Like A Record, Baby

Let’s talk about focus. Here are 41 seconds of the tightest focus you may ever see.

On Monday, I got into it with the emotionally charged commenters at Shakespeare’s Sister, which has happened before. This morning, I found I’d written about it several years ago.

Siobhan: You’re talking about Shakespeare’s Sister?
Tata: Yeah, how’d you know?
Siobhan: That’s the expression your face gets everytime.
Tata: What? I have a look just for a person I’ve never met?
Siobhan: At least she makes you think!

Life is short, unless you’re in prison. A gal’s got to pick her battles and fewer of them as age creeps up and metabolism slows. For instance: that I get to work in the morning is a daily miracle; there’s no way I’d have the time or energy to pick a fight with a bigtime blogger and pin him to the mat. So I’m watching the fracas with the expression on my face that says, “Look at that girl go! She’s gonna run out of stomach lining before she runs out of opponents.”

Except in this case, I’d said to Melissa, “Let’s make some noise,” and the ensuing ruckus turned out to be just another pointless argument with misogynist trolls. It was disappointing, but I remember a time when I thought it was simply peachy to vent my frustrations in bar fights. Nothing changes when energy is dispersed this way. I don’t have the strength anymore to argue, let alone to no result, and Shakespeare’s Sister is not my blog. In my vast middle age, I prefer direct action to simmering in my emotions: I gather information, then write letters or phone. Here, Digby lays out the facts.

As you well informed blog readers all know by now, last week ABC broke an interesting little story. It was about how Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, Colin Powell, George Tenent, John Ashcroft and other Bush “Principals” all gathered in regular meetings in the White House to discuss and approve of the various torture methods being used against prisoners held by the United States in the War On Terror. ABC interviewed the president a couple of days later and asked him if he was aware of these meetings and he said he was not only aware of them, but that he’d approved of them. Moreover, he specifically said he had no regrets about what was done to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who we know was tortured with simulated drowning — also known as “waterboarding” — which is considered by the entire civilized world to be torture.

As I said, we know all this. The blogs have been writing about it non-stop since last week, stunned and appalled at the picture of these high level public officials sitting around watching power point presentations about the efficacy of sexual humiliation and CIA operatives “acting out” various torture techniques for their approval. (According to ABC’s source, they went farther than the Yoo memos and mandated that certain techniques could be used in tandem to make the “enhanced interrogations” even more painful.) At the CIA’s request, they explicitly signed off unanimously on each instance of torture — torture which included many of the techniques described here by former POWs of North Vietnam. POW’s like John McCain.

Please read the rest. It’s concise and effective, leading to a plan at Firedoglake.

Bush Approves of Torture. We Don’t.

In a stunning admission on April 10, George Bush admitted that he approved of torturing detainees in U.S. custody.

Write to the editors of local and national newspapers to help get the word out that while Bush approves of the U.S. torture, we – the American people – do not.

Individual effort. Focus. A tidal wave of voices. I like it. I’m going to write, and I hope you will too, wherever you are. And for the time being, I’ll avoid comments threads steered to time-wasting nowhere by the whims of trolls.

Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

Friday.

Everything happened at once on Sunday and Monday. I couldn’t go to Virginia last weekend and the guilt was tremendous. Daria, Darla and Dara packed the up the house, though the packing never seemed to end, and on Sunday night, Daria had to leave to get her children to school Monday morning. Darla’s ex-husband drove down from Canada with a truck they packed all night. At about dinnertime yesterday, they closed up the house and Darla went home to Canada. Today, Dara went back to high school. We have said goodbye to Dad’s house, and to our life with Dad. For us, it is over. For Darla, a new life begins.

Yesterday.

Miss Sasha, Mister Sasha and baby Panky – now nearly four months old – are leaving their house in California right now. Miss Sasha reports the house is clean, the boxes are stacked in another truck they’ll drive to San Francisco today. They have a plan, places where they have to report to the Air Force, and sights to see on their journey to North Dakota. They leave behind a forwarding address for packages that did not arrive in time, which turns out to be important. The birthday presents I mailed a week ago did not arrive. Let’s hope weary travelers are greeted at their new home by felicitous gifts.

Today.

I am washing and drying crisp pinstriped sheets and luxurious bath towels at home this afternoon. Yesterday I had some dental work done, so this morning, I called work and said my head wanted to stay flat for the foreseeable future. When you sit up and your skull says, “No, no, you had it right the first time,” you go back to bed too, right? Even Blogger refused to publish until now in the face of all this. The windows are open wide and a breeze perfumes the apartment. Sunlight dances along the surface of the gold organza curtains. This day was always coming. I can only let it pass through me on its way to Long Ago.

