Saturday, June 27, 2009

Melanie Oudin

Okay, I am terribly remiss in my posts about the first week of Wimbledon (or as the locals call it: Wimpleton) and promise to take up the keyboard in a serious fashion soon.

Still, I wanted to take a moment to state my admiration for a rising U.S. star, one Melanie Oudin of Marietta, Georgia. She's a qualifier this year and just completed her 17th pro match today -- beating the Serbian Drama Queen Jelena Jankovic (who apparently suggested to officials during her official meltdown that an ambulance be brought to take her away...).

[My favorite JJ moment? Last year at the US Open, against Arvidsson, when she decided to lay on the main court, face-down, for a good minute or so, after failing to field a drop shot. Well, that and the "I-can't-feel-my-leg" moments, always followed by her racing energetically around the court.]

Oudin played with steel, maturity, and was mostly quite steady. I really came to like her, though, in her post-play interview. She's as yet untouched, almost virginal without being cloyingly stupid about it. She said Venus came over and congratulated her on her win, to which she responded something like: "And congratulations on your winning effort, too, Venus!"

We've needed new blood for a good while. Add on smarts and a good sense of humor? It's almost overload...

Scott Reuben, Still At Large

I've not lost interest in the doings of one Scott Reuben, M.D. Some amazing damage control is in play, as there is virtually no new information to add to the astounding material that initially brought him infamy.

You would think, or at least, I would, that he'd have made The List by now -- the HHS-OIG Fraud Prevention and Detection, finely tuned to his state of Massachusetts. A space awaits him between James Regan and Robert Reynolds.

Over at, where his list of publications tops off at a mere 72 (none of which should inspire any confidence), there is also this, called a "Personal Statement":

I was unable to find him listed as a treating physician at either Baystate Medical Center in Springfield or Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, also a Baystate Health facility, which ought to be of some comfort...

Every time I see or hear his name referenced as an "expert" on CRPS? I want to tweak his little nose, bop his teeny ears, tap dance on his scuzzy little soul...

What is it that keeps him from being criminally charged? Hmm?

If any of you, Dear Readers, have updated information on Dr. Reuben, please clue me in. Thanks.

Friday, June 26, 2009

King of the False Syllogism

I'm going to go sit on the limb of the nearest tree and declare that Matthew Cooper (of The Atlantic fame) is an idiot.

I also am heaving sighs of relief after a period of being stressed, in a writerly way, about my tangential tendencies in composition. But then, maybe you haven't noticed the overwhelming weirdness of my attempts to manage The Segue.

It can be cause for cheer when a Greater Boob decides to sashay around all the verbiage. One might just get the chance to slip out the back.

Really, although he Took the Cake today, Matthew Cooper was wallowing in weirdness yesterday. I guess it was a warm-up exercise.

The title of yesterday's spasm?

No, I am not kidding. He notes that Thomas has recently recorded two lone dissensions on The Court. I know, I know, it makes me have cold shivers all up and down my spine. It also makes me "throw up a little bit in my mouth."

It's just a stone's throw from that priceless observation to this:

For what it's worth, I sometimes wonder what would have happened to Thomas
without the Anita Hill scandal. He surely would have been approved by the Senate
by a wider margin, but more importantly, would there have been an effort to
enlist him in electoral politics? It seems far fetched now, given what a recluse
Thomas has become and how no one has left the bench in more than a generation to pursue another political office.

Spellbinding, isn't it, how he... does that? I mean, wow, it wouldn't have - spasmodic coughing fit - even *occurred* to me back in 1991 to think that a political ambition aimed at winning the Presidency of the United States was in peril, especially since that dream was deferred due to the misfortune of becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

I mean, I remember there being a heightened sense of awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace. I believe that the degree of women's involvement in political life markedly increased after the hearings.

Oh yeah. And I know that most of the women of my acquaintance were devastated by his appointment.

Ah, well. This is what Matthew Cooper did today, in terms of a public writing, in a public forum. False Syllogism, at the very least.

Hey? Am I being Punk'd? That's it, isn't it! Matthew is punkin' us!

