Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An Elegant Solution to a Weighty Problem

Tomorrow is my quarterly visit to the doctor. My cholesterol will be checked, as will my liver, to make sure the cholesterol medication isn’t killing me faster than the cholesterol. It’s also time for the annual “Senator Larry Craig does this every day but he’s not gay” digital prostate exam.

The prostate I can live with. Too many people have called me an asshole for too long for me to take offense. It’s the damned cholesterol and the dance my doctor and I will go through that’s wearing thin.

DOCTOR: Hmm, weight’s still up at 245.

ME: Yep. I’ve been meaning to exercise, but things have been busy. Work schedule’s bad, no time for walks, eating on the run sometimes.

DOCTOR: I know it’s tough, but those triglycerides are still high. Need to cut back on the sweets. Or there’s another prescription I can write that could help there.

That’s enough. I already take enough drugs every morning that I don’t feel as though I’m skipping breakfast; I’m full.

Here’s my gripe. I don’t smoke, do unprescribed drugs, or engage in indiscriminate and/or risky sexual behavior. My total alcohol intake is about a case of beer a year. The house bottle of Jack Daniel’s lasts, on average, three years. I drink no coffee, decaffeinated tea, and caffeine-free Coke when it’s available. I have one vice. (Aside from the asshole thing noted above.) I like chocolate. Sweets in general, but especially chocolate. It’s my preferred form of stress relief.

When I get stressed, I don’t come home, do a couple of lines of coke, drink half a bottle of Jack, and shove the Crazy Like Me Correspondent around. I eat a Hershey bar. With almonds, if I feel like indulging myself. Sometimes, after a really tough day of wallowing in the trough of government waste and largesse, I need some ice cream, or even – dare I say it? – a milkshake.

Is that so bad? Should I have to die for it? Maybe Congress, instead of whoring themselves out to the highest bidder, should try doing something that will benefit everyone for a change. Maybe a program, like they have for polluters, where one company’s unused credits can be bought by a worse polluter. “Well, he doesn’t smoke or drink, and he stays clear of hookers. Okay, half a dozen Oreos.”

Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Some May Little Note Nor Long Remember August 22, But She Will

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 is a day The Sole Heir will not soon forget.

She opened by not just passing her driver’s test on the first try, but getting a license photo she likes. Granted, she photographs well, but she’ll learn as time goes on that the Maryland MVA hires photographers who were fired by the Department of Corrections for taking unflattering mug shots.

Next came another special occasion: her first major league doubleheader. Seeing two games for the price of one is a cherished memory of my adolescence. Twin bills are rare now, unless they clear the yard after Game One so they can resell the seats for Game Two. Seeing two games for the price of one was a new experience for her. She was jazzed.

I had planned to watch at least part of the games so we could compare notes. I turned on the game, saw they were losing 14-3, and went upstairs to read before chancing Game Two.

Five minutes later the phone rang.

SOLE HEIR: Are you watching the game?

ME: I was going to, but I saw it was 14-3, Texas.

SOLE HEIR: Well, it’s 16-3 now. (Uproar drowns out voice. I hear her shouting to her mother, “Was that a grand slam?”) They just hit another grand slam. It’s 20-3.

She called back between games to ask if I could find out whether losing 30-3 was a record. (It was, for the American League. In the National League, where they still play real baseball as God intended for it to be played, the record for runs in a game is 36.)

She drove herself to school the next day on three hours sleep. Not easily daunted, she called me Friday morning to ask about the dinner out I promised her for passing her test.

“Am I limited to the usual list of restaurants?” she said.

“What do you have in mind?” I said, visions of Morton’s or The Palm dancing through my head.

“How about Camden Yards?”

So we went to the game again Friday night. And the Os lost again. She went back today with her mother, as her birthday gift for a friend. They lost all four game she saw this week. That means it will be at least the day after tomorrow before she starts politicking to go to another game. I say this with great confidence, because the Birds are off tomorrow.

That’s my girl.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bush, Iraq and Vietnam

Our Fearless Leader, the great and powerful George Dubya “Bring it On” Bush, has reached another low in puzzling and scary statements. This week he said we need to stay in Iraq because it’s like Vietnam, and "One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens…”

Gee, Dubya, we’ve only been telling you Iraq is like Vietnam for three years now. Nice to see you’re finally with the program. Except, he’s not. Read his statement again. In Bushland, our biggest mistake in Vietnam was not staying long enough.

