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November 30, 2005
Marine Corps 1 — Rumsfeld 0
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:06 PM *

From today’s Washington Post (via Daily Kos):

General: Americans Must Stop Iraqi Abusers

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 30, 2005; 3:19 AM

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top military man, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, said American troops in Iraq have a duty to intercede and stop abuse of prisoners by Iraqi security personnel.

When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld contradicted Pace, the general stood firm.

Rumsfeld told the general he believed Pace meant to say the U.S. soldiers had to report the abuse, not stop it.

Pace stuck to his original statement.

“If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it,” Pace told his civilian boss.

Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked what orders the troops have to handle such incidents [abuse of prisoners by Iraqi troops]. He responded: “It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it.”

He said soldiers who hear of but don’t see an incident should deal with it through superiors of the offending Iraqis.

That’s when Rumsfeld stepped to the microphone and said, “I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it. It’s to report it.”

Pace then repeated to Rumsfeld that intervening when witnessing abuse is the order the troops must follow, not just reporting it.

Do you know what we just saw? We just saw the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tell the Secretary of Defense to sit down and shut up. In public. In front of reporters.

To review the bidding:

Pace: “It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it.”

Rumsfeld:I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it. It’s to report it.”

Pace: “If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.”

This is bigger than you can imagine. Rumsfeld has lost the US military. There’s nothing left for him but to resign or get fired.

Schmidt billboard
Posted by Teresa at 03:04 PM * 94 comments

Never doubt that Howard Dean has a visceral sense of politics.

Posted by Teresa at 01:47 PM *

That’s “Visco” as in The Visual Index of SF Cover Art. It’s a wonky site, but potentially a great resource, especially if they come anywhere near their goal of putting up a cover image of every science fiction, fantasy, weird and horror magazine ever published in the English language.

They already have a substantial collection. Have a look. If you don’t know where to start, you might try Mel Hunter’s “Last Robot” series, published as F&SF covers between 1955 (that first one was a little clunky) and 1971:
Gardening, Oct. 1955 :: Phonebook, July 1957 :: Yoo-hoo!, Dec. 1959 :: Audiophile, May 1960 :: Wind-ups, Dec. 1960 :: Art museum, Aug. 1961 :: Santa Claus, Jan. 1962 :: Landscape, March 1964 :: Hotrod, Jan. 1970 :: Bookshelf, May 1970 :: Traffic light, Sept. 1970 :: Rowboat, Dec. 1970 :: Vanity, March 1971 :: Baseball, Oct. 1971 :: Punch & Judy, Dec. 1971.
I love those covers. Somebody ought to reissue them as prints.

November 24, 2005
Jon Singer’s turkey algorithm
Posted by Teresa at 01:18 PM *

“For a turkey of greater than ten pounds, the roasting time should be equal to 1.65 times the natural log of the weight of the bird in pounds, cooked at 325 F.”

I’m sure it’s terribly useful. Meanwhile, can someone for whom this is a trivially easy problem tell me what that comes out to for a nineteen-pound turkey?

[Recipe Index]

November 23, 2005
“As They Stand Up….”
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 08:45 AM * 54 comments

Sunni sheik, family members slain

Gunmen dressed as Iraqi troops stormed the home of a senior Sunni leader Wednesday, killing him, his three sons and a son-in-law, Iraqi police said. Neighbors told authorities that at least 10 Iraqi army vehicles stopped outside the western Baghdad house of Kadhim Sarheed Ali al-Dulami in the early hours of the morning.

Is there any reason at all to assume that these weren’t actual Iraqi troops, not play-acting insurgents “dressed as Iraqi troops”?

Those of us who recall the death squads of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have a pretty good idea what’s going on here.

Is this the first time we’ve seen death squads in Iraq? Hardly. From 27SEP05:

Five Shiite Teachers Killed in Iraq

In Iraq, five Shiite school teachers died Monday after gunmen dressed as police officers burst into their school, seized them and shot them in an empty classroom. The killings took place in a Sunni suburb of Baghdad.

If George and his pals want to know more, they can ask John Negroponte. I’m sure he can fill them in.

November 22, 2005
Forty-two Years
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:35 AM *

Forty-two years ago today, I was standing in the bus line at St. Patrick’s Parochial School in Bedford, New York, waiting to go home, when I heard the news that John F. Kennedy had been shot.

I think that everyone who was alive then and over the age of reason remembers where he or she was at that time.

That’s one of the branching points in history. What would have happened in Vietnam if Kennedy hadn’t been killed? Would he have had two terms, followed by two terms of Johnson, with peace, security, and prosperity? Would he have led us deeper into the quagmire sooner, and given us Nixon-sans-Watergate?

The Kennedy killing has led to a minor industry in Conspiracy Theory. Oliver Stone, Mark Lane, Jim Garrison … a Google search on Kennedy Conspiracy yields over three million hits. Grassy Knoll, Second Gunman, Abraham Zapruder ….

The only credible Kennedy Conspiracy book that I’ve seen (the rest, and I’ve read most of them, range from far-fetched to laughable) is Conspiracy of One by Jim Moore. He reaches the same conclusion as the Warren Commission: That Oswald, acting alone, shot Kennedy.

Tortuous Thinking
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:55 AM * 58 comments

From former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff (COL Wilkerson, mentioned previously here in Making Light):

Powell aide: Torture ‘guidance’ from VP

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A former top State Department official said Sunday that Vice President Dick Cheney provided the “philosophical guidance” and “flexibility” that led to the torture of detainees in U.S. facilities.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, who served as former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, told CNN that the practice of torture may be continuing in U.S.-run facilities.

“There’s no question in my mind that we did. There’s no question in my mind that we may be still doing it,” Wilkerson said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

From ADM Stansfield Turner, former head of the CIA:

Ex-CIA boss: Cheney is ‘vice president for torture’

LONDON, England (CNN) — Former CIA chief Stansfield Turner lashed out at Dick Cheney on Thursday, calling him a “vice president for torture” that is out of touch with the American people.

Turner’s condemnation, delivered during an interview with Britain’s ITV network, comes amid an effort by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to pass legislation forbidding any U.S. authority from torturing a prisoner. McCain was tortured as a Vietnam prisoner of war.

Cheney has lobbied against the legislation, prompting Turner to say he’s “embarrassed that the United States has a vice president for torture. I think it is just reprehensible.”

Turner, a retired Navy admiral who headed the intelligence agency from 1977 to 1981 under President Jimmy Carter, stood firm on his earlier remarks Friday and, in a CNN interview, scoffed at assertions that challenging the administration’s strategy aided the terrorists’ propaganda efforts.

