jeudi, décembre 21, 2006

quotable

"It’s HOLIDAY time again. Time to dust off your decorations and see if the velvet blazer still fits !!!!"
-My friend Mark Malter, in his holiday newsletter

quotable

"I have some serious holiday brain going on."
-A colleague who called at 10:30 a.m. to leave a message asking where I was, when we made an appointment to talk at 11 a.m.

mercredi, décembre 20, 2006

grandma had premarital sex, too

If 9 out of 10 Americans have had premarital sex (going back to the 1940s), then why does the current administration keep pushing for abstinence-only education?

Or, as Leo put it:
so if 90% of americans engage premarital sex, and 33% are fundamentalist christians, what's the percentage of americans that should keep their hypocritical, do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do noses out of everyone else's fucking business? (pun fully intended.)
The bottom line: Americans are getting it on. Why are our precious tax dollars being used to fund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12- to 29-year-olds?
Even grandma had premarital sex, survey finds
Americans weren't any more chaste in the past, researchers report
The Associated Press
Updated: 2:59 p.m. PT Dec 20, 2006

NEW YORK - More than nine out of 10 Americans, men and women alike, have had premarital sex, according to a new study. The high rates extend even to women born in the 1940s, challenging perceptions that people were more chaste in the past.

“This is reality-check research,” said the study’s author, Lawrence Finer. “Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades.”

Finer is a research director at the Guttmacher Institute, a private New York-based think tank that studies sexual and reproductive issues and which disagrees with government-funded programs that rely primarily on abstinence-only teachings. The study, released Tuesday, appears in the new issue of Public Health Reports.

The study, examining how sexual behavior before marriage has changed over time, was based on interviews conducted with more than 38,000 people — about 33,000 of them women — in 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002 for the federal National Survey of Family Growth. According to Finer’s analysis, 99 percent of the respondents had had sex by age 44, and 95 percent had done so before marriage.

Even among a subgroup of those who abstained from sex until at least age 20, four-fifths had had premarital sex by age 44, the study found.

Sex stable since the '50s
Finer said the likelihood of Americans having sex before marriage has remained stable since the 1950s, though people now wait longer to get married and thus are sexually active as singles for extensive periods.

The study found women virtually as likely as men to engage in premarital sex, even those born decades ago. Among women born between 1950 and 1978, at least 91 percent had had premarital sex by age 30, he said, while among those born in the 1940s, 88 percent had done so by age 44.

“The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government’s funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12- to 29-year-olds,” Finer said.

Under the Bush administration, such programs have received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

“It would be more effective,” Finer said, “to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active — which nearly everyone eventually will.”

Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defended the abstinence-only approach for teenagers.

White House: Wait longer, please
“One of its values is to help young people delay the onset of sexual activity,” he said. “The longer one delays, the fewer lifetime sex partners they have, and the less the risk of contracting sexually transmitted disease.”

He insisted there was no federal mission against premarital sex among adults.

“Absolutely not,” Horn said. “The Bush administration does not believe the government should be regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults.”

Horn said he found the high percentages of premarital sex cited in the study to be plausible, and expressed hope that society would not look askance at the small minority that chooses to remain abstinent before marriage.

However, Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, a conservative group which strongly supports abstinence-only education, said she was skeptical of the findings.

“Any time I see numbers that high, I’m a little suspicious,” she said. “The numbers are too pat.”

why getting it on is good for you

Hmmm. More sex will leave both of you smiling. And at least one of you with healthier teeth.
Sex does the body good
Regular romps can provide a host of physiological benefits

The best that modern science can say for abstinence is that it's harmless when practiced in moderation. "Saving yourself" before the big game, the big business deal, the big hoedown or the big bakeoff may indeed confer some moral advantage; but physiologically it does zip.

Having regular and enthusiastic sex, by contrast, confers a host of measurable physiological advantages, be you male or female. (This assumes that you are engaging in sex without contracting a sexually transmitted disease.)