Let’s not forget, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney combined spent no more time in Vietnam than I did. Only difference was, I was only twelve years old at the time of the Tet Offensive. The saddest part is that we’ve reached a point where it’s no longer disappointing for either of them to such statements. It’s just business as usual.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part II

You know how you can tell you’ve had a great vacation? When you’re paying the bills with a smile on your face because reading the credit card statement reminds you of what you did.

Here’s the gas we bought on the way to the tour of Camden Yards. Dinner at Famous Dave’s. The boat ride on the Potomac. Lunch at the Smithsonian. The liquor store to buy the beer for the cookout. Souvenir shop at the Football Hall of Fame.

My brother has his receipts; so do my parents. Nothing special. No safaris, or hang gliding onto a glacier. No one rappelled into the Grand Canyon, though I suspect my younger niece might be game if someone put it to her in the right way.

It was just three generations of a family, ranging in age from twelve to eighty, who, unlike the great majority of families, genuinely enjoy each others’ company.

We don’t get together as often as we’d like. The Ancestral Correspondents still live in the family estate in western Pennsylvania. The Sibling Correspondent and his family are in Colorado. That’s a lot of ground to cover for a casual visit. It’s not nearly so far as you might think, though; not when everyone involved knows that a phone call would bring any one of us to do whatever was needed. There are families living across the street from each other who can’t say that.

You can’t get any closer.

Damn, that was fun.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Orwell? Or Giuliani?

From a March, 1994 speech by current Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani:

"We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do."

This is a much easier position to hold when you are the "lawful authority." Note his care in choosing words; he said, "lawful authority," not "Constitutional authority."

As the Crazy Like Me Correspondent put it (With a curtsy in the direction of George Orwell), "War is Peace - Freedom is Slavery - Ignorance is Strength."

If that is true, Dubya, Gonzo, and Rudy should each be able to kick Arnold Schwarzenegger's ass with one arm tied behind their backs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pat Tillman

Over 3,600 American servicemen and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. All of their sacrifices are significant and equal; none are more indicative of our involvement than that of Pat Tillman.

Tillman enlisted at the height of the greatest outburst of patriotism since December 8, 1941. Everyone who enlisted then, or since, gave up whatever life they might have had otherwise. Only Tillman walked away from a millions dollar career that would not be there when he returned.

His enlistment alone should have been enough to shame the Young (and Old) Republicans who beat the drums and waved the flag from the safety of this country. Tillman wasn’t finished; he joined Special Forces and went to Afghanistan.

He died there, a victim of friendly fire, much as the American effort to bring Osama bin Laden to justice died short of Tora Bora due to misguided priorities of the same leaders who swore so sincerely to protect the troops and ensure that no American casualty would be in vain. He was used even more cynically than his fallen comrades by those who promoted the war, as his presence was routinely trumpeted as symbolic of the best and the brightest this country had to offer, stepping up to shoulder a reasonable and justifiable burden.

The Bush Administration is no more forthcoming about what really happened to Tillman than it is about the true roots of the war. All that is left to his family are broken promises and lies, and a feeling that, no matter what the government admits to, the reality is worse. When what passes for truth dribbles out over months, each revelation more dismaying than before, how can anyone know which is the last, or if any can be believed past a certain point?

We’re no more likely to get answers about the larger questions than we are about Pat Tillman’s final moments, unless Congress finds the will to exert its Constitutional responsibilities and provide some effective checks and balances to the unitary executive. It won’t repay the debt we owe for the 3,600 lives this nation bilked from their rightful owners, but it’s a place to start.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'll Cialis, and Raise You One

Erectile dysfunction ads have always perplexed me. Not that I have a perfect record in that area; no one does. (Except maybe Barry Bonds. His never works.) It’s the ads themselves. To me, they never send the message they should be sending.

I’m thinking of an evening a few years ago. Levitra was running a television ad that consisted primarily of a man throwing a football through a tire. They never said what the product did. For all I knew, they were some kind of shoulder medication. Prevented rotator cuff inflammation, maybe. All I ever saw the guy do was throw the football. After several weeks of seeing this, curiosity got the better of me. The Sole Heir was thirteen or so, and chatting online with some friends. I asked her to look up levitra.com, just to see what it did. I’m sure most fathers would agree, there are few father-daughter bonding experiences like asking your barely teen-aged daughter to look up some dick medication.

Cialis has the current puzzling campaign. You’ve probably seen it. A middle-aged (of course) couple is walking through what appears to be an upscale restaurant district, presumably having just finished a dinner of raw oysters and arugula with ginseng dressing. Another middle-aged (of course) couple waves to them from a restaurant window. Damn! A social obligation, and Mr. ED has already dropped his lid of Cialis. What to do?