“It’s the vice president who is out there advocating torture. He’s the one who has made himself the vice president in favor of torture,” said Turner, who from 1972 to 1974 was president of the Naval War College, a think tank for strategic and national security policy.

The White House, through Cheney, have been arguing against the amendment to a Defense appropriations bill requiring the Army to follow its own field manual in the treatment of prisoners, an amendment that passed the Senate 90-9.

Either Cheney has the permission and direction from Bush, or Bush is so weak that Cheney can do and say what he will regardless of Junior’s wishes.

The White House has also been arguing that the CIA should be allowed to torture prisoners, even if the Army can’t.

What does the CIA think about that?

Speaking at a College of William and Mary forum last year, for example, Burton L. Gerber, a decorated Moscow station chief who retired in 1995 after 39 years with the CIA, surprised some in the audience when he said he opposes torture “because it corrupts the society that tolerates it.” This is a view, he confirmed in an interview with National Journal last week, that is rooted in Albert Camus’s assertion in Preface to Algerian Reports that torture, “even when accepted in the interest of realism and efficacy,” represents “a flouting of honor that serves no purpose but to degrade” a nation in its own eyes and the world’s. “The reason I believe that torture corrupts the torturers and society,” Gerber says, “is that a standard is changed, and that new standard that’s acceptable is less than what our nation should stand for. I think the standards in something like this are crucial to the identity of America as a free and just society.”

The moral dimensions of torture, Gerber adds, are inextricably linked with the practical; aside from the fact that torture almost always fails to yield true or useful information, it has the potential to adversely affect CIA operations. “Foreign nationals agree to spy for us for many different reasons; some do it out of an overwhelming admiration for America and what it stands for, and to those people, I think, America being associated with torture does affect their willingness to work with us,” he says. “But one of my arguments with the agency about ethics, particularly in this case, is that it’s not about case studies, but philosophy. Aristotle says the ends and means must be in concert; if the ends and means are not in concert, good ends will be corrupted by bad means.”

A similar stance was articulated last year by Merle L. Pribbenow, a 27-year veteran of the agency’s clandestine Directorate of Operations. Writing in Studies in Intelligence, the CIA’s in-house journal, Pribbenow recalled that an old college friend had recently expressed his belief that “the terrorist threat to America was so grave that any methods, including torture, should be used to obtain the information we need.” The friend was vexed that Pribbenow’s former colleagues “had not been able to ‘crack’ these prisoners.”

Pribbenow sought an answer by revisiting the arcane case of Nguyen Van Tai, the highest-ranking Vietcong prisoner captured and interrogated by both South Vietnamese and American forces during the Vietnam War. Re-examining in detail the techniques used by the South Vietnamese (protracted torture that included electric shocks; beatings; various forms of water torture; stress positions; food, water, and sleep deprivation) and by the Americans (rapport-building and no violence), Pribbenow reached a stark conclusion: “While the South Vietnamese use of torture did result (eventually) in Tai’s admission of his true identity, it did not provide any other usable information,” he wrote. In the end, he said, “it was the skillful questions and psychological ploys of the Americans, and not any physical infliction of pain, that produced the only useful (albeit limited) information that Tai ever provided.”

So the question remains: Why is the Bush White House so strongly in favor of torture that they’re threatening to veto a defense appropriations bill that merely reaffirms the policies that are supposed to be already in place? Why do they want a policy in place that not only diminishes America’s international prestige, not only makes the job of gathering intelligence more difficult, not only betrays our national values, but in practical terms flat doesn’t work?

What macho fantasy-land do those White House frat boys live in? What are they dragging us into? What are they doing in our names?

Write to Congress. Write to the editor of your local paper. Vote. This is not the time for silence.

Prescription for the Democrats
Posted by Patrick at 08:38 AM * 132 comments

Avedon Carol kicks ass.

November 19, 2005
The story’s in the NYPost
Posted by Teresa at 07:00 PM *

See the earlier story.

Since this is being reported in the New York Post, it’s got one of their characteristically impenetrable and ungrammatical headlines: BOUNCER SLAY TWIST. Here’s the story, with annotations:

November 19, 2005 — A murdered strip-club bouncer found shot dead inside his Brooklyn apartment was killed by someone he knew, law-enforcement sources said yesterday.

I knew that already. His door wasn’t locked, there was no sign of a struggle, and he was sitting on his sofa watching TV.

Irving Matos, 42, who worked at Sunset Park’s “Sweet Cherry,” …

The Sweet Cherry is a sleazy waterfront strip club. It’s not the only one in that area. Remember hearing about the cleanup of Times Square? Sleaze never gets “cleaned up”, if by that you mean it goes away permanently. Sleaze just relocates. One of the places it went is Third Avenue in Brooklyn, underneath the Gowanus Parkway (I-278), and some of the waterfront blocks near the 39th Street exit, which is the only exit from the Gowanus along that stretch.

What does this area have in common with Times Square? Simple: it’s easy to travel there from outlying areas. This is the second time I’ve lived relatively close to a Designated Crime Area—you know, one of those places even half-wits know to go to in pursuit of their particular vice. That’s what red light districts are for: to keep sin bounded in a particular area so the customers know where to find it.

The last time I lived near a DCA, we were on Fairview Avenue near 190th and Broadway, at the far northern end of Manhattan. The crack epidemic was in full swing, and the bleeping New York Times was printing stories about how the 180th Street neighborhood was the place to go for drugs. We groaned in despair when we saw that. Sure enough, next thing you know there’s all these jerks from the New Jersey suburbs driving in over the George Washington Bridge, looking to score.

Let ‘em buy drugs in their own neighborhoods, sez I.

Anyway, I digress. More on the Sweet Cherry in a bit.

…was discovered murdered about 11 p.m. Wednesday, slumped over a couch with his TV on inside his basement apartment on 31st Street.

Please don’t come looking. There’s nothing to see. 31st street is lined on both sides with nearly indistinguishable row houses full of irritable Brooklynites.

The club’s owner went to the apartment after Matos failed to show up for work for seven days, police said.

I think I met him, if he was the big genial gray-haired guy who was hanging around out on the sidewalk late Wednesday night. He told me he’d come to check on Matos after he’d missed work, so it could very well be.

Initially, police believed Matos had died of natural causes. An investigation launched by the Medical Examiner’s Office revealed that Matos had been shot in the top of the head and that the bullet that killed him lodged in his tongue, the sources said.

How I found out it was murder: One of the detectives asked me whether I’d heard anything that sounded like someone playing with a cap gun. I looked at him for a moment in polite disbelief, then said, “You mean, someone popping off with a .22.”

He ducked his head and mumbled that yes, that was what he’d meant. “We recovered a fragment,” he said—that’d be the bullet lodged in the tongue—then added, “We still haven’t ruled out suicide.”

