Archive - 2014

December 17th


Every now and then, I run across an article that causes a light bulb to turn on in my brain. This one makes it clear to my why Aunt Olla has always loved mauve and wants to be buried in a mauve casket. 

UPDATE: Thanks to a reader for pointing out the bad link. 

View from my window



Finally! Normalization of relations with Cuba. This is about 30 years too late. Of course, the regime in Cuba is not particularly nice. But openness is the one hope to change it. The only reason we have continued to treat Cuba like a Cold War threat has been the vote of the emigree population in Florida. Because the state is needed to win a presidential election, and because it is always close (remember the election of 2000), no candidate wants to lose the anti-Castro vote. So, no president could normalize relations until a second term. I was hoping this would happened and puzzled that it hadn't already. 



Flew down to Tucson yesterday for one week. Found a new the foothills near Sabino Canyon. Turns out, the second floor apartment is right against the base of the mountains. It is very well vegetated. The person in the apartment below feeds the birds. In just five minutes on the porch, I saw a cardinal, many humming birds, a purple finch, several sparrows, the ubiquitous mourning doves, and an Arizona version of a chipmunk. The weather is in the 50s, so it is unseasonably cold (I didn't bring a jacket) but I will survive!

December 14th

The death of Washington

I wonder: will people eventually look back at medicine today and wonder what we were thinking? George Washington was pretty much murdered by his doctors, who didn't know any better. Medicine has advanced, yet when somebody struggles through chemotherapy, a cure that can bring you to the edge of death, I sometimes wonder how different it is from blood-letting or leeches. 

December 12th

Johnny Wahlin

LIfe-long neighbor Johnny Wahlin (pronounced Wall-EEN) passed away this week. He was 86, which I had never imagined, he stayed so active. He somehow arrived 86 without seeming old. Read the obituary for a list of his post-retirement activities. In short, John devoted the final 21 years of his life to helping others. That despite crippled legs from decades of milking a large diary herd. John was an activist before activism was called activism. At one time, you could find him in the aisles of the grocery store beseeching people not to buy certain brands of milk products, brands whose products he felt were unfairly obtained from the farmer. 

After retiring, John volunteered for an organization which helped farmers in difficulty. He was their counselor. He was unconditional in his concern and caring for every person in every situation. Then he worked in the school as a volunteer. "These kids.." he would say, shaking his head at the rough things they went through at home. 

What a rare attitude. Most people have enough trouble giving unconditional love to their own children. Johnny showed unconditional love to everybody he met. 

Current affairs

•Torii Hunter has returned to the Twins. Yawn. He is old. He might hit a little, but he shouldn't be allowed in the outfield. He continues to talk too much. On the other hand, I don't think his opinions on gay marriage matter. Who cares what he thinks. He certainly shouldn't be penalized or censured for speaking his mind. Athletes should not be expected to toe any ideological line.  

•The torture report (what a victory for the English language that people are finally using the word torture, not Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) continues to bounce around. Its conclusions are really too much for the establishment to swallow. If President Obama and others faced the facts as they are required to do by law, they would have to arrest a whole bunch of war criminals, including former President Bush and former Vice-President Cheney. At a minimum. Do you think that will happen? It should! And don't think it shouldn't unless you have read what the report reveals. Torture without any intent of gathering intelligence. Torture for retribution alone. Torture and more torture, first by the Army, now by the CIA. At least twenty-six people tortured, at least one to death, who were later proven innocent. People who don't care don't give a damn about the rule of law. And there are plenty of them. Why is it they are afraid of big government––until it starts killing the innocent? 

•Bill Cosby's accusers now number nearly two dozen, and they should be given the benefit of the doubt. According to many people, he always was an intolerable asshole off screen. Now add rapist to his resume. 

•The House of Representatives passed a spending bill last night, but not before adding provisions allowing big banks to take greater risks with investors' money. Yes, we really need risky derivatives reintroduced into our economy. We little people have missed them so much since 2008, when they imploded the economy. Elizabeth Warren for president? I am tempted. She gets this stuff. Hillary is sold out to Wall Street, and that is a big problem for me.

•What happened to Ebola after the election?

It apparently wasn't needed anymore. 


The consequences of apocalyptic thinking

This is an insightful article. I agree with its conclusion: an understanding of End Times theology (otherwise known as eschatology) is central to any understanding of modern evangelical religion. The End Times, a relatively new concept in Christianity, shapes the political thinking of the evangelical right. It is a desperate, angry, and violent philosophy, and it is held by a greater percentage of Americans than ever before. 

December 9th

Dementia, drugs and dental care

Restless dementia patients are often put on anti-psychotics. With new understanding of what causes such restlessness, such harsh drug are not necessary. 

Another problem that isn't given much attention: Dental care for nursing home patients is abyssmal. The big reason? At least in Minnesota, the reimbursement rate for dentists is so low that most dentists do not accept Medicare or state payments. So, to get dental care if you are on medical assistance, you have to be taken a long distance to a dental center which specializes in treating poor patients. 

Just as the workforce shortage in nursing homes is directly attributable to funding cuts, so to the dental problem is mostly a matter of funding priorities. I do know that an area dentist worked with Minnesota legislators to solve the problem a decade ago, working out a compromise between the dentists and the Department of Health and Human services, but that bill was vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty. Nothing has been done since.



The Senate Intelligence Committee today released the long-awaited report on the CIA's torture program. It was worse than we knew, of course. And this report only details the work of the CIA--it doesn't include the Army, which tortured Abu Gharab. This is a small part of the story. But it is bad enough. 

Andrew Sullivan, who gained my admiration for being on this story from the beginning, responds

In 1940, the British suffered 2500 deaths per night of Nazi bombing, some 50,000 people total. But in 1941 when the Nazi deputy Fuhrer Rudoph Hess crash-landed in England in a crazy attempt to negotiate a peace, did the British torture him to get the Nazi plans? No. It was unthinkable. The Allies knew the Nazis were committing the worse sort of war crimes, but we were better than that. Torture was not even considered, even though the situation in 1941 was much, much more dire. 

But now, after a nationwide freakout over 3,000 deaths in a one-time attack, we decided we are not better than that. Or at least Cheney, Tenet and Rumsfelt, decided that for us and soon got the support of a once-reticent President Bush.

The main victory today, to me, is that most media outlets are calling this report the "torture report." Finally! Calling a spade a spade. Not only are these techniques what the Nazis, Soviets, the Chinese, and Cambodians under Pol Pot used-- but the CIA didn't miss a one. They used freezing water, stress positions, waterboarding--there simply wasn't a sadistic technique from the totalitarian regimes they didn't use! 

I am in favor of the perpetrators being prosecuted for war crimes. 

And I await the right-wing response. Of course, right-wingers love torture. After denying torture happened for the first few months after the first disclosures of "enhanced interrogation techniques," the right-wingers, when it became impossible to deny the truth, decided to embrace torture. 

Particularly shocking was the Pew Research poll which showed that the single group of American citizens (demographic groups such as women, elderly, men, Catholics, gays, blacks, highly educated, less educated) who supported torture more than any other was evangelical Christians. 

Well, I wasn't shocked. George W. Bush, after all, lacked the moral fortitude to oppose torture, his religion non-withstanding.