Never fear, says the sonorous voice-over. Cialis is good for up to thirty-six hours. Thirty-six hours!? How talky are these people? You can’t find a way to graciously extricate yourself from a conversation is less than a day and a half? Let’s face it, within half an hour, one of the women will have to go to the bathroom. The other one will go with her. Mr. ED will lean over to his soon-to-be-ex-friend and say, “Dude, the clock’s running on my meds. When they come back, shut the fuck up.”

While the couples chat, the voice-over lets you know that Cialis also works in as little as thirty minutes. If it works so fast, why not wait until you get home to take it, thus eliminating the risk of some chatty asshole ruining your fun? Was Mr. ED planning to bend Mrs. ED over the trunk of a car in the parking lot? Show some class, people.

A written disclaimer near the end of the commercial warns that Cialis is not intended to prevent the spread of AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. No kidding. Here’s a news flash: Cialis makes it easier to get an STD. What are your chances of getting AIDS if the hydraulics don’t work? Not none, but a lot less than if they do work and you’re not fussy enough about where and how you put them to use.

Like all Cialis ads, this one ends with the loving couple holding hands as they each recline in their respective claw-footed bathtubs in the back yard. I don’t know about you, but any time I’ve seen bathtubs in the yard, a car on blocks was nearby. Bathtubs in the yard are not an indicator of affluence; they would be found in any thorough compendium of “You Might be a Redneck If…” In addition, the people are always in separate bathtubs. Isn’t the purpose of Cialis to get them in the same bathtub?

Enzyte has much more effective commercials. This male enhancement product makes no bones about it: it works, Bob is happy, and Mrs. Bob is happier than Meg Ryan in the restaurant scene of When Harry met Sally. As everyone connected with the male enhancement industry knows, we only ingest these potentially dangerous chemicals into our systems to please our women, who, apparently, can’t get enough of us. Definitely guys who wrote these commercials..

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Protecting America

There are two major political parties in the United States: Thugs and Cowards. They masquerade as Republicans and Democrats, but today’s incarnations bear as little resemblance to the parties of Lincoln and Roosevelt (even Eisenhower and Johnson) as a giraffe does to a manatee.

Thugs will stoop to any depth to scare, browbeat, intimidate, vilify, or disparage anyone who disagrees with them. Think the war in Iraq was a bad idea? You’re a terrorist sympathizer who wants our brave troops not only to die, but to suffer first. Think we might want to consider raising enough money to pay for the myriad of pork projects written into law in the dark of night without any recorded votes? You’re an advocate of sending the working man to the poor house. Best plan for health care? Give all your money to private insurers and let them decide whether to provide care, or not.

Sounds pretty oppressive, doesn’t it? The Cowards are worse. A Coward never met a challenge he couldn’t back away from. This makes Cowards natural fodder for Thugs, since a Coward is an invertebrate that couldn’t stand up for what is right if he recognized it, which he’s afraid to do, because all viewpoints have value and merit in the eyes of a Coward. Wouldn’t want to invalidate someone’s true feelings. Sure, we believe in the Constitution, but the perspective of our Thug brethren has just as much validity, even though where the Bill of Rights says “yes” the Thugs say “no” and where the Bill of Rights says “no” the Thugs say “yes.” We may disagree in our hearts, but when it comes time to put our vote where our oath is, the word “threat” trumps “freedom” every time.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is straightforward: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It’s that ”no Warrants shall issue” part that hangs everyone up. Warrants require probable cause, and Thugs don’t want to fool around with that. They’ll decide who to search and seize, no impartiality required. How to get around that tricky language? Do away with warrants altogether.

Never mind that warrants have had a place in jurisprudence since the Magna Carta. Forget that we won two World Wars and the Cold War without disposing of them. This is different. A few thousand people died on one day six years ago; the values that made this country great must be put on hold so no more will join them. What about the hundreds of thousands who have died over the past two hundred-plus years to preserve that freedom? Brave men and women die in Iraq and Afghanistan every day, allegedly so we won’t have to fight here. Yet we freely sacrifice the liberties that make this country worth fighting for.

At the top of this page is a quote from a man who was largely responsible for the type of nation we once aspired to be. His words were never truer than they are now: Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security. All members of Congress swear an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. May those who voted for the Protect America Act spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders, for they have ensured none of us will truly know whether those who would prey upon us are foreign, or domestic.

For the Thugs, disdain, with a grudging respect for their ability to get their way. For the Cowards, nothing but contempt.