“Surely you’d be able to tell if it was suicide,” I said. People who shoot themselves in the head don’t usually tidy up afterward.

He mumbled something more about how sometimes friends or family come by, don’t want to admit what’s happened, and take the gun away with them. I tried to imagine that, but couldn’t. Irvin Matos lived alone, and seldom had visitors. I’m supposed to believe in friends or family who made an unaccustomed visit to his place, found the body, cared enough about appearances to tamper with the evidence in a violent death, but didn’t bother to make an anonymous phone call to let the authorities know that the guy was sitting there decomposing? And who went off leaving the door unsecured?

I know there are reasons for the police to try to be discreet about their investigations, so I did my best to keep a straight face. Mostly I felt sorry for the officer. It must be hard to avoid giving people the idea that someone shot the deceased when you’re having to ask them whether they heard something that sounded like a cap gun.

I told him everything I knew. There wasn’t much of it, and none of it was terribly interesting. Near as I can tell, I was in Madison, WI when Irving Matos died. When he was alive, he and I mostly talked about our gardens. He grew up here, so he told me as much as he could remember about the old lady who gardened in what’s now my back yard. That’s all. I’m just the next-door neighbor. It’s a quiet block.

The victim’s door appeared to be broken—but authorities suspect that occurred prior to the murder, sources said. Matos’ home appeared to be neat and tidy and there was no immediate indication that he had any debts connected to drugs or gambling.

I don’t know what they found, but the police did ask me whether Matos ever talked about “all those guns he owned.” They said he “worked in security.” I can’t tell whether he’s he same Irving Matos mentioned here and here in 1999. I don’t necessarily assume he is. There could be two different people named Irving Matos who could both be described as “working in security.”

More about Sweet Cherry: First, I was amused to see it used as the standard of comparison when a reviewer wanted to indicate that another club was less trashy than it might be.

Perhaps more to the point, earlier this year the club was the focus of a six-month-long sting operation that netted multiple arrests:

Brooklyn, May 3, 2005 – Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes today announced the arrest of five people on charges of selling marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy out of the Sweet Cherry Topless Entertainment Bar in Sunset Park.

“The bar is the subject of disturbing allegations concerning drug sales, prostitution and underage strippers. It is a blight on the neighborhood,” said District Attorney Hynes.

Sweet Cherry, at 202 42nd Street, came to the attention of the DA’s Office in October 2004, when its owner, Gabriel Bertonazzi, 44, was arrested for allegedly raping a 16 year-old girl who applied for a job as a topless dancer. His rape case is pending in Brooklyn Supreme Court. He was subsequently also charged in the rape of a second dancer. It is alleged that he forced dancers to have sex with him, to be hired.

The DA’s Office has received numerous complaints from the community about illicit activity at Sweet Cherry and the sex industry along the western perimeter of Sunset Park, in general.

Following Bertonazzi’s arrest for Rape in the First Degree, Rape in the Third Degree, Assault in the Second Degree, and Endangering the Welfare of a Child, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office initiated a six-month investigation into the club’s operations. Detective Investigators purchased cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy from five Sweet Cherry managers and dancers. Bertonazzi, out on bail for the rape case, allegedly sold cocaine and marijuana to undercover agents on two occasions.

Yesterday, Detective Investigators from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office arrested all five suspects and executed a search warrant on Sweet Cherry, where they recovered financial records for the club. Prosecutors will inspect the books for evidence of tax evasion and money laundering from the drug sales.

Finally, there turns out to be a bloggy connection to the Sweet Cherry bust. It was reported by one Karol in a fairly lame right-wing weblog called Alarming News. Apparently a group of “conservative girls”, one of whom may or may not have been said Karol, went slumming at Sweet Cherry three weeks before it got busted.

Her strikingly stupid buddy Jessica was also along on the excursion, and wrote about it disingenuously in her own weblog. She framed the whole thing as “Question: How do you know you and your three nearest and dearest girlfriends just walked into a shady strip club in Sunset Park, Brooklyn?” She gives several answers, mentioning thrilling depravities like the bullet holes in the windows, tee hee. A more truthful answer would be that if you’re down in that neighborhood at night, you know damned well what kind of establishment it is before you ever walk in.

What is it about Republicans and tacky sex? They can’t all be into sleaze, can they?

Addenda: Today (29 November 2005) I broke the links to Karol and Jessica’s websites, after it was suggested that the reason they keep trolling the comment thread is to increase their traffic. If you want the links, look at the source code.

Here’s Lin Daniel’s take on their presence in the conversation:

I’ve read all your posts And I’ve just missed the point.
Does anyone notice
My nose out of joint?

I’ve read all your posts And I haven’t a clue,
So I’ll make accusations
That just don’t fit you.

I’ve read all your posts And I’ve come back for more.
Let’s make this thread longer
With misquotes galore.

We’ve read all your posts
Let’s throw in the towel.
We’ll make this thread shorter
And remove all your vowels.

Sweetness and Light
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:03 PM * 133 comments

Sons Save Mom Overseas with Webcam says the headline.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — A Web camera in a Norwegian artist’s living room in California allowed her sons in Norway and the Philippines to see that she had collapsed and call for help, one of the sons said Friday.

“My wife is American and she knew exactly whom to call for help,” he said. “It took five or 10 minutes for the ambulance personnel to arrive.”

He said the family was on the verge of tears when they watched on the Web camera as ambulance personnel assisted their diabetic mother, who is recovering in the Desert Valley Hospital in California.

“I thank that camera and my sons for my life,” Karin Jordal told the Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende by telephone from her hospital bed. She has lived in the U.S. and Spain on and off for the past 15 years.

Ole Jordal said low blood sugar caused his mother’s collapse, and that she would be allowed to go home after a few days in the hospital. He said the family set up Web cameras in their homes because of the high cost of staying in touch by telephone when they live so far apart.

So what’s up with diabetes? Let’s start with a quick quiz: Add your point scores for each thing that’s true about you.

  • 2 Always hungry (even after eating)
  • 2 Always tired
  • 2 Unexplained weight loss
  • 2 Sores that don’t heal
  • 2 Erectile dysfunction
  • 2 Family history of diabetes
  • 2 Overweight (waist size > 1/2 height)
  • 3 Numbness/tingling in feet and toes
  • 3 Blurred vision
  • 3 Vaginal infections/itching
  • 4 Frequent urination
  • 4 Crave extra fluids (>7 glasses/day)
  • 10 Blood glucose > 140 mg/dL

Score seven or more = talk to your doctor about diabetes.