In one of the most credible studies correlating overall health with sexual frequency, Queens University in Belfast tracked the mortality of about 1,000 middle-aged men over the course of a decade. The study was designed to compare people of similar age and health. Its findings, published in 1997 in the British Medical Journal, were that men who reported the highest frequency of orgasm enjoyed a death rate half that of the laggards. Other studies (some rigorous, some less so) purport to show that having sex even a few times a week has an associative or causal relationship with the following:
  • Improved sense of smell: After sex, production of the hormone prolactin surges. This, in turn, causes stem cells in the brain to develop new neurons in the brain's olfactory bulb, its smell center.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease: In a 2001 follow-up to the Queens University study mentioned above, researchers focused on cardiovascular health. Their finding? That by having sex three or more times a week, men reduced their risk of heart attack or stroke by half.
  • Weight loss, overall fitness: Sex, if nothing else, is exercise. A vigorous bout burns some 200 calories--about the same as running 15 minutes on a treadmill or playing a spirited game of squash. The pulse rate, in a person aroused, rises from about 70 beats per minute to 150, the same as that of an athlete putting forth maximum effort. British researchers have determined that the equivalent of six Big Macs can be worked off by having sex three times a week for a year. Muscular contractions during intercourse work the pelvis, thighs, buttocks, arms, neck and thorax. Sex also boosts production of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles. Men's Health magazine has gone so far as to call the bed the single greatest piece of exercise equipment ever invented.
  • Reduced depression: A study of 293 women in 2002 had the same implications. American psychologist Gordon Gallup reported that sexually active participants whose male partners did not use condoms were less subject to depression than those whose partners did. One theory of causality: Prostoglandin, a hormone found only in semen, may be absorbed in the female genital tract, thus modulating female hormones.
  • Pain relief: Immediately before orgasm, levels of the hormone oxytocin surge to five times their normal level. This, in turn, releases endorphins, which alleviate the pain of everything from headaches to arthritis to even migraines. In women, sex also prompts production of estrogen, which can reduce the pain of PMS.
  • Less frequent colds and flu: Wilkes University in Pennsylvania says individuals who have sex once or twice a week show 30% higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, which is known to boost the immune system.
  • Better bladder control: Heard of Kegel exercises? You do them, whether you know it or not, every time you stem your flow of urine. The same set of muscles is worked during sex.
  • Better teeth: Seminal plasma contains zinc, calcium and other minerals shown to hinder tooth decay. Since this is a family web site, we will omit discussion of the mineral delivery system. Suffice it to say that it could be a far richer, more complex and more satisfying experience than squeezing a tube of Crest--even Tartar Control Crest. Researchers have noted, parenthetically, that sexual etiquette usually demands the brushing of one's teeth before and/or after intimacy, which, by itself, would help promote better oral hygiene.
  • A happier prostate? Some urologists believe they see a relationship between infrequency of ejaculation and cancer of the prostate. The causal argument goes like this: To produce seminal fluid, the prostate and the seminal vesicles take such substances from the blood as zinc, citric acid and potassium, and then concentrate them up to 600 times. Any carcinogens present in the blood likewise would be concentrated. Rather than have concentrated carcinogens hanging around causing trouble, it's better to evict them. A study published by the British Journal of Urology International asserts that men in their 20s can reduce, by a third, their chance of getting prostate cancer by ejaculating more than five times a week.
While possession of a robust appetite for sex--and the physical ability to gratify it--may not always be the cynosure of perfect health, a reluctance to engage can be a sign that something is seriously on the fritz, especially where the culprit is an infirm erection.

Dr. J. Francois Eid, a urologist with Weill Medical College of Cornell University and New York Presbyterian Hospital, observes that erectile dysfunction is an extension of the vascular system. A lethargic member may be telling you that you have diseased blood vessels elsewhere in your body. "It could be a first sign of hypertension or diabetes or increased cholesterol levels. It's a red flag that you should see your doctor." Treatment and exercise, says Dr. Eid, can have things looking up again: "Men who exercise and have a good heart and low heart rate, and who are cardio-fit, have firmer erections. There very definitely is a relationship."

But is there such a thing as too much sex?
The answer, in purely physiological terms, is this: If you're female, probably not. If you're male? You betcha.

Dr. Claire Bailey of the University of Bristol says there is little or no risk of a woman overdosing on sex. In fact, she says, regular sessions can not only firm a woman's tummy and buttocks but also improve her posture.

As for men, urologist Eid says it's definitely possible to get too much of a good thing, now that drugs such as Viagra and Levitra have given men far more staying power than what may actually be good for them.