You Should’ve Left the Light On

ABC News:

President Bush says he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details about how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an exclusive interview with ABC News Friday.

“Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people.” Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. “And yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.”

Game over. That’s an admission to a war crime. In any civilized nation, the people would have taken to the streets and demanded the head of that lawless bastard on a pike, but no. We’ve got dentist appointments and Monday morning commutes. Via Hullabaloo, where the analytical mind goes to scream into its pillow:

“When word of torture and mistreatment began to slip out to the American press in the summer of 1969, our public-relations-minded captors began to treat us better. I’m certain we would have been a lot worse off if there had not been the Geneva Conventions around.”
– John McCain

The current administration has disposed of habeas corpus. McCain now says torture is hunky-dory. We are in grave danger.

A Swan That’s Here And Gone

Let’s say you have a friend called Plain Cheese Pizza. You and your friend get along great so long as everything else in your life is kinda hip, kinda now, kinda Charlie. You talk on the phone. You meet for beer and darts. You overlook your friend’s faults and glare at anyone who speaks ill. Plain Cheese Pizza has always been there, from earliest memories of school lunches to the latest of late nights. Your mother’s not thrilled but you have never had reason to doubt.

What about when something goes wrong? What about those times when you’re flirting with disaster, when nutrition goes out the window and takes your health along for the ride? Deep down, you’ve always suspected Plain Cheese Pizza was a fair weather friend, someone who would abandon you when times got tough. It’s a terrible disappointment, finding out the friend you love can’t be trusted to nurture and sustain you. This is how we grow. We accept the truth about our friends’ failings, love them anyway as we distance ourselves and look for more satisfying, dependable relationships. It hurts, but in the end, we will be happier.

There in the background, we find the one friend you could have counted on all along, if you’d just known what you needed in life. Now you know, and now you know that Wheat Crust White Pizza with its flavorful variety of vegetable toppings will always provide you with calcium, fiber, vitamins C and D, healthy fats, iron and other minerals. If you’re very lucky and choose your sumptuous vegetable combinations well, you can enjoy Wheat Crust White Pizza’s delightful crunch, satisfying crust, heavenly aroma and creamy cheeses without worrying about how you could have ever settled for Plain Cheese Pizza’s hollow promises. You will always be able to rely on Wheat Crust White Pizza, come what may! Apologize and give your heart willingly but know: there’s no reason to ever go back.

Your relationship will be even better when you stay home and make your own fun. And your mom is so happy! Did you know you could ever feel so good?

Classic Symptoms Of A Momentary Squeeze

Most days I have an idea of what I’ll write before I get a chance to do it, but not always.

Tata: Did you see the pictures of Pete’s dining room?
Mom: I heard you painted it red. Are you sure? Red?
Tata: It’s a deep red with blue tones, a kind of Chinese red. It’s not at all orange. The trim is ultra white, and you remember Sylvia’s modern teak furniture.
Mom: It’s an Italian color scheme, like the restaurant table cloths.
Tata: It’s not like that!
Mom: I can almost picture the flocked wallpaper.
Tata: Like one of those wedding palaces on Route 22?
Mom: Your father had relatives with red flocked wallpaper. They were so proud. They actually thought it was beautiful.
Tata: You thought it was –
Mom: Tragic.
Tata: Huh. No wonder I’m a raving bitch!

No, sometimes I’m bumbling along and a blog post happens.

Tata: My grandmother was a woman of exceptional taste. She had lovely furniture and jewelry. She was well-read and ran her own beauty salon. She had good taste.
Perplexed Co-Worker: How timely of you to mention it, since I was just wondering if your grandmother was a woman of good taste. But why do you say so?
Tata: My grandmother had a lovely apartment and, mysteriously, plastic fruit. After her death, we divided up the ancestral plastic fruit and I had a large collection. My friends and I took to pinning plastic grapes into our hair on festive occasions.
PCW: My goodness, that would be festive. Even so, I cannot say where this story is going.
Tata: Years ago, a friend borrowed some plastic fruit and misplaced it. She offered me dollar store substitutions but I would have none of it! I well know quality when I see it or the lack of it in plastic fruit and gave it back.
PCW: That’s right! You can’t lower your standards where plastic fruit are concerned.
Tata: Then last night I received a phone call from another friend. As she cleaned part of a room she hadn’t used much in some time, she unearthed two bunches of plastic grapes with hair pins still attached. My plastic fruit and I will be reunited tonight!
PCW: You must bring them to work so that I can see them.
Tata: Maybe someday. For now, the plastic fruit and I need time alone, as a family.