A while back, a lady came to the walk-in clinic because she had a persistent sore throat. No biggie. Lots of people have those every winter. There I was, happy young EMT, preparing her and getting her history and vitals and charting them so the doctor could get the story and deal with her rapidly and effectively. As is my wont, I finished up (after getting blood pressure, pulse, respirations, a narrative of his chief complaint and so on) with my standard: “Do you have any other health questions or concerns today?”

Turns out she did: She’d read an article in the Reader’s Digest about diabetes, and she had some of the warning signs.

Which ones?

All of them.

Cool. I said to her, “Tell you what. I can do a finger stick on you right now. It just takes a minute, but I gotta warn you, the finger stick hurts a bit. If it doesn’t show anything, I won’t write it down and you won’t be charged. If it does show something interesting, we’ll tell the doctor. Okay?”


Woo whee! Her glucose reading was around 500 mg/dL. That’s like five times normal.

Was she happy? She was not. “I came here with a cold and left with diabetes.”

The word “diabetes” comes from the Greek dia, or “through,” and bainein, “to stand with legs asunder.” The word means “one that straddles; a compass or siphon.” The dia is the same dia as in diabolical and diarrhea. (How to tell you’re going to have a bad day in the ER: When you come in, the person who you’re replacing is finishing up some charts and looks up at you and blearily asks “How many ‘r’s in ‘diarrhea’?”)

One of the main symptoms of diabetes (which is one of the top ten, some say top five, diseases in industrialized countries) is drinking a lot of water, and urinating it away. Diabetes mellitus (mellitus is of or pertaining to honey) is so-called because the urine is sweet — and let’s not mention how medieval physicians diagnosed it.

Here’s why the urine is sweet, and why there’s so much urine involved:

Glucose is the basic carbohydrate that provides energy to the body’s cells. But glucose is a big molecule: Too big to pass through the cell membrane of most cells. To pass through the membrane requires a hormone, insulin, to open a tunnel. If that tunnel doesn’t open, the cell starves for energy, the glucose stays in the bloodstream, and the serum glucose level goes up. Normal is 80-120 mg/dL. In diabetics it’s higher. Lots higher.

When the blood has too much glucose the body tries to flush it out, through the kidneys. That requires a lot of water. So that’s why you’re thirsty all the time — the body needs water to flush out the glucose. And that’s why the urine is sweet. The glucose that should have been feeding the cells is going somewhere, and that somewhere is out.

Meanwhile, you’re hungry all the time, since the cells aren’t getting their energy and are yelling “Hey, boss, we’re starving down here!” The muscles start burning protein — that gives you unexpected weight loss, and it also gives you DKA: Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Ketones in the blood — breakdown products of protein. That turns up as a fruity smell in the breath — ketone-breath — and Kussmaul’s Respirations.

Kussmaul breathing is rapid, deep breathing. Y’see, ketones are acidic. Hemoglobin in the red blood cells carries oxygen, but it only works inside of very narrow pH limits. The blood gets too acidic and the oxygen stops being carried. Things get very bad, very fast, right about then. So the body is trying to raise the pH of the blood by dumping carbon dioxide (also acidic) out through the lungs.

By this time you can be staggering like you’re drunk, slurring your words, and otherwise showing signs and symptoms of altered mental status.

The blood is getting thick, like pancake syrup. That thick blood doesn’t move too well through the capillaries. That leads to bad things — poor circulation (often first in the feet, a long way from the heart, fighting gravity, and kept immobile by shoes) yields sores that don’t heal, then necrosis and gangrene, which is treated by amputation (diabetes is the number one cause of non-traumatic amputation in America). Poor capillary circulation in the retinas leads to death of the rods and cones, and blindness (diabetes is the number one cause of non-traumatic blindness in the non-elderly population in America). All the movement of large molecules through the kidneys, combined with poor capillary circulation, tends to burn out the kidneys. Diabetes is the number one reason for kidney failure requiring dialysis in America.

Did I mention that smoking makes all these things worse?

There are two main reasons why the cell membranes might not be passing glucose: One is that the body isn’t producing insulin. The other is that the body is producing insulin, but the cell membranes aren’t reacting properly to it.

That first kind is Type I diabetes, Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM), also called juvenile-onset diabetes because it’s often first observed when the patient is young. The usual cause is an autoimmune reaction, where the body rejects the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, and kills them. No more Islets, no more insulin, no more sugar to the cells. Up until 1922, when injectable insulin became available, that meant a death sentence. The disease is usually rapid onset — weeks or months from clinically normal to a full-blown case. Nowadays, IDDM means that you, your glucose test kit, and a hypodermic are going to be close personal friends for life.

Type II diabetes, adult onset, usually comes on over a period of years. Here, the body is producing insulin but the cells are no longer sensitive to it. Usually, you see this in your older folks, particularly sedentary, overweight people. Oftentimes even a modest weight reduction (5 kilos) will be enough to get the cells to start accepting insulin again and start passing that glucose. Type II diabetes can often be controled by diet, exercise, and, if those don’t work, oral medication, or some combination of the three.

I’m not going to go into gestational diabetes — it’s temporary, treatable, and decent prenatal care is going to find it. (Though 20-50% of the women who develop gestational diabetes will go on to develop Type II diabetes in later life, so you might consider it a red flag.)

I’ve talked about muscle and fat cells and such needing insulin to use glucose. Nerve cells — the brain — don’t need insulin. Glucose passes just fine through those cell membranes. But nerve cells need glucose, and they’re highly sensitive to its lack.

While high glucose levels can lead to unconsciousness and death (diabetic coma), what’ll kill you fast is insulin shock. That’s when a person has taken their normal insulin dose, but for some reason doesn’t have their normal glucose levels in their blood. Forgetting breakfast, unusual exercise, a low-grade fever — lots of things can cause that. The glucose level plummets, the nerves starve, the cells die, and it’s lights out.

Fortunately for us EMS types, this is one treatment that’s fast, easy, and magical. You give the person some sugar, they’re better. You have your oral glucose — 15 grams in a little plastic tube that you can squeeze into the person’s mouth (provided they’re conscious enough to be able to guard their airway). It gets absorbed right through the mucous membranes of the cheek and gums. Those little tubes are expensive, so lots of folks, in their personal kits, carry tubes of squeezable cake decoration frosting. It’s pretty much the same stuff. In some EMS systems, if the patient can’t guard his airway, you’re allowed to give rectal glucose. Pop a hard candy right up there — a mucous membrane is a mucous membrane. (Important safety tip: If you want the person to still be your friend afterward, don’t use a Red Hot Fireball cinnamon candy.)

For higher level EMS providers who can start IVs, you have D50 — a 50% dextrose and water solution. These come in 50 mL prefilled syringes. Start your IV, get your blood samples, and push it on in. The patient wakes right up. (It’s wonderful to watch.)

