexism, impugning the competence (and possibly the motive) of all men.

This sort of garbage may make some nitwit somewhere smile as she frames the graduation photo of her highly competent, but soon to be disappointed with the world daughter, but it does absolutely nothing to actually identify the person (woman or not) who's competent enough to pull off such a stunt in one afternoon.

Like it or not, even our positive stereotypes of female values being all about peace and common sense are more often than not proven wrong by those women who do end up in positions of great power. The Margaret Thatchers of the world are more likely to be elected to leadership positions than the Pat Schroeders. Sad, but true.

I wish we did have a woman (or even a man) who could fix everything - I'd even give her or him two or three afternoons to do it in. But, unfortunately, the choices we have are not so perfect. And that's what gets me angry.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

So where the Hell have I been? I don't know. I have no excuses for having seemingly abandoned my blog. None at all. So there you have it. I've fallen down on my commitment to you, my dear reader.

In these two-and-a-half months off have I used the time to write the great American novel? No. Haven't done that yet. Have I been working around the clock? Not quite. I wish. I mean, I've been busy. Certainly. But not quite working around the clock. Hell, I'm my own boss these days, so it's not like I need to make excuses about using five minutes of time to post in my blog. But I haven't.

I think I'm going to blame W for my absence. Yes. That's it. It's all W's fault.

Why take the time to point out the absurdity of the current political state of society? It's gotten to the point where it's either painfully obvious to anybody with a brain that we're living in surreal times, or any potential reader will have already become numb to the lies and doesn't want to hear anything that will jar them back into consciousness. I know I don't.

It's just too painful to pay attention anymore ... and that's probably just part of their plan. Lately I seem to have adopted a line from an Adrian Belew song as my guide: "I've seen enough / Now I'm willing to be out of touch." The only news source I trust is the Daily Show on Comedy Central. The sick and sad part is that I'm not kidding.

But the world clamors for active bloggers, and who am I to disappoint? So pull myself out of this torpor I must. Not for my sake alone, but for yours, and yours, and yours. I'm back.

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