You’ll be happy to hear the plastic fruit are recovering nicely from their long ordeal.

While They’re Dragging the Lake

Sunday.

A funny thing happened today: the manager of the grocery store I’ve been haunting called me at work to say he’d found an approved supplier of green products. He offered to fax me a list. I stuttered a bit, thanked him for his thoughtfulness and said I’d love to have a look at that list.

I took this list, sat in the middle of my office and asked the women about these products. One thing that makes environmentalists sing like a Baptist preacher in a bus station is disposable diapers. What about biodegradable diapers?

Lupe: I had friends who used those. They were kind of brown and not cushiony.
Tata: So…a little too biodegradable?
Lupe: Yecch.

I called my sister the socialist businesswoman.

Tata: Biodegradable diapers?
Anya: No? No. No!
Tata: What about the 8 lb. size, before poop smells like poop?
Anya: Yes? Yes. Yes! That would make a great baby gift.

I checked it off on the list.

Today.

When the list arrived, my hands trembled for a few minutes. I wasn’t bluffing, but Stop&Shop called my bluff. What, I fretted, if I picked products that didn’t sell and proved the corporate buyer right? Well, it’s not about me, and if I pick wrong, the grocery store will still have to pick green products because customers will buy somewhere else. It’s not about me, and though it could go wrong it could also go right, possibly after some trial and error.

I expected to rant for a few years like the little old lady from Second Avenue who pushes a granny cart and rants about secret messages from space – I didn’t expect anyone to listen to me. Crap! There are so many stores. I guess I could throw more toilet paper-based hissy fits.

People All Over the World Are Shouting, "End the War."

On Saturday night, I had dinner with friends. I was seated across the table from a very close friend whom I love with my whole black heart. A guy I don’t know well asked my friend, a George Bush fan, a question about politics. My friend and I know better than to discuss politics because my dear friend stopped thinking for himself in 2000. It’s deeply disappointing. Moreover, even though I broke my own rule by answering a direct question, then not backing down or away from my opinion, this conversation really got under my skin.

A few things:

1. To say that John McCain is the most sensible candidate Republicans could have fielded is to disqualify yourself from adult conversation. McCain has repeatedly conflated Iran and al-Quaeda and doesn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shi’a. Further, no one on an international stage should apply for a diplomatic position by stepping up to a mic and singing, “Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran.” This is a disaster in the making, at a time when we are seen internationally as a lawless superpower, a bully with nukes.

Surely, there must be one sane man in the Republican Party. Why isn’t he running?

2. Discussing winning the war in dispassionate terms does not mark one as mature or serious: it’s monstrous. For no discernable reason, we have destroyed a sovereign nation. If we invaded for oil, we’re not going to get it. If we invaded to take out Saddam, we’ve murdered him. If, as I more and more hear, we invaded to restore our Vietnam-wounded pride, we have done the very thing that will insure this pride is injured further.

(As an aside, what is it with men who were too young to serve in Vietnam and who didn’t bother joining the service talking about what WE lost? I was in pigtails and ballet slippers, and I’m not stewing. And that these same dodos end arguments by shouting, “We saved your ass in WWII!” speaks volumes about great insecurity rather than great accomplishment.)

3. The Middle East is not a fucking game board. Real people live there and die there when we take our giant dick substitutes out and fire off a few missiles. Now, just because we forget and go play somewhere else does not mean the survivors won’t remember. Think for a second about Israel and Palestine. How far does that little tiff stretch back in history? Is it…ALWAYS? Why yes, yes it is. And these people, whom we’ve only noticed because they stand on oil, will remember that we’ve dropped bombs on them. We may forget. They never will. Weren’t we trying to win their hearts and minds?

We cannot make the Middle East anything other than what it is.

4. Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. It must arise from the people, who must be willing to die for it. The think tank assholes who keep saying Democracy can be exported know that no such thing is possible and they’re only saying it to people too stupid to read their own nation’s history.

Democracy has nothing whatever to do with what our government’s done to Iraq. It’s an invasion, pure and simple, for oil and George Bush’s Daddy problems. Imperialism is not democratic.