If you can’t establish an IV, paramedic level providers can give intramuscular (IM) shots of glucagon, a hormone that makes the liver dump all its glucose supplies directly into the bloodstream. (The other emergency medical use for glucagon is to relax the esophagus for people who have a bolus of food stuck in there, to allow it to pass into the stomach.) Glucagon’s tricky because you have to mix it up on scene from a powder dissolved in water.

D50 is part of the old Coma Cocktail, the Party Pack. If you come on an unconscious person and don’t have any idea what’s wrong (no baseball bat mark on the skull), no one saw anything, no medic alert bracelet, you whack him up with three things, all in the Might Help Can’t Hurt range: 50 mL of D50, 100 mg of Thiamine (in case alcohol was the problem) and 0.4 mg of Narcan (blocks opiates in case heroin or summat is what put him out).

Suppose the person had high blood sugar, not low blood sugar, and that’s why he’s unconscious? Well, the D50 won’t hurt, since the patient’s blood is already running so sugary that it won’t make a difference.

Anyway, I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. Nothing here is medical advice for your particular situation. Lots of folks recommend screening everyone for diabetes at age 40, again at age 50, and at random afterward.

Do keep a watch out for diabetes in your life, and in the lives of your nearest and dearest. Around 21 million people in America have it. The CDC calls it an epidemic. Stay safe.

Copyright © 2005 by James D. Macdonald

I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

Creative Commons License
Sweetness and Light by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Index to Medical Posts

November 18, 2005
Duffer’s Drift
Posted by Teresa at 01:00 PM * 16 comments

I was delighted to learn that The Defence of Duffer’s Drift by Captain E. D. Swinton, D.S.O., R.E.* is once again available in its entirety online. It’s a classic work on minor tactics, also highly readable, also short.

It’s narrated by young Lieutenant Backsight Forethought. He’s been left in command of a fifty-man reinforced platoon to hold Duffer’s Drift, the only ford on the Silliaasvogel River that can be used by wheeled vehicles. He’s not quite sure what to do. Fortunately, his ignorance is enlightened by a series of dreams:

The local atmosphere, combined with a heavy meal, is responsible for the following nightmare, consisting of a series of dreams. To make the sequence of the whole intelligible, it is necessary to explain that though the scene of each vision was the same, by some curious mental process I had no recollection of the place whatsoever. In each dream the locality was totally new to me, and I had an entirely fresh detachment. Thus, I had not the great advantage of working over familiar ground. One thing, and one only, was carried on from dream to dream, and that was the vivid recollection of the general lessons previously learnt. These finally produced success. The whole series of dreams, however, remained in my memory as a connected whole when I awoke.

Good thing, too, because in the beginning he’s a sitting duck:

The only “measures of defence” I could recall for the moment were, how to tie “a thumb or overhand knot,” and how long it takes to cut down an apple tree of six inches diameter. Unluckily neither of these useful facts seemed quite to apply.

Now, if they had given me a job like fighting the battle of Waterloo, or Sedan, or Bull Run, I knew all about that, as I had crammed it up and been examined in it too. I also knew how to take up a position for a division, or even an army corps, but the stupid little subaltern’s game of the defence of a drift with a small detachment was, curiously enough, most perplexing. I had never really considered such a thing. However, in the light of my habitual dealings with army corps, it would, no doubt, be child’s-play after a little thought.

He gets trounced, of course. Then he learns better, though it takes him six dream-scenarios and 22 hard-learned lessons to get it right.

Addendum: A thing that was in the back of my mind when I recommended The Defense of Duffer’s Drift is that if warfare, miliary history, weapons systems, etc., aren’t usually your thing, TDDD is as clear, instructive, and concrete an introduction as you’re likely to find. (And after that, try Michael Shaara’s superlative novel The Killer Angels, which among other things will teach you why firing rates matter.)

A long time back, when the subject of guns came up in Making Light—that was the first time one of my comment threads went over a hundred messages—I observed what seemed to me a division between people who felt that they had some comfortable degree of acquaintance with guns and other military subjects, and who therefore assumed that they were going to be able to follow all parts of a discussion where they cropped up; and others who saw such things as somehow being insuperably alien to their experience. It seemed a shame to me that people in the latter category were handicapping themselves for so little cause. This stuff isn’t rocket science—except, of course, when it is.

Sentences You Won’t See Very Often on Making Light
Posted by Patrick at 10:56 AM * 45 comments

Charles Krauthammer rocks the house.

November 17, 2005
Open thread 54
Posted by Teresa at 10:00 PM *

Potrzebie, frammistan, excelsior!

New model patent crank
Posted by Teresa at 08:00 AM * 70 comments

I learn from Ohpurleese and Science Daily that the United States Patent Office has granted Mr. Boris Volfson (of 5707 W. Maple Grove Rd., Apt. 3046, Huntington, IN 46750) a patent for:

A space vehicle (see illustration) propelled by the pressure of inflationary vacuum state … comprising a hollow superconductive shield, an inner shield, a power source, a support structure, upper and lower means for generating an electromagnetic field, and a flux modulation controller. A cooled hollow superconductive shield is energized by an electromagnetic field resulting in the quantized vortices of lattice ions projecting a gravitomagnetic field that forms a spacetime curvature anomaly outside the space vehicle. The spacetime curvature imbalance, the spacetime curvature being the same as gravity, provides for the space vehicle’s propulsion. The space vehicle, surrounded by the spacetime anomaly, may move at a speed approaching the light-speed characteristic for the modified locale.

For those of you who don’t speak gobbledegook, that’s a near-lightspeed flying saucer powered by some combination of gravity, electromagnetism, superconductivity, and “quantized vortices of lattice ions.”

This science, it goes boing like the superball.

I keep hearing about the Patent Office issuing absurd, ill-reviewed patents for things that are obvious, or dumb, or already in common use, or which lay claim to way too much territory, or which lay claim to an application of existing technology that’s clearly going to be possible in the future, but which do nothing to help that happen.

Harvey Ross’s claim that he’d patented POD book production irritated me no end. In 1990, he dreamed up the idea of kiosks where a customer could type in the title of a book, access information about it, hit a button, and walk out with a printed and bound copy. Big fat hairy deal. Lots of people had already been imagining arrangements like that: Take one each World Wide Web, broadband connection, library retrieval system, and Docutech printer; whirl in blender until done. His idea was distinguished only by the addition of a point-of-purchase hut, and those were hardly a new idea.