The penis, says Eid, is wonderfully resilient. But everything has its limits. Penile tissues, if given too roistering or prolonged a pummeling, can sustain damage. In cases you'd just as soon not hear about, permanent damage.

"I see it in pro football players," says Eid. "They use Viagra because they're so sexually active. What they demand of their body is unreasonable. It's part of playing football: you play through the pain." This type of guy doesn't listen to his body. He takes a shot of cortisone, and keeps on going. And they have sex in similar fashion."
Via Forbes

lorena's sparkled ginger cookies

Lorena's chewy cookies are the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. In short, these ginger cookies rock my socks.
4 TBSP turbinado or demerrara sugar (regular sugar will work as well, but coarse is best)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup soy milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two cookie sheets. Place the turbinado sugar in a small bowl.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate large mixing bowl, mix together the oil, molasses, soy milk, sugar, and vanilla. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and combine well. (Refrigerate the dough for 15-30 minutes.) Roll into 1-inch balls, flatten into 1 1/2-inch diameter disk (by smooshing the ball while you) press the cookie tops into the turbinado sugar (carefully peel cookie off your fingers) and place 1 inch apart, sugar-side up, on a prepared cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes, let cool on cookie sheets for 3 to 5 minutes, transfer to cooling rack. (Let cool 30 minutes before packing the cookies for gifts. Otherwise,
feel free to enjoy immediately!)

From "Vegan with a Vengeance"
By Isa Chandra Moskowitz

post-finals musings

I'm over school. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay over it.

I'm taking managerial accounting during the Spring semester. I'll be lighting candles to St. Matthew and Mark and Luke and John and Vishnu and Ganesh and Shiva and Baal and any other deity that helps me pass the damn class.

But until January 18, I'm going to revel in the fact that nothing's due, there are no tests to study for, and no classes to attend.

lundi, décembre 18, 2006

here we come a wassailing

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.
Chrissy, Justin, Tim, and I sang Christmas carols (with fabulous piano accompaniment from Julie) in the lobby of Scripps Mercy Hospital tonight. 15 minutes into the night, Janet (a diabetes RN) asked if she could join in and made the whole evening that much more meaningful.

It was worth taking a few hours to make some people really happy. The kids who trudged through the lobby went from glum to beaming and even the adults shot us smiles.

Thanks for coordinating this, Chrissy. I'm in for next year ... maybe next year, we can add some of my favorite Spanish-language carols, like "Los peces en el río."

simplify

I'm fan of most used things (used cars, used books — especially textbooks) ... I've even bought used cookie sheets. I've also freecycled with some of my friends.

Lest you think I'm singlehandedly bringing down the economy, here are some facts:
Incinerating 10,000 tons of waste creates 1 job, land filling the same amount creates 6 jobs, recycling the same 10,000 tons creates 36 jobs.
I think I'll take a modified version of this challenge in 2007. Whenever possible, I'll try and freecycle. Failing that, I'll buy an item used, or one that is recycled/ recyclable. Going whole-hog seems like it would take over my life, and I'm not interested enough to surrender all of my free time to this cause. But for now, I'm up for less conspicuous consumption.
10 friends live secondhand for a year: Voluntary simplicity also sparks a backlash
By William Booth
The Washington Post
Updated: 8:29 a.m. PT Dec 18, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO - In the living room, the group gathers to share inspirational stories about the joy of finding just the right previously owned shower curtain. To the uninitiated, these people appear almost normal, at least in a San Francisco kind of way. But upon closer inspection, you see it: Nothing in this house, nothing on their bodies, none of their products -- nothing is new. Everything is used.

For these people, recycling wasn't enough. Composting wasn't a challenge anymore. No, they wanted much more of much less.

Attention holiday shoppers! These people haven't bought anything new in 352 days -- and counting. These 10 friends vowed last year not to purchase a single new thing in 2006 -- except food, the bare necessities for health and safety (toilet paper, brake fluid) and, thankfully, underwear, and maybe socks (they're still debating whether new socks are okay).

Everything else they bought secondhand. They bartered or borrowed. Recycled. Re-gifted. Reused. Where? Thrift stores and swap meets, friends and Dumpsters, and the Internet, from Craigslist to the Freecycle Network, which includes 3,843 communities and 2.8 million members giving away stuff to one another.