5. The war cannot be won.

6. The military is being destroyed in the war that cannot be won.

7. No one has any idea how to pay for the health care for the veterans of the war that cannot be won.

8. My favorite:

“I believe in less taxes.”
“I believe bridges should remain standing. One of us is going to be unhappy.”

One more thing: when you’re talking politics and you shout at me while I’m discussing peace you’ve told me you know your argument’s weak. It is the refuge of the man who factors the sufferings of other human beings – especially women – into the cost of doing business and doesn’t give his part in creating it a second thought. If you know your argument’s weak, rethink the question.

I’ve tried to reconstruct this glittering little quotation but I’ve failed.* The point is really important. I’m paraphrasing:

The role of Commander In Chief is the smallest part of the American Presidency because war represents the failure of diplomacy.

We’re not electing a Commander In Chief. We are electing a President, hopefully a person smart enough to guide our nation to peace, prosperity and energy independence.

So maybe I’m in a mood.

*If you have a line on who said the line I can’t reconstruct, shout it out, my dahhhhlink.

Update: The salute I think of each time minstrel mentions Reagan’s fetishy love of pomp and parades.

Transmit the Message To the Receiver

My brain is full of soda.

Tata: Is there a special tool for painting staircase spindles?
Man: Besides paint brushes? Why are you asking me this?
Tata: Someone has to answer all my questions. Today, I have chosen you.
Man: I have a meeting, and a question: who are you?
Tata: Sheesh, even I know that.

Questions, questions…

Tata: Pete, what would happen if you replaced sandbox sand with granulated garlic?
Pete: Terrible burns.
Tata: Would it still be funny?
Pete: Oh yeah.

…all day with the questions.

Tata: Has Daria told you she calls me to discuss poop so I’ll yak?
Todd: I’m totally going to remember that.
Tata: I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.
Todd: To get you to chuck over the phone…priceless.
Tata: I’ve got Ziploc bags and postage. I’ll mail you a souvenir.
Todd: Oh yeah, “Hey Todd, what’d you get for your birthday?” “Ahhh, I got some puke.”
Tata: But it’s birthday puke. That makes it SPECIAL!
Todd: When you’re right, you’re right.

The Din Of Our Rice Crispies

I. I am a genius!

We dismantled Dad’s kitchen and I ended up with a bigass container of dried black beans; by bigass, I mean a 7-quart Sysco restaurant container, and by beans, I mean of indeterminate age and/or magical power. For many long months, I stared at this container and waited for inspiration, which means breath of the gods and there’s just not enough Gas-Ex, thank you. One day, a plan came to me. Pete laughed out loud, uncertain I’d do it. Two nights ago, we filled a quart bag with beans and went for a walk. The plan:

1. On a rainy night, fling beans near chain link fences everywhere.
2. Wait.
3. Watch out for falling giants.

The possible results:
1. Planting.
2. Composting.
3. Feeding outdoor critters.

We enjoyed furtively peppering lawns, alleys, empty planters and scrubby gardens with prospective beanstalks, which process became more entertaining the closer we walked to the center of town and spectators. No one asked us what we were doing. No one said, “You’ve literally beaned me.” No. People watched as Pete and I walked by and I exhorted our little legumes to grow toward the sun, be free, be free! This public art project memorializing my father is called the Beany Benediction.

No cows will be harmed in the making of it.

II. I am an idiot!

As we prepared dinner last night, Pete asked if there might be garlic in my kitchen. This request surprised me. “I’m fresh out of fresh but I’ve got chopped, freeze-dried and a metric buttload of granulated. When I acquire Garlic In A Tube, I shall rule the Alium World. Mwah hah hah!” I cackled.

Pete sniffed the chopped and made a face. Pete stared at enough granulated garlic to temper the effects of beach erosion. Pete grabbed a freeze-dried chip slice and tossed it into his mouth. Five. Four. Three. Two –

Tata: What’s the matter with you?
Pete: That was disgusting! Omigod –

And even though I watched him scrape the insides of his mouth with his fingernails I popped a freeze-dried slice of garlic into my mouth.

Tata: I’m not certain but my teeth may be on fire.

I sat on a chair in my kitchen, evidently waiting for the return of either common sense or blood to my extremities, as garlic still in my mouth continued hydrating. At no time did it occur to me to lean three inches to my left and spit out the tiny flaming tidbits singeing my tastebuds. For the rest of the evening, Pete and I randomly burst out laughing and moved a few inches further from each other. This morning, I woke up and the first thing I smelled was my own rank breath.

At work, I handed out emergency Altoids and promised I’d never do it again.