Jun 26 2009, 9:25 am by Matthew Cooper

What Barack Obama Owes Michael Jackson
They were born three years and 24 days apart. And a more than an ocean separated the only child of a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother and the Gary, Indiana kid who was the seventh of nine children. It would be wrong to read too much political meaning into the career of Michael Jackson and that of Barack Obama. (No one is thinking tonite that Hillary Clinton owes a debt of gratitude to Farrah Fawcett.) But it would be myopic to say that Jackson had a huge cultural impact and no political impact, either.

After all, as much as the oft mentioned Huxtables of "The Cosby Show" fame or any number of crossover African-American politicians, Jackson broke down walls between races with music that sent suburban whites and inner-city blacks to say, "I want my MTV!", the fledgling cry of the music cable network when it was still trying to get pickup.

In his androgyny and overall weirdness, Jackson was never really a role model in the sense that you could try and be like him. His talents were too otherworldly and so were his oddities. But he was entertaining and by bringing people together, especially in the 80s when race relations seemed more strained--remember Howard Beach or "Do the Right Thing?" or the Giuliani-Dinkins race--that meant something.

I don't have my copy of "Dreams From My Father" at hand to know if the 44th president mentions Jackson but it's hard to imagine that he didn't have a disc to take with him to Occidental or Columbia. And if he didn't own one, he surely knew the words which made him like everyone else. Barack Obama lived a life of accomplishment, an upward trajectory from Punahou to Harvard, Springfield to the White House that seems incredibly void of demons whereas Jackson was all demons. They're no more alike personally than...

If you cannot quite place "Matthew Cooper" within the annals of journalism, here are some of the highpoints, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Matthew Cooper (born 1963) is a former reporter for Time who, along with New York Times reporter Judith Miller was held in contempt of court and threatened with imprisonment for refusing to testify before the Grand Jury regarding the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation...
On June 29, 2005, U.S. Federal judge Thomas F. Hogan gave Miller and Cooper one week to comply with the Grand Jury order to testify or face the maximum penalty of 18 months in prison

The United States Supreme Court declined the reporters' appeal of the contempt of court finding.

On July 6, 2005, Cooper agreed to testify, thus avoiding being held in contempt of court and sent to jail. Cooper said "I went to bed ready to accept the sanctions for not testifying," but told the judge that not long before his early afternoon appearance at court he had received "in somewhat dramatic fashion" an indication from his source freeing him from his commitment to keep his source's identity secret.

Cooper stated in court that he did not previously accept a general waiver to journalists signed by his source (whom he did not identify by name), because he had made a personal pledge of confidentiality to his source. The 'dramatic change' which allowed Cooper to testify was later revealed to be a phone conversation between lawyers for Cooper and his source confirming that the waiver signed two years earlier applied to conversations with Cooper. Citing a "person who has been officially briefed on the case," The New York Times identified Karl Rove as the individual in question. Rove's own lawyer later confirmed this information. According to one of Cooper's lawyers, Cooper had previously testified before the grand jury regarding conversations with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jr., chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, after having received Libby's specific permission to testify. Rove's own lawyer later confirmed this information.

On July 25, 2005, Cooper wrote an account of his grand jury testimony for Time. The article, entitled "What I Told The Grand Jury," concludes:

So did Rove leak Plame's name to me, or tell me she was covert? No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the "agency" on "WMD"? Yes. When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don't know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me. At this point, I'm as curious as anyone else to see what Patrick Fitzgerald has.

. . . In that testimony, I recounted an on-the-record conversation with Libby that moved to background. On the record, he denied that Cheney knew about or played any role in the Wilson trip to Niger. On background, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, 'Yeah, I've heard that too,' or words to that effect. Like Rove, Libby never used Valerie Plame's name or indicated that her status was covert, and he never told me that he had heard about Plame from other reporters, as some press accounts have indicated.

So he took a job at Talking Points Memo... and in early June of this year:

June 09, 2009
Cooper joins the Atlantic

Matt Cooper, who recently lost his job at Portfolio when the magazine closed and took a reduced role at Talking Points Memo, now has a new gig: he's writing for The Atlantic's politics page.

UPDATE: Cooper points out in a tweet that he's still at TPM.

By Michael Calderone 03:03 PM

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Take Off Your Shirt

The Kid hangs in.

I was reminded of the hilarious "How to put on a sweater" composition my brother-unit The Grader Boob wrote as a sample for one of his writing classes. I wonder where I put that? Hmmm.

Press Release, National Emergencies Act Extended


Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency, declared in Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008, is to continue in effect beyond June 26, 2009.

The current existence and risk of the proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula constitute a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency and maintain certain restrictions with respect to North Korea and North Korean nationals that would otherwise have been lifted in Proclamation 8271 of June 26, 2008.

June 24, 2009.

Penpals: Write for Health Care Reform

Remember back in February, when the world was new? My favorite health care policy wonk and medical blogger, Shadowfax, was sulking because an old friend from his doubtlessly grungy Chicago days had taken a new job, and -- in his words: "He dropped me like a warm turd."

A word [As in: Psst! Over here! Shhh! Quiet, listen up!] -- I am embarrassed to say that I have long periods of mental idling, much like a coughing old jalopy, and while my opinions about health care reform are incredibly strong, they are not well informed beyond the data of the personal. So I do what I always do when smarty-panted conversants start to leave footprints on the top of my head: I locate those that seem closest to professing my own sentiments, but sanely and clearly, and I read them. Yes, I cut out a huge portion of original and new material that I rightly ought to be processing. But I also benefit from well-appointed points-of-vue, dotdotdot.

In short, I let other people do the work.

I am very fond of Shadowfax's old friend. Our relationship is new, and probably conducted under the observant eyes of his protection detail. I've become an ardent penpal.

Okay, so I have written him once. And I wrote "my story" up for submission to a chatty, lighthearted version of the serious, fer-real working group on health care reform.

I've emailed more regularly, and he tweets me all the live long day.

I haven't quite recovered from my "eureka!" moment (long time fan of Archimedes in the tub...). As I began setting down my story of health care and health insurance difficulties, it became crystal clear that any changes made will come too late to help me.

I am no longer one of those people who might slip through the various and sundry cracks -- I've already fallen through; I've already lost hope.

Given that this places me squarely among the most powerless, I expect my letters and emails to self-destruct within 30 seconds of their being opened.

President Obama needs vibrant, smart, effective people around him. My smart-ass, self-pitying "story"? It doesn't inform, nor does it inspire. It whines.

The NYT tells me this morning that Obama's point man on launching health care reform legislation is Senator Max Baucus of Montana, chair of the Senate Finance Committee -- "a political shape-shifter and crafty deal maker who is not fully trusted by either party."

It sounds, cough, like a match made in heaven.

And so... bleary-eyed and very sick, I resolved to write Shadowfax's good buddy one more time, and to copy that letter to every member of the Senate Finance Committee, which -- imagine the coincidence -- is actually asking for popular feedback.

As I familiarized myself with the Finance Committee's web site, I felt rather stupid for not having known of its existence or importance before today.

Senator Baucus authored a 98-page whitepaper -- Call to Action: Health Reform 2009 -- back on November 12, 2008.

There is access provided, via video and text, to all eight Health Care Reform Hearings held thus far in 2009, and the list of witnesses is impressive.

Most importantly?

To submit comments on the Senate Finance Committee’s Health Reform Policy Options email PDF or Word files to Health_Reform@finance‐

You who have not slipped through the cracks, you who remain stolid contributing members of society -- please find the time to put your thoughts on health care reform down in the requisite technical form, and send it off to the politicians.

I've always wanted to use the phrase "It is incumbent upon..."

It is incumbent upon us all -- upon the pity-partying, upon the thriving, upon the vast majority of those who simply and steadily struggle -- to tell our stories, yes, but also to frame those stories with information and suggested guidance.

If you want to give your blogging brain a jumpstart, give some of Shadowfax's opinion pieces a good read.