Harvey Ross didn’t do bleep-all to help build the online bookselling world, nor to get sales information piped directly from publishers to the net, nor to develop Lightning Source’s print-and-bind technology. All he did was posit a business using a certain configuration of obvious technologies. Then he designed a GUI and database storage system he imagined would be suitable for it. Again: big deal. This is very like Mr. Volfson’s flying saucer application, where all the work evidently went into designing the hull of the ship.

Last year, Ross slapped Ingram/Lightning Source with a $15 million lawsuit. Their business has no resemblance to his 1990 pipe dream. The court nevertheless upheld his claim, because, as one expert witness testified, “what’s of essence in the patent is a system or process whereby a customer can look at a computerized list of titles and select one for purchase that triggers the retrieval of a file that sets in motion the printing of the book.”

(I wonder whether anyone’s patented the same thing, only it burns the book to a CD. Or the same thing, only it downloads the book into your Palm Pilot. Whee, I’m an inventor, give me lots of money.)

Still, I really didn’t get a sense of the Patent Office’s culpable negligence until I saw that flying saucer patent. Are they brain-dead? Couldn’t they at least have shown it to an undergrad physics major? If the “quantized vortices of lattice ions” didn’t tip them off, the claim of near-lightspeed travel should have done so.

Forget that business about encouraging arts and manufactures; the patent office is awarding patents on the basis of who gets there first and tells the biggest whopper. If they’re willing to grant this nutbar a patent on antigravity, I want to take out patents on the time machine, positronic brain, tractor beam, ansible, light saber, Romulan cloaking device, matter duplicator, and babelfish. Might as well be me as anyone else.

November 16, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 10:37 PM * 135 comments

Oh, holy shit.

You see, there’s been this smell. We’ve only smelled it in the front entryway, not terribly strong but somehow obtrusive. And somehow, impossible to ignore.

I thought it was kitchen gas. No, some kind of gas coming off the pipe stack. Or out of the front storm drain? No, something else.

Patrick thought it was garbage overdue to be taken out. Or mildewing laundry. Or something else.

Mike Fitzgerald, our landlord, was sure it was a dead mouse. I bowed to his greater expertise. I haven’t had nearly as much experience with dead mice. Still, it was odd. It was mostly in the front entryway, a tightly constructed area. No place there for a mouse.

All of us were wrong. It’s the next door neighbor, the guy in the basement who’s younger than I am and plays loud music, the one who knows (knew) all the neighbors who’ve been here for decades.

About half an hour ago, Patrick came in and told me that for mysterious reasons, we had three ambulances out front, all with their lights flashing. I went out and stood at the top of our stoop. There were a dozen or more EMTs in the forecourt of the building next door, and a couple of police cars arriving. The first-floor next-door tenants were standing at the top of their own stoop, stiff and unblinking, talking to the EMTs.

My hearing isn’t all that hot, but I’m good at reading body language, and after watching for a little while I knew what had happened.

Oh. Oh my goodness.

I eventually (no idea how long) went over and spoke to the neighbors on their stoop. They said they’d been smelling something for days, same as we had. They said he was sitting in his chair, like he’d been watching TV or something.

(I’d wondered why he’d left his garden lights on continuously for the last several days.)

I told them that someone who looks like that had an easy death. That people who know something’s wrong don’t sit peacefully in their easy chairs.

They’re thinking maybe they’ll find some other place to stay tonight, now that they know what that smell is.

I’m back in my own apartment now. I want a big, big electrical fan. I want to prop the front door open and blow all the air out, until the house doesn’t smell like dead neighbor any more.

Addendum: Okay, now that was interesting. The NYPD is still out front. Last night started with EMTs, then changed to police officers. This morning it’s more detectives than I’ve ever seen before in one place, plus two or three uniformed officers.

One of the detectives came looking for me, buzzed at my door. We had a long conversation. I must remember to ask the landlord whether those loud thumps and bangs I heard some days ago were (as I thought at the time) heavy furniture being moved, or possibly something being built. Because if that wasn’t what was going on, the detective wants to know about it.

“Open Source Media”
Posted by Patrick at 03:19 PM * 12 comments

About as “open source” as Microsoft Excel, as it turns out.

All beautiful and some obviously magical
Posted by Teresa at 02:23 PM * 28 comments

You know that seriously cool toyshop that keeps turning up in fantasy stories? (The benign version, I mean.) The Grand Illusions Toy Shop comes as close to it as anything I’ve seen. Prices range from £3, for a pair of non-transitive dice, to £4,500, for your very own almost-Enigma machine. (It’s actually a Nema machine, the postwar version the Swiss manufactured for use by their own military.) They pay all the shipping costs.

The rest of their site is likewise full of marvels and wonders: orreries, optical illusions, short articles about their various toys, short articles about other intriguing subjects, stuff you can make


November 15, 2005
Linux problem fixed
Posted by Teresa at 03:02 PM * 24 comments

Today’s e-mail from Steve Brust:

Graydon neatly solved the more serious and important of the Linux problems—I am now able to find the files I need to edit. There’s some additional tuning stuff that I’d like to do, but we’re looking good.


Oh, and altogether I got about fifteen or twenty responses to your post. It was pretty cool!

It sure was. My thanks as well to all involved, especially Graydon.

November 14, 2005
Pat Robertson preaches gross heresy (again)
Posted by Teresa at 05:14 PM * 168 comments

The perennially appalling Pat Robertson has self-confidently announced his supersession of divine mercy, the Holy Spirit, the noachide covenant, the omnipresence of God, and two thousand years of Christian grace, in order to call down curses upon the town of Dover, Pennsylvania:

I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city, and don’t wonder why he hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin, and I’m not saying they will. But if they do, just remember you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, then don’t ask for his help, because he might not be there.

Dover’s unforgivable sin was to vote out a school board that wanted the doctrine of Intelligent Design taught as part of its science curriculum.

Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged really nails this one. Have a look.

November 13, 2005
AKICIF: Steve Brust needs a Linux guru
Posted by Teresa at 09:10 PM * 87 comments

No, I don’t know what the problem is, but Steve needs help—he says he already has a Linux geek, but now needs a guru—and he’s in the last stages of revising a novel I’d very much like to have in hand, soon.

If you’re a bona fide Linux wizard, and are willing to volunteer your assistance, please send your e-mail address or AIM address or both to

And thank you.

November 12, 2005
Life as Art
Posted by John M. Ford at 06:56 PM * 43 comments

I’ve seen Unique Form of Continuity in Space, at the Tate Modern in London, my home.*

I’d find it hard to live there — while Duchamp’s coffee mill would be nice of a morning, one would always have the sense of people staring through the Large Glass, doubtless trying to find the lady I had just undressed, even. I suppose I could sit still and pretend to be a George Segal until they moved on.