These people purchased old sheets this year. Tonight's vegetarian feast was cooked in a hand-me-down Crock-Pot. Christmas presents? They're making them, or -- shudders -- they don't give them.

They call their little initiative "the Compact," which they say has something to do with the Mayflower and the Pilgrim pledge to live for the greater good, save the planet, renew their souls, etc. And although these modern "Compactors" say they never intended to spark a mini-movement or appear on the "Today" show, that is exactly what has happened.

Since the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about them in February, their story of not buying has appeared on media outlets around the world -- everything from Yoga Journal to Martha Stewart's Body + Soul to the London Times. Even Oprah's producers called.

Pinched a nerve
It appears they've pinched a nerve. Perhaps, the Compactors suggest, many people have the same feeling that the mall just isn't working for them anymore.

"We're just rarefied middle-class San Francisco greenies having a conversation about consumption and sustainability," says John Perry, a marketing executive with a high-tech firm, and one of the founding Compactors. "But suddenly, we decide we're not going to buy a bunch of new stuff for a year? And that's international news? Doesn't that say something?"

Their user group on Yahoo has grown to 1,800 registered members, representing SubCompact cells operating across the country (including Washington), and around the planet. So they apparently live among us, biding their time, quietly not buying, like some kind of Fifth Column of . . . Shakers.

The online Compact community ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thecompact) spends enormous amounts of typing-time discussing things most Americans probably do not. Such as how to make soap. Or whether a mousetrap counts as a safety necessity. Or how to explain to your children that Santa Claus traffics in used toys.

"And people hate us for it? Like it drives them nuts?" This is Shawn Rosenmoss, an environmental engineer in the original San Francisco group. Some have called the Compactors un-American, anti-capitalist, eco-freak poseurs whose defiant act of not-consuming, if it caught on, would destroy the economy and our way of life.

Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters magazine, who advocates taking a 24-hour timeout of the consumer merry-go-round, has promoted Buy Nothing Day since 1992, urging citizens to resist the urge to splurge on the day after Thanksgiving, the kickoff to the holiday shopping spree.

Lasn claims that millions of people have stopped shopping on Buy Nothing Day, although he admits there is no way to know for sure. But Lasn does know that Internet discussion about the movement has grown, and so, too, the backlash -- against the backlash.

"I go on talk radio shows, and I'm amazed by the anger of some people, the Chamber of Commerce president who calls up and says, 'You're trying to ruin the economy,' " Lasn says. "I sympathize. I know you have to pay your rent, but try to take the larger view. We consume three times more than we did right after World War II. These things are connected."

"I think it upsets people because it seems like we're making a value judgment about them," says Rosenmoss, who has two children. "When we're simply trying to bring less . . . into our house."

What are the rules to this particular game? "People are really into the rules," Perry says, "as if it were a game, which it kind of is. I like that part of it. Figuring out how to do what I need to do without running out and buying something."

Is a toilet brush a necessity?
The rules are simple -- and flexible. The original Compactors decided they would get to vote on anything in the gray areas.

One member recalls asking permission to purchase a new toilet brush, contending that it was a health issue. Overruled. How about a new house key? Allowed. New tubes of shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen are okay, but skin bronzer would be frowned upon.

At the potluck supper, the family dog is playing with a toy, which looks like a ball of yarn. Technically, it is new, and thus a Compact breaker. "But if she eats it," points out Rachel Kesel, a professional dog walker, "then it's food."

"We all have our little weaknesses," says Kate Boyd, a schoolteacher and set designer. Her challenge was getting used bicycle shoes, plus a used helmet and pump. Three buys through Craigslist through three sellers. "It was more of a hassle than going to the bike store," she says, but more interesting, too. "You get to meet new people."

The greatest challenge of the Compact? "The strangest things," Perry explains. For example, he cannot find used shoe polish.

Then there are modern dilemmas. Is it better to buy a battery (allowed, if recycled and rechargeable) for a cellular phone for $70 or just have the company give you a new free phone if you switch providers?

Clothes? Easy, they say. Vintage stores. Consignment shops. Or more down-market, your Goodwill, your Salvation Army. Or your own closet, likely filled with outfits.

Toys? The easiest. Perry and his partner, Rob Picciotto, a high school language teacher, have two adopted children. "I take Ben to Target sometimes and we'll play with the toys and then leave," Picciotto says. The kid seems happy.

"I broke down and bought a drill bit," Rosenmoss says. The Compactors nod their heads. "I just wanted it and I needed and I did it." The group members understand. They've had their drill-bit moments.

‘The craving will pass’
But not a lot of them. Asked what they bought that broke the Compact, the list was not long: some sneakers, the drill bit, a map, and for Sarah Pelmas and her newlywed husband, Matt Eddy (fellow Compactors), some energy-efficient windows for the house renovation. The 1920s house, they remind us, was purchased used. Indeed, they painted it with recycled paint.

"By being so strict with yourself, you learn to take a deep breath," Kesel says.

"You learn to do away with the impatience." Boyd says, "You see that the craving will pass."

One Compactor points out that the group's members are not really denying themselves much. Boyd says that, for example, by buying less new, "I drink way better wine now." Also allowed: services. So they could buy a massage if they wanted to. They can go to movies, theater, concerts, museums, bars, music clubs and restaurants. They can fly, drive (and buy gas), stay in hotels.

Judith Levine, author of "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping," went really cold turkey in 2004 with her husband. The couple split their time between Brooklyn and Vermont. She applauds the Compactors, but says that not buying stuff for a year is only taking it halfway. Not going to the movies and restaurants for a year -- now that's cutting back.

Amazingly, the Compactors have all decided to renew their pledge for another year. There are, naturally, things they miss, and so they've decided to give themselves one day next month when they can buy a few things they really need new.

Like? "I need a drain snake," Perry says. Is that not pitiful?

Used pillowcases? Disgusting.
Pelmas is dying for new pillowcases. Used pillowcases, even this group agrees, are rather disgusting.

Lessons learned?

"We didn't do this to save the world. We did this to improve the quality of our own lives," Perry says. "And what we learned is that we all have a lot of more stuff than you think, and that you can get along on a lot less stuff than you can imagine."

healthy relationships 101

As one friend puts it: You don't ask, you don't get.
Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying
December 17, 2006
Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each other critical questions before marrying. Here are a few key ones that couples should consider asking:
  1. Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?
  2. Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?
  3. Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?
  4. Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?
  5. Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?
  6. Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?
  7. Will there be a television in the bedroom?
  8. Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?
  9. Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?
  10. Do we like and respect each other’s friends?
  11. Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?
  12. What does my family do that annoys you?
  13. Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?
  14. If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?
  15. Do each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

samedi, décembre 16, 2006

adventures in online dating (Toastmasters speech #13)

Speech originally given on Dec. 14, 2006
Award: Best speaker
Last Christmas, a male friend of mine shared his dad’s advice regarding women:
"Always tell the smart ones they're pretty. And always tell the pretty ones they're smart.

And if you ever want a moment of peace and quiet, look for one who isn't pretty or smart."
That's a pretty old-school way of looking at love and relationships. And after spending awhile frustrated by the traditional way of meeting men, I was over it. So, I took a new-fangled approach when I went looking for love this year: I hopped online.

Married stalkers
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve probably all heard the horror stories about internet dating. You know, the one where you date Mr. Right for a few months and then find out he's Mr. Married. Or, you meet a nice guy who seems to be really into you and then — when you tell him you're not as interested — he winds up cyberstalking you. My personal favorite was what my nana said when I told her that I was going to try online dating: "Oy, how do you know that he didn’t just get out of jail?"

For all the negatives (and there are plenty), there are also many positives to online dating:

The internet itself is a strange sociological experiment. It has changed the way in which we relate to people and we've gone from six degrees of separation to more like 2.5 degrees of separation. The internet is such an awesome source multiplier. And things that used to take weeks now take minutes.

There are three characteristics of the internet that make online dating a particularly powerful way to find your match:

  1. Source multiplier
    Say (hypothetically speaking of course) you’re a pro-choice, tree-hugging, feminist agnostic who also happens to have been a bridesmaid in a lesbian commitment ceremony and voted for John Kerry … you probably aren’t looking to date a sexist, gun-toting, pro-life, homophobic, fundamentalist Jesus freak Republican. And if you are that pro-choice, tree-hugging feminist (okay, I'm amongst friends here. I'll admit that it's me) and you happen to live in San Diego, you might realize that it’s hard to find someone who shares your political and social values. Asking for him to be single, sexy, and for you to have mutual chemistry is even more daunting.

    I’m a reasonably assertive and self-confident person, but how, exactly, do you slip in the fact that you’re a pro-choice, tree-hugging, feminist agnostic to someone whom you’ve just met at a bar? Worse yet, what if your well-intentioned friends set you up?

    In my case, it was much easier to simply put all those things out there in my profile. I never had to worry about offending someone who had just bought me dinner, and I could also weed out the men whose social values were irreconcilably different from my own.

  2. Research
    How many of you have gone online to research a purchase? I routinely research everything from cookbooks to kitchen appliances. I also went online to research cars when I was in the market to buy one. I learned about all the features and narrowed down the ones that I wanted to go and see before I ever set foot in a showroom, much less took a test drive. (Note that I did not say a boyfriend is a purchase, but you just never know ... a boyfriend could turn into a long-term commitment.)

  3. Time-saver
    I’m a graduate student who also happens to be gainfully employed 40 hours a week. I have a life, lots of friends, and spend my free time writing speeches for Toastmasters.

    That doesn’t exactly leave me with tons of free time. And the time that I do have tends to be after-hours, 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there ... you get the picture.

    So last January, I decided to spend some time “shopping” (if you will) for someone I might want to date. It made sense to pre-screen him online before investing the time of going on dates.
I posted my profile to a few sites. OKCupid was my favorite.

OkCupid's matching system
OkCupid uses a series of fun quizzes to get a sense for what’s important to you. Here’s an example of a real question from the site:
  1. Do you have a problem with racist jokes?
    • Yes
    • No
  2. How would your Ideal Match answer this question?
    • Yes
    • No
  3. How important is their answer to you?
    • Irrelevant
    • A little important
    • Somewhat important
    • Very important
    • Mandatory
Once you’ve built a profile for yourself, you can then choose to find people by how closely they “match” what you’re looking for. I searched the “guybrary” by matches within 20 miles of me. At 89%, a guy named Leo was near the top of my search results.

Mr. 89%
I saw his profile and liked what he had to say about himself. He seemed sincere and intelligent, two of the qualities I find most attractive in another person. His photo didn't hurt, either.

So I sent him a quiz. It included some fun with analogies and asked about some of the foreign films/ directors we both liked.

Leo’s answers were witty and left me wanting to know more. But he wasn’t the only guy I was talking to.

Shopping around
I contacted and was contacted by several men and had e-mail and phone conversations with a few. I had 14 dates with six different guys in one month.

When I had coffee with a guy I’d met online, I did two things:
1. Verified that what he’d said about himself in his profile jived with what he was like in-person
2. Paid attention to whether or not there was chemistry between us

There was chemistry with a few, but I liked one more than the rest.

The one that kept my interest
11 months later, I’m still dating him.

He’s a pro-choice, tree-hugging, feminist agnostic who also voted for John Kerry. But to my knowledge, he’s never been a bridesmaid.

Next week, Leo and I will get on a plane to spend a week in Connecticut with his family over the holidays. And in February, we’re headed to Argentina and Uruguay.

No regrets
Am I glad I tried online dating?
You bet.

Are my friends happy that I tried online dating?
Absolutely.

In fact, one of my friends is now dating one of Leo’s buddies. When people ask how they met, they say "in a bar." That’s technically true – Leo and I introduced them at happy hour. But if you ask Leo and me how these friends met, we say that they met "internet dating by proxy."

Mr. Toastmaster.

vendredi, décembre 15, 2006

jeudi, décembre 14, 2006

goodbye, jafo

My colleague Jason has gone and gotten himself a phat promotion and a new job with another company.

Jason, you're a news guy with a heart. And a PR guy with a soul. Both are incredibly rare. You'll be missed.

mercredi, décembre 13, 2006

got my paper and i was free

Congrats to Nina for pushing through being so over it.

She finished her thesis last month, successfully defended it last week, and got her committee members' signatures today.

I'm half-way through my graduate program and will spend four years prostrate to the higher mind. But it's times like these that remind me why I'm sacrificing my time, money, and sleep for a bigger goal.

i'd like to dedicate this request to allison (and saint matthew)

Allison: you are sooo going to rock Grudnitski's socks tonight.

Even though I don't believe in this crap, I looked for a prayer candle for the patron saint of accounting. I know, you're thinking ... there's a patron saint of accounting?! WTF?!

The patron saint of accountants, bankers, bookkeepers, security guards and tax collectors is Saint Matthew of Apostle fame, and he also was the author of one of the Gospels. Before becoming an Apostle, however, he started out as a Jewish tax collector at Capernaum. Little is know about him, outside the seven references he has in the Gospels. In medieval art, Saint Matthew is represented under the symbol of a winged man, carrying in his hand a lance as a characteristic emblem - his artistic calling card if you will. He is one of the originals in the pantheon of patron saints.

It's time to work your magic, Matt.

p.s. While you're at it, show some love to my other MBA peeps.

freedom

In the immortal words of Georgios Panayioutou:
Freedom
I won't let you down
I will not give you up
Gotta have some faith in the sound
It's the one good thing that I've got
I won't let you down
So please don't give me up
Because I would really, really love to stick around ...

But today the way I play the game is not the same
No way
Think I'm gonna get myself happy ...

Freedom
You've gotta give for what you take

But today the way I play the game has got to change
Oh yeah
Now I'm gonna get myself happy ...
I'm done with this semester. Now I can focus on the other 900 things on my to-do list, the most urgent/ important of which are:
  1. Writing my speech for Toastmasters that I will give tomorrow.
  2. Figuring out who's going to take care of Casey over the holidays now that my roommate has given notice.
  3. Getting more than 4.5 hours of sleep tonight. (That's what I got last night, and the night before, and ...)
  4. Avoiding getting sick. My roommate's got a nasty bug and I'm starting to feel really crappy.

lundi, décembre 11, 2006

paris syndrome

Japanese Tourists Suffer "Paris Syndrome"

It could only happen in France. MSNBC recently carried a story about Japanese tourists who become so overwhelmed by the contrast between the Paris they imagined at home and the real city that "psychological treatment" is required.

"Paris Syndrome," as the malady is called, passes quickly for most, but others experience lingering psychoses and paranoid delusions. Indeed, MSNBC reports that four Japanese tourists this year required "repatriation" after complaining that their "hotel was bugged and that there was a plot against them."

salmonella. it's what's for dinner.

I've often said that soon, five corporations will own the world. I'm usually in favor of economies of scale. But in this case, it's about consolidation with insufficient oversight. And that is just plain scary.

The trend toward centralization now means that 13 slaughterhouses process the majority of the beef consumed by 300 million Americans. What makes me nervous is that food safety regulations continue to be weakened by the current administration. I'm also alarmed by the conflict of interest whereby the current administration gives oversight and effective control of the agencies that should be regulating our food supply (the FDA and DoA) to the former heads of the industries that they are regulating. You wouldn't make convicts prison guards, would you?
Op-Ed: Has Politics Contaminated the Food Supply?
By ERIC SCHLOSSER

THIS fall has brought plenty of bad news about food poisoning. More than 200 people in 26 states were sickened and three people were killed by spinach contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. At least 183 people in 21 states got salmonella from tainted tomatoes served at restaurants. And more than 160 people in New York, New Jersey and other states were sickened with E. coli after eating at Taco Bell restaurants.

People are always going to get food poisoning. The idea that every meal can be risk-free, germ-free and sterile is the sort of fantasy Howard Hughes might have entertained. But our food can be much safer than it is right now.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 76 million Americans are sickened, 325,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die each year because of something they ate.

Part of the problem is that the government’s food-safety system is underfinanced, poorly organized and more concerned with serving private interests than with protecting public health. It is time for the new Democratic Congress to reverse a decades-long weakening of regulations and face up to the food-safety threats of the 21st century.

One hundred years ago, companies were free to follow their own rules. Food companies sold children’s candy colored with dangerous heavy metals. And meatpackers routinely processed “4D animals” — livestock that were dead, dying, diseased or disabled.

The publication of Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle” in 1906 — with its descriptions of rat-infested slaughterhouses and rancid meