Saturday, July 11, 2009

48 Minutes Ago OR The Tip of the Iceberg

Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of C.I.A. Project

By SCOTT SHANE 48 minutes ago

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

Efforts to reach Mr. Cheney through relatives and associates were unsuccessful.

The question of how completely the C.I.A. informed Congress about sensitive programs has been hotly disputed by Democrats and Republicans since May, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the agency of failing to reveal in 2002 that it was waterboarding a terrorism suspect, a claim Mr. Panetta rejected.

The law requires the president to make sure the intelligence committees “are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity.” But the language of the statute, the amended National Security Act of 1947, leaves some leeway for judgment, saying such briefings should be done “to the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters.”

In addition, for covert action programs, a particularly secret category in which the role of the United States is hidden, the law says that briefings can be limited to the so-called Gang of Eight, consisting of the Republican and Democratic leaders of both houses of Congress and of their intelligence committees.

The disclosure about Mr. Cheney’s role in the unidentified C.I.A. program comes a day after an inspector general’s report underscored the central role of the former vice president’s office in restricting to a small circle of officials knowledge of the National Security Agency’s program of eavesdropping without warrants, a degree of secrecy that the report concluded hurt the effectiveness of the counterterrorism surveillance effort.

Okay, so I threw in "torture" as a tag.

Call it habit.

I'm just sayin'

I'm home!*

The Good Doctor ShoulderMan worked his magic on Monday, gifting me with a new left shoulder. He had to do some rearranging but he made it work.

But, of course, this being me (me, under the everloving influence of La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, both of us under the magic skies deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé) -- well.

Well, on the "deep tissue" stain, we finally found bacteria waving back at us, all gram-positive-y, upbeat, and downright defiant. But, of course, this being me (me, under the everloving influence of La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, both of us under the magic skies deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé)-- Wait one freaking minute! (The fog of anesthesia?)

As of Day 2, there was, natch, no growth on culture! My Infectious Disease Dood's eyes are bugging out. Bless his bones, he cannot decide when, and how much, to lie to me -- in his mind, I think, he sees this as "managing" the patient.

Because, you see, I refused insertion of a PICC line. They thought I was just posturing, joshing, when I made the declaration before surgery. But, of course, this being me (me, under the everloving influence of La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, both of us under the magic skies deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé) -- arg! Sorry about that, and je vous prie de bien vouloir m'excuser, too -- covering all my bases.

So, Infectious Disease Dood decides that I need Zyvox, a ridiculously expensive antibiotic that just happens to have serious interaction issues with 3 of my meds, as well as some nasty side effects all on its own. The deciding factor? Insurance coverage, as the $1500/week cost doesn't fit my very tired budget. Anyway... Fred and I think it was all a plot. As in, ID Dood was expecting BCBS -- Bull Crap Bull Skeet of Tête-de-Hergé -- to refuse coverage.

I was held hostage, told I could not leave the hospital without either the Zyvox or a PICC line with trusty i.v. med balls full of vancomycin.

[I know that it's overkill for the vanco hyperlink to refer back to this blog, but it astonished me, upon searching, to find out how much vancomycin has occupied my life and mind, and what it has come to signify. Allow me that rare {raspy cough} professorial moment of recommending a read of Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5. Wunnerful wunnerful commentary --

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I'm just sayin'.]

Fools! They didn't know with whom they were messing. Once Fred, all bleary-eyed and pooped, arrived... well, we were hell-bent on leaving the hearsepital. At that point, ID Dood and His ID Minions began weaving tangled webs.

Case managers arrived. All nurses with decision-making capacity suddenly were off the floor, scarfing down lunch. And didn't I wish to order lunch? And, uh-oh, the medication you must take before eating hasn't come up from pharmacy. Let's get a blood sugar and another set of vitals! And then they sneak in: They'll be up to put in the line in about 2 hours, no need to go down to Interventional Radiology, how great is that? [I despise the huge, cold, scary room down in IR.]

They promise a nirvana-inducing insertion, complete with a soundtrack. And lest I scoff, they cite:

PICC the Music and Travel to the Port of Relaxation: Preliminary Results of the Effects of Music on Perceived Pain and Anxiety During the Placement of Ports and PICCs
Journal of Radiology Nursing, Volume 26, Issue 2, Pages 61-62
C. McDaniel, M. Burkett, M. Cormier, J. Duvallm, S. Davis, L. East, G. Gilmer, N. Mahaffey, M. Moran


We left. Politely. Give me a call when you all figure out the antibiotic situation, okay?

Amazingly, BCBS of Tête de Hergé decided to fork over the money and my pharmacist, who inexplicably informs me that "[i]t's like déja-vu," promises that I'll have these ridiculous little white tablets by noon the next day.

My BCBS policy, for which I pay $1328/month [Remember: my (private) disability income is a whopping $1996.20. Without that luxurious twenty extra cents, all would be lost!] -- My policy dictates that I pay for medications and then receive reimbursement of whatever they think arbitrarily fair.

So what a hoot it was to have Discover Card's Fraud Unit calling me, all breathless. Did I know that a $3030.00 charge was just made at the nearby Huge Grocery Chain? That was for a mere 14 days worth, ID Dood suggesting I buy the Zyvox in 2 wk lots, in case I need to stop it for some reason or other. Anyway, to the inquiry about the charge:
"Yep!" said I.

There was a tremendous pause. It was absolutely KILLING the woman on the other end of the line to not be told WHAT I had bought. So she rephrased the question, and, on cue, reiterated the pregnant pause.
"That's right!" I crowed. Her frustration was now palpable.
Why not give her something to liven up the day? Let her imagine an elegant late dinner of lobster and caviar, un petit souper à la parisienne [or A Family of Sans-Culottes refreshing, after the fatigues of the day]. Just a little casse-croûte thrown together by a retired French prof whose purchase habits extended to extravagances of generic yogurt and diet cola. Okay, okay -- I also splurge on almonds and good coffee.

By the time the credit card gods were appeased, the antibacterial troops put all in a ducky row, my clothes 'n sundries put away, urgent emails answered, ablutions completed, phone calls returned? I truly felt like shit. I was febrile to the tune of 101 degrees, sweating, and hurting like the proverbial Dickens ["Fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine!" -- ummm, any excuse for passing on my favorite Dickens quote].
Alas, poor Yorrick (sic), a quick and easy search about the origin of the phrase "hurts like the dickens" reveals the following:

Posted by James Briggs on December 18, 2001

In Reply to: Re: Hurts like the dickens posted by R. Berg on December 18, 2001

: : My son said this at supper tonight........."It hurt like the Dickens". We wondered if any one knows the origin? I have also heard "scared the dickens out of me". Any enlightenment would be appreciated.

: From the archives, here's a response to the same question.

: Posted by ESC on January 12, 2001:

: "Dickens" is a euphemism for "devil" as in "'what the dickens,'.an
expression common centuries before Charles Dickens was born, having been used by
Shakespeare in 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'." "Morris Dictionary of Word and
Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977,

It may be an altered pronunciation of "devilkin"

En tout cas... since then, it's been a topsy-turvy time but anything beats being in the hearsepital. And, thank goodness, we only have to visit ID DoodLand once a week versus the usual three or four times.

My MDVIP Go-To-Guy? He opined in an email: "I'm glad it's over and done with. We are all a bit skeptical that this will take care of everything but please try and keep positive thoughts and prayers as we all are trying to do." I have noticed that since his switch to MDVIP, he communicates much more freely and makes frequent reference to prayer, saying that I am being kept in prayer. At first, I was somewhat taken aback. Now? I am thoroughly appreciative and almost virginal in the prose with which I write him.

However, I will visit Holy Ruin on the first person to suggest removal of this prosthesis.

I'm just sayin'.
*graphic of huge mouth courtesy of BENBENEK BLOG -- from an entry which consists of the following:
I’m just sayin’…
I’m pretty tired of people using the phrase “I’m just sayin’…”

Monday, July 6, 2009


"Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles in a thundering typhoon! Subtropical sea-louse! " I stared, enthralled, at her pink sweaty face while La Belle et Bonne Bianca Castafiore paused to take a breath.

"Swine! "

That apparently exhausted her reserve of beloved Captain Haddock exhortations in English, for the next thing I knew, she was belting them out in French:

"Perroquet bavard! Sale menteur!

Clearly, she enjoys the alliteration in English, and the vagaries of a lost insult in French.

Vagaries? Maybe to us... mais pour le capitaine Haddock? No, he was schooled by Tête de Hergé himself! "Anacoluthe"? Nothing but a blurt-out? Not hardly, as the kids say.

The Blessed Wikipedia explains:

An anacoluthon is a rhetorical device that can be loosely defined as a change of syntax within a sentence. More specifically, anacoluthons (or "anacolutha") are created when a sentence abruptly changes from one structure to another. Grammatically, anacoluthon is an error; however, in rhetoric it is a figure that shows excitement, confusion, or laziness. In poetics it is sometimes used in dramatic monologues and in verse drama. In prose, anacoluthon is often used in stream of consciousness writing, such as that of James Joyce, because it is characteristic of informal human thought.

In its most restrictive meaning, anacoluthon requires that the introductory elements of a sentence lack a proper object or complement. For example, if the beginning of a sentence sets up a subject and verb, but then the sentence changes its structure so that no direct object is given, the result is anacoluthon. Essentially, it requires a change of subject or verb from the stated to an implied term. The sentence must be "without completion" (literally what "anacoluthon" means). A sentence that lacks a head, that supplies instead the complement or object without subject, is anapodoton.

And "analphabète"? Well, that's just pee-in-your-pants funny. Ah, but the poor dear was not in a joshing mood, all pink and sweaty, her violet-besotten frock-and-sash a muddled mess. Still, even at such a moment, Bianca is one of the few women whose strong calf muscles will always nicely set off a red pointy-toed stiletto pump. Such natural gifts, in fact, are divine appointments of grace in this anxiety-driven, pain-filled world of ours.

You see, la Belle et Bonne Bianca Castafiore had just been pulled over by the cops --a mere kilomètre from Marlinspike Hall, the warm hearth of home -- and given two tickets and a summons to appear on August 12. Before I could express both my wrath that she was driving my darling Ruby to begin with, and my pleasure that, whatever the circumstances, both she and Ruby were apparently unharmed, the Dastardly Diva exclaimed:

"Et c'est tout à fait de ta faute, toi! And it is all your fault!"

My eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Comment ça?"

It turns out that she would never have forgotten to renew her driver's license if I had not been such a distraction, with all my drama, fever, infection and such. When I pointed out that she had been absent for a good period of the "drama," and was not overly concerned when she actually had been at The Manor, she looked me square in the eye, and... sniffed.

There was a brief lull during which either one of us might have chosen the higher way and opted to be the better person.

"The only reason le flic nabbed me for speeding was that I was practicing getting you from zee Manor to zee 'opital in whatisityoucall? Ah, yes! Zee no time flat! Comme je t'ai dit, tout, tout, tout -- c'est tout à fait de ta faute!"

This may have been when I felt compelled to make a few observations relating to personal and communal responsibilities, perhaps even a remark or two on hygiene -- I don't sniffin' remember.

Even though I had promised the more levelheaded Fredster not to make mention of it, I found myself, in my best scary voice, relating how, on a frigid, late-spring, early afternoon during one of her lighthearted jaunts around Europe, icicles were glinting on the Marlinspike's eaves -- and the alluring scent of two putrid cans of half-eaten Libby's Vienna Sausage* stuffed in the serpentine bottom drawer of a 16th century French armoire -- beautifully restored as a well-stocked wet bar -- led Fred and me, on behalf of our spry-tongued seafaring benefactor (and hers) -- the good Captain Haddock -- to jimmy the lock of her appartement. {don't touch my paragraph}

Slowly she turned... her BB-gun pupils a steely grey -- "Yes? Ah. Oui?"

"Yes," I continued, "we have been inside. We have seen it with our own eyes, and we are shocked, Castafiore, shocked! Whatever could you have been thinking? What will our spry-tongued seafaring benefactor conclude when he hears about this abomination, this perversion of his family's ancestral home?"

La Belle et Bonne Bianca hung her head. Without looking up, in a steady voice, sounding well-practiced, she recounted the story of Her Fall, beginning with the unthinkable -- how the Faust of Gounod had finally, and for the first time, had a closing night -- and how all those arty Anglophiles were rubbing it in with glee: The Mousetrap wins; It has never stopped running since its premier at London's Ambassador’s Theatre in 1952.

There would be no more "je ris de me voir si belle dans ce miroir" until the financial wizards of the world managed to staunch the bleeding that was hemorrhaging the bottom lines of the operatic universe.

The Castafiore, out of work and desperate to continue to earn a living, fell back on her early training as itinerant seamstress to the Wandering Renaissance Reenactors of Belgium, and, unexpectedly, Wales. All that time we assumed that she was touring Faust -- and okay, yes, I was a tad bit self-absorbed with the cartography of my own navel.

Still. Still! "Bianca... How? Where did you get the money?"

"I borrowed it, it was easy. I borrow, then I borrow again, at a better rate, and swap-switch the debt. You know -- take from Peter and give to Paul and, above all, keep washing the Messiah's feet -- no one ever takes a close look at the beautiful chica whose long hair and boobies are all hanging out..." said my friend, her bitterness spilling over. "I just wanted to be able to send money back to my familia rustica, trapped down on the farms outside Roma. Is that so wrong?"

"You really have a flair, you know. If I did not know quite a bit about Chenonceau, I might have fallen for it. I mean, really, Castafiore! How much were you going to charge?"

"That is the trick, mon amie. I would ask 'only for what you can spare, to defray the costs of upkeep.' The tourists? They would squirm in guilt, they would take out their portefeuilles and fill the coffers with their monies. After all, Francois Ier is the epitome of the Renaissance... and toss about the story of Leonardo da Vinci having died in his arms, cared for during his final days in the King's own bed chamber." Her eyes were glowing; She was far away.

She and her unemployed theatre cohorts got it in their minds to gut the Captain's appartement and build a replica of Francois Ier's bedroom at Chenonceau. Never mind how confused her explanations could get in an attempt to distinguish his digs at Chenonceau from the official residence at Château de Blois, and how they managed to confuse the one with the other in her imaginary trip down the Loire Valley.

And how was she going to get people in and out of the place without stirring, umm, lots of suspicion? Easy... cut a door through the three feet of stone leading to that nice shady spot at the northern end of the moat.

We never would have seen or heard a thing.

Hard times... they surely do bring something out of people. We sat and stared at one another -- me, determined to never complain again, because that risks causing people to be carted off to jail, so abstracted are they by my constant grief, and The Castafiore? Sorry mostly at having been caught, but also regretting the end to subterfuge, she was thinking of all those nice doublets waiting to be sown and beaded at 600 Euros a pop.

*"Vienna sausages are life’s 'fuck you' waiting in the cabinet when you’re hung over and depressed..."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Palin trumps Jackson and Grader Boob wishes me well

In case any readers or passing trolls are wondering, the reason for the frenetic posting today is that surgery is tomorrow.

I am nervous.

I really should not be, given that this will be the... give me a minute... the seventh surgery done by this particular operator, since 2005. The sixth since we began this mucked-up odyssey against infection last summer.

He's talented, famous, and more importantly, he practices good medicine.

Still, despite the wrongheadedness of it, I feel like I have been primarily... lucky.

Last August, I ended up in ICU on a vent. Then again in April of this year. And through all of this, we have been unable to identify the offending organism.

I am worn down, exhausted, in a world of pain, able to do less-and-less. I am full of self-pity.

Anyway. I just got an email from Brother-Unit Grader Boob. He claims that he is taking his "organizational scheme from Governor Palin," as in:

"Before I continue with my resignation, I'd like to thank the American troops who are fighting abroad to give me the freedom to quit."

He goes on to note that, "[w]ell, at least she interrupted the Michael Jackson death watch."

Truly. Isn't it a frightening glimpse into American culture, that this woman should prove to be the newsmaker to shift a dead, mentally-ill, drug-addicted, worldwide pop icon from center stage?

Anyway, Grader Boob and I have communicated through, and hidden behind, sporting events our entire lives. I remember watching bowl games with him, snug and secure in my big brother's presence, while my family and country went about the process of disintegration. He's been an awesome brother, and I would do anything for him. You know... like if he were reading this and all, it would be nice for him to know that, trust in that.

Ahem. Anyway, he has already left Wimbledon behind (fourth set now, Roddick kicking booty in hopes of tying the match at 2 sets all) and is getting his head into Le Tour de France. Grader Boob was an accomplished cyclist. I say was because:

"Right now, I'm watching the le Tour prerace show and I look over at my cycling shorts and realize that to squeeze into them would be truly an eyesore."

He closes by telling me about the class he is teaching: "[A]pparently, they're still at the stage where they like to mutter smart ass answers under their breaths, not at all concerned about offering up a more insightful response. Hopefully, that will change as they delve into the readings. Hope springs eternal!"

He also promises that "I'll be thinking of you tomorrow, sending good thoughts up into the heavens and some semi-articulate prayers towards {Tête de Hergé}."

I couldn't be more blessed.

Words, despite my best efforts, pale.

We, The Troika* of La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore, The Fredster, and myself, The Retired Educator, along with two of the four felines, watched American History X last night. The cats in question were Dobby, our little idiot, and Uncle Kitty Big Balls, Dobby's Uncle, the newest addition to the entourage. Dare I say that UKBB is the newest addition to The Troika, or would that just be... silly?

*We use, of course, the European Commission Glossary of Justice and Home Affairs definition of TROIKA: A meeting of ministers of the current past, present and future presidencies of the EU. Except that we are not, at present, current past, present and future presidents of the EU. It may be, for all you know, that we are, rather, a Russian carriage pulled by three horses abreast. Except that we were also that plus two cats. Meh! Probably? Probably, we were a Troika in the simple sense, so like a simple syrup, of three [simple] humans -- the lexically tight version of Princeton's Wordnet, which strictly specifies: Three -- the cardinal number that is the sum of one and one and one.

Were I purposefully obfuscating or trying to buy time so as to buff up something of import to say... I might posit the Wiki that Troika is a chocolate-based confection made by Nidar AS of Trondheim, Norway, using three distinct layers, hence the... okay, okay! Anyway, the top layer is soft raspberry jelly, the middle layer is truffle, and the bottom one is marzipan...

Wiki also breaks the troika down into a Russian folk dance in which a man dances with two women -- given Fred's situation, lodged as he is between myself and The Castafiore, that could be the genesis of the germ.

Or not.

As I was saying, we all professed to be left with the same feeling after the movie – and for once, I found a way of expressing it that was clair comme du cristal, même limpide comme de l'eau de roche: Mwahahahahaha!

In other words -- you know how nouns are introduced, fleshed out, amplified – so that the move to a pronoun is smooth as silk, obvious, not at all a hitch or a glitch? Well, even the ambition of seamlessness was lacking to this cinematic effort. As the vague neutral pronouns were tossed glibly about, it was like, you know, lacking clear internal reference.

I swear, when I said it last night, we all, human and feline alike, nodded – it was a case of deft, classic-prof insightfulness. Honest.

Letting all -- or any -- of that be as it may – Edward Norton delivered a virtuoso performance. The film was worth seeing just to witness his various incarnations at different ages.

But an insightful look at skinhead culture this movie was not. It was as if all meaning had been voided from terms such as neo-nazi, as if a swastika were just an arbitrary intersection of lines.

Maybe insight is not requisite.

Maybe it was enough just to play out an instance of curb stomping... about which words pale.

in real time...

9:48 am, Sunday, 5 July: Andy Roddick takes the first set!