On the other hand, there are parts of the V&A where I could be pretty comfortable, though for the long term it would have to be the London Transport Museum. Then, too, more than one of the reconstructed rooms in the Art Institute just down the street from me now would be quite comfortable, notably the Studio of Gratifying Discourse, a Ch’ing library and study with a rock garden.

There’s a story in this, but as is so often true, John Collier already wrote it.

Question for the audience: which museum exhibit could you imagine calling home?

*SeanH, on the “Ghosts” thread, moved here to avoid both serious thematic dissonance and topic drift.

More Songs About Buildings and Food
Posted by John M. Ford at 02:10 AM * 20 comments

[Sorry this took so long. Other Stuff to Do.]

Come on along and listen to
The whisper of the Flatiron
The rhapsody in downtown blue
The whisper of the Flatiron
The lonesome flute that plays your tune
Whenever you have been low
Picks up its voice and starts to croon
Outside Teresa’s window
It’s a soft and soulful harmony
With traffic for percussion
An old Manhattan melody
That lingers on
Down on Broadway
Crosstown crossdrafts sing it low
Vortex at play
Paper dances from below, hey!

All the toys and Tors are gathered there,
The whisper of the Flatiron
The pigeons crap in Greeley Square,
The whisper of the Flatiron
On the nitrate film from long ago
You see the windswept dandies
The fashions change, the skirts still blow,
Though now it’s salwar kameez
When Monroe stood on that subway grate
You only heard a whistle
And the pennies off the Empire State
Are here and gone
Good-night Broadway
Good-night, watch the streetlights sway
To the subway
Hear just what the buildings say
In the urban pastoral the Flatiron plays

November 11, 2005
Display dumps
Posted by Teresa at 11:08 PM *

You may have to work in the industry in order for the following exchange to turn your brains to oatmeal. It’s from the PublishAmerica public message boards. The person posing the question is one of their authors.


You know those big cardboard displays that sometimes features an author and their books? Has anyone tried this when selling in a bookstore or somewhere else? Any ideas on pricing and how it worked for you?

I’m thinking of trying to do something like that myself and just wondered if it makes a difference.


Staples or Office Max should be able to fix you up.

You just buy them at Staples! Who knew?

It’s going on two days since that thing went up, and so far no one’s corrected it. Too bad this is Friday night. I’d love to be able to show it to Marketing in person. I want to see their expressions.

Ghosts of the Great War, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 11:11 AM * 110 comments

(See also, last year’s comment thread on this same post.)

“We’re not making a sacrifice. Jesus, you’ve seen this war.
We are the sacrifice.” Ulster regiment, marching toward the Somme
Eleven eleven has come round again, when we remember what used to optimistically be referred to as the last great imperialist war. Many of my links are repeated (with adjustments for link rot) from 2003 and 2004. What the hell; they’re still relevant. Maybe more so.

World War I was what got me started reading history. I was at home with pneumonia, and somehow picked up a copy of a Penguin illustrated history of World War I. I was horrified: They did what? Then amazed and horrified: And then they did it again? And finally plunged into a profound mystery: And they kept doing it, again and again, for years? In some ways, all my reading of history thereafter has been an attempt to understand the information in that one small book.

In memory of the men who fought, a jolly contemporary folksong: Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire.

Have a look at Tony Novosel’s two pages of spooky, evocative photos of Great War memorials:

Painting: Menin Gate: The Ghosts of Ypres

The actual Menin Gate, on which are carved the names of the 54,000 Missing from the Battle of Ypres.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. There are 73,350 names on its panels.

Kathe Kollwitz’ Grieving Parents, near the site where her son and his comrades are buried.

The Silent Sentinels, Langemarck German cemetery in Belgium.

The Sentinels again.

Watching over the German graves at Langemarck.

Le Mort Homme (The Dead Man), Verdun.

Another view. “ILS N’ONT PAS PASSÉ” means “They did not pass”.

The Guardians of Verdun.

Views of the war: John Singer Sargent does one of each.

Wilfred Owen’s grave.

Not pictures: A pertinent selection of Wilfred Owen’s poems. And a bit of Philip Larkin.

The Lost Poets of the Great War website, with its calculation of total casualties.

One of whom was young Umberto Boccioni, Italian Futurist artist. This is his “States of Mind” series: The Farewells. Those Who Go. Those Who Stay. There aren’t many paintings by Boccioni. This is a piece called Unique form of continuity in space. There is even less sculpture by him.

If there are universes with multiple branching timelines, there are thousands of them very much like ours, except that in them no one’s ever heard of J. R. R. Tolkien. The destruction, the toll of the dead, is as difficult to comprehend as the Black Death.

At one point I looked up the history of Tolkien’s unit, the Lancashire Fusiliers. First they significantly distinguished themselves at Gallipoli. Then they significantly distinguished themselves at the Somme. Here they are, about to be killed. No wonder Tolkien came back from the war saying, “Everyone I know is dead.”

An account of the Newfoundlanders.

Bad place to make a landing, Gallipoli. A few words from the last surviving ANZAC. Other last surviving ANZACs.

There is great generosity in the monument to the dead of both sides at Kabatepe Ariburun Beach, inscribed with the speech Ataturk made in 1934 to the first ANZACs and Brits who came back to visit:
Those heroes that shed their blood And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well
An affecting, low-key page about New Zealand public memorials: Lest We Forget: War Memorials of the First World War.
The New Zealand war memorials of the First World War have become part of the common fabric of our lives, like stop signs or lamp-posts. Virtually every township in the country has one, usually in the main street. Excluding the many honours boards and plaques in schools and churches throughout the country, there are well over five hundred public memorials to the soldiers of the Great War. Despite their numbers, the memorials are not boring or stereotypical. This was because New Zealanders showed much inventiveness in remembering the dead of the Great War. By the time the war ended, over 100,000 young New Zealanders had served overseas and some 18,000 had lost their lives. Sacrifice of this magnitude engendered enormous emotions.
One of my two favorites is the Kaitaia memorial, in Maori and English. The other is the annual ceremony at Piha. Every year there, at low tide on Anzac Day, they process out across the sand to lay their wreaths on Lion Rock ; and then the tide comes in and carries the wreaths away.

Addenda, 2004

The Gardener, a short story by Rudyard Kipling.

Gassed, John Singer Sargent.

Art from the First World War: 100 paintings from international collections, loaned to mark the 80th anniversary of the Armistice.

Aftermath: When the Boys Came Home, dedicated to the aftermath(s) of the war. A blunt, bitter, cocky site that just keeps accreting material.

The Heritage of the Great War, a broad and deep site that, like Aftermath, just keeps accreting great material. Its photo essays are especially good. Some segments:
Five Souls.