Oh! Oh, my! What do you mean you don't share my liberal leftwing gay pinko points-of-view? I'm shocked. Share, then, if you will, those policy wonks you'd like to make part of the common information pool. To whom do you give a nod of the head?
*** *** ***
Well, I'm off to make friends and influence people. Maybe feed a few cats, do a little laundry.
Take morning meds (This month's medication cost? $1113.00), recharge the wheelchair, get in bed, elevate the frozen purple legs, the throbbing infected shoulder and arm. Take a few pain pills, decide whether my ballooning face (the left side only) warrants a call to my MDVIP doctor. Ponder where I will come up with the $1,327 for my monthly BCBS health insurance premium. If I get rid of telephone, internet, television, and Netflix -- will I be able to make a payment to the hospital where I am having my 6th major surgery in less than 9 months -- in just 2 weeks? Will the fact that I still owe $900 impact their willingness to accept me, yet again, as a patient? What will happen if I code again? Is it possible some doctor or nurse will decide that I shouldn't be vigorously resuscitated, being such a drain on an active and working society? No wonder I don't sleep.

Monday, June 22, 2009


She's amazing, My Beloved Iranian Lesbian, my former best friend.

Resilient, dedicated. Mildly insane. Têtue: Opiniâtre, obstinée, qui ne veut pas démordre de son idée, opinion, ou volonté. Generous. Occasionally rude, in a studied way. There is nothing haphazard in her world, in her behaviors.

She's the only person I've ever physically attacked. Trust me, if you ever assault someone, particularly someone you love, the details stick with you. The heat of that summer night, the humid South. The concrete. I think a lot about the concrete.

What shall I name her for the purposes of writing about her? After diddling around with an Iranian Baby Names site, I've decided on Ravan, soul, spirit.

Right now I imagine her... souffrante, en colère. We have beat the Horse of Exile to death in ancient conversations. She aches to do something. She lies about what she has actually done. Iran is her country, her home; She wants to be there, marching, yelling, singing. effecting change; She wants to be The Revolutionary Force.

I wish she could be satisfied.

It was very soon after we had met each other through our classes and official "hanging out" sessions at the French Department. She was someone you noticed -- a beautiful girl with shiny, shiny, thick, thick black hair, prayer beads always intertwined between long fingers. She was surprisingly hippy, full-hipped. For a dancer, and she insisted she was a dancer, having taken Master Classes in Paris.

Our first encounter, though, came when she and Oussama decided to cheat on a test. It pissed me off, and me being pissed off amused the hell out of them. I received the standard lecture on cultural difference, and probably would have not cared were anyone besides Oussama involved. Oussama was a dickwad.


Our friendship was fun, heady. We drank, we smoked. We pretended to be somewhere that mattered, doing something important. She was living with her sister, who had come to the States ahead of her, before the Revolution.

So she would usually come over to my apartment, which was an easy 10 minutes from university.

I remember letting her cut my hair. (Why? Why did I cut my hair? Inevitably, the summertime gets to me, and the dampness at the nape...) I remember smoking some pot. Listening to music. And suddenly she was talking.

It was like vomit.

It all came out, and not exactly comprehensible, but the grandes lignes were clear enough.

She claimed to be a terrorist, to have blown up a tank by attaching a bomb to its undercarriage, to have gone to a camp to train. I believe this was a grand lie, but she was intense about it, it stirred her. It was what she wanted to be true.

It was so much more interesting than her life in plaid school uniforms and cut-like-a-bowl hair, faithfully documented by badly coloured snapshots, head shots. It was so much more fascinating than her well-to-do family, her mother a university Sanskrit scholar, her father a judge, appointed by the Shah.

She needed to have blown up that tank.

Instead, her parents had forcibly put her on a flight to Germany, then France, when the violence erupted back then. Her father stopped going to the court, and waited at home for someone to come and take him away. They never came.

Her grandfather, she said, was the theoretician of the Iranian Communist Party, and was in and out of prison. He eventually was beheaded.

Taking a closer look at the wealthy family, educated and liberal, looking at their reality? Fascinating. She and her sister had different fathers. This was known, and as it so often goes: This was not known. Years later, long years since the children had flown away, Ravan's mother moved her old lover into the house. An interesting woman -- overwrought and yet so calculating.

Ravan spit it all out, all her need, all her shame -- at not being there, with the compatriots, with the fellow revolutionaries.

She began to beat her head against my living room wall.

I sobered up in record time.

It made a sickening thud sound.

I told her to stop. I warned her that I would not tolerate her injuring herself on my living room wall.

And eventually, I opened my front door, that gave onto a concrete patio, went back in, picked her up and threw her out the door, onto the concrete. Then I shut the door, and stood, my back to it, hyperventilating and crying.

These many years later, I imagine she still is overwhelmed with want, with self-hatred, with so much frustration.

A year or so later, Ravan and I rented a house together. It was a year of great fun, hilarity, questionable moral judgments -- the time of my life. She fooled us all, though. She would leave the house with me, when it came time to go to classes. No longer taking language courses, we would still meet up in the French Department, do lunch, chitchat with the profs, then go off again, each to attend to her seminars, classes, and labs.

Ah, but she was no longer enrolled. It was a great act. The thing was, she only cared about French lit -- but the Iranian government dictated that she major in something truly useful, by which she could be of service to her country upon her return. This was part of the conditions placed upon her receipt of a student visa.
She tried! Accounting, biology -- she really tried, but she flunked them all. Okay, so a part of her flunking was her failure to attend even a single class.

It turned out that her bank was nothing but the emblem of the western Satan to her. Reason enough to write overdraft after overdraft, right? Stick it to the evil American corporations.

I noticed an accumulation of thin envelopes addressed to Ravan from her bank. She had a stack of letters at least several inches high.

I would come home in the afternoon and there would be huge bouquets of fresh flowers, bottle of Rémy-Martin on the dining room table. The best of everything, and always too much.

When I was finally able to laugh again, the funniest thing of all were the many gifts!

It all came out the day I went to the Mom and Pop grocery around the corner from our house. Pop was doing the check out and was giving me nasty looks. We'd never had any problems, so I eventually interrupted his slamming my purchases into bags every which way, and asked what was wrong.

"She's not welcome here no more," he fairly sputtered.

And yes, there on the cork board next to the register was a returned check of Ravan's. Usually pretty strict with the student population, she had charmed him to the point of ultimate embarrassment.

I walked back home with my groceries, and found Godiva chocolates and, as usual, a huge bouquet of fresh flowers, that day, a selection of imported tulips.

Once her sister and I managed to convince her that not only was the banking industry the Emblem of the Western Satan, it was also going to hold her responsible for making restitution on all her bad debts. I explained that the Sheriff was likely to show up at our door at any time, and that he was going to haul her off to Hell.

At that time, I drove an impeccable 1965 baby blue Cadillac. A freaking luxury liner.

What fun we had, driving around to all the vendors, me waiting in the car while she was forced to go in, confess, apologize, and pay off her bad check(s). There was something endearing and hilarious at her continued attempts to convince us that such-and-such company owed it to the world to suck up her failed payments, as they did nothing but subjugate the workers...

Yes, we slept together, once. It wasn't right, or it was excessively right. I have never been sure which. We had an even more interesting time when we both slept with one of the French profs -- a sad alcoholic of a man who was a thorough swine. I don't know why we did it. Again and again. I remember the tension of having him and his children over for dinner (they were visiting from out of town, as they lived primarily with their mother). Ravan and I both hit it off with his daughter, and then felt, well, oh-so-icky.

Long ago, she found a wonderful woman who is her true love, and succeeded in not one, but several, careers. She went back to school and excelled -- in journalism, political science... and French lit. She became a realtor. Her sister made her an aunt, twice, a role to which she is dedicated and masterful. The two of them have long supported their parents back home.

She was very brave in coming out to her family, to people whose culture doesn't much permit sexual difference.

After a decade or so, she got her green card.

I have one of my single pot wonders cooking on the stove -- a chicken and brown rice curry creation, with cabbage and carrots. Beaucoup garlic. Wonderful aroma, fantastic taste. It's about all I can manage without shoulders, and it fits my sulking mood, as I think of Ravan, my amazing and incredible Beloved Iranian Lesbian, my former best friend.

I think of her and know she is thinking of her land, her home, her people -- and tanks rumbling down streets, and young girls running quickly, bombs in hand.
photo credit: Kirsten Hammer