Origins and causes of the war.

99 Quotes from the Great War.

The war in color photography.

Bloody picnic: forbidden photos of the war.

German war photos.

Panoramic photos, 1919.

Another calculation of the casualties.

Children who fought in the war.

Shot at Dawn: Executions of deserters.

An Unforeseen Epidemic of Shell Shock.

Belgium’s inadvertent stockpiles of poison gas.

The Americans Are Coming!

Why America Should Have Stayed Out: a 1936 interview with Winston Churchill.

Tolkien: Frodo in the marshes of the Great War.

Hemingway’s natural history of the dead.

Conquering Baghdad: the real problems always come afterward.

Posted by Patrick at 01:12 AM * 65 comments

No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re “longing to go out again,”—
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

(Siegfried Sassoon, “Survivors,” October, 1917)

November 10, 2005
Flatiron properties
Posted by Teresa at 03:52 PM *

There’s plenty of documentation on the strong winds at the base of the Flatiron Building, but has it ever been noted that when the wind’s blowing strongly in the right direction, the building generates melodious low-pitched flutelike sounds?

Today, for instance. It’s tootling away like the soundtrack of an anthropological documentary.

November 09, 2005
Open thread 53
Posted by Teresa at 11:31 AM *

As you know, Bob, fifty-three is the smallest prime which is neither the sum of nor the difference between powers of the first two prime numbers.

November 07, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 10:56 PM * 59 comments

Can’t begin to tell you how good it is to be home.

November 01, 2005
Way to go, Harry
Posted by Patrick at 08:06 PM * 28 comments

Crooks and Liars links to video of the press conference Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid gave following this afternoon’s closed session.

Holy cow. I don’t usually urge people to download and play these blurry little video postage stamps, but this one will leave you with with a spring in your step. For a moment at least, we have an opposition party. More such moments, please.

Harry Reid kicks ass and takes names
Posted by Teresa at 03:26 PM * 51 comments

This is breaking news. Go over to AMERICAblog for the story; CNN online doesn’t have it yet. They’ve put up three posts there so far:

Harry Reid blasts the Republicans, and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS specifically), on the Senate floor

Holy shit, put on CNN

More info on secret Senate sessions

From Senator Reid’s statement, as quoted in AMERICAblog’s first post:

Statement by Senator Reid
Troops and Security First

This past weekend, we witnessed the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and a senior Advisor to President Bush. Libby is the first sitting White House staffer to be indicted in 135 years. This indictment raises very serious charges. It asserts this Administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant.

The decision to place U.S. soldiers in harm’s way is the most significant responsibility the Constitution invests in the Congress. The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really about: how the Administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.

As a result of its improper conduct, a cloud now hangs over this Administration. This cloud is further darkened by the Administration’s mistakes in prisoner abuse scandal, Hurricane Katrina, and the cronyism and corruption in numerous agencies.

And, unfortunately, it must be said that a cloud also hangs over this Republican-controlled Congress for its unwillingness to hold this Republican Administration accountable for its misdeeds on all of these issues.

Let’s take a look back at how we got here with respect to Iraq, Mr. President. The record will show that within hours of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, senior officials in this Administration recognized these attacks could be used as a pretext to invade Iraq.

The record will also show that in the months and years after 9/11, the Administration engaged in a pattern of manipulation of the facts and retribution against anyone who got in its way as it made the case for attacking Iraq. …

From AMERICAblog’s second post:

The Democrats have forced the Senate into a closed session, to shut down the Senate and go behind closed doors for national security reasons, in order to discuss what the hell happened with Rove and ScooterGate.

Holy shit. CNN just said that by invoking Rule 21, Reid just shut down the Senate, all 100 Senators are called to the Senate floor, they have to turn over their cell phones, blackberries, etc.

And Frist is PISSED: I have never been slapped in the face to this degree. Boo hoo hoo. Frist wants to talk about stunts? His entire leadership is a stunt. There has been no congressional oversight of the Bush administration for five years while the Republicans controlled the White House and the Congress.

And the real big news. This just knocked Judge Alito off his game. The story is now the Democrats showing balls on national security. Reid just changed the subject from Judge Alito to the White House’s scandals on Iraq and the RoveGate CIA leaks. Absolutely brilliant.


And their third post:


Since 1929, the Senate has held 53 secret sessions, generally for reasons of national security.

For example, in 1997 the Senate held a secret session to consider the Chemical Weapons Convention (treaty).

In 1992, the Senate met in secret session to consider “most favored nation” trade status for China.

In 1988, a session was held to consider the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and in 1983 a session was held on Nicaragua.

In 1942, a secret session was held on navy plans to build battleships and aircraft carriers, and in 1943 a secret session was held on reports from the war fronts.

Six of the most recent secret sessions, however, were held during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

Update: The Senate has been turned loose. Approximate exchange:

Republicans: Okay, okay. We didn’t do it, we won’t do it again, and you can have your ol’ investigation.

Democrats: Uh-huh. Just remember, we can do this again tomorrow. And the day after that.

National news media: What the hell is this story? We haven’t gotten our talking points yet! How are we supposed to cover the news if we haven’t gotten our talking points? … Oh, hell. Better just go with the Bird Flu story on Page One.

“Dirty hippies”, i.e., you and me
Posted by Patrick at 12:13 AM * 293 comments

Tom Tomorrow:

I’m really sick of hearing the liberal-hawks-turned-peaceniks claim that they supported the war only because of Colin Powell’s breathtaking performance before the UN, and are shocked and saddened to learn they were lied to. Bullshit. You supported the war because you didn’t have the courage to buck what you perceived as mainstream opinion, didn’t want to align yourselves with all those dirty hippies marching in the streets. As it turns out, of course, the dirty hippies, i.e. citizens from all walks of life, turned out to be a lot more on the mark than you were. Colin Powell made those remarks on February 5, 2003, and if you were out there reluctantly arguing the case for war before that date, as most liberal-hawks-turned-peaceniks were, then shut the fuck up about Colin Powell and admit you were as wrong as it was possible to be.

I remember being on the Well and being authoritatively informed, in a private conference, by a respected Well elder, that Dan “Tom Tomorrow” Perkins was “an idiot.” And yet. Somehow.

Why, it’s almost as if the process of eliciting consent for the morally indefensible were a well-rehearsed industrial process. Ya think?

UPDATE: Teresa tells me the above post reads as if I’m suggesting that Tom Tomorrow is an idiot. To the contrary, in fact I agree entirely with “Tom”, and I was trying to gesture—evidently incoherently—toward the process by which viewpoints which have been pre-defined as “radical” get marginalized even when by all reasonable standards of evidence they’ve been proved correct. More on this in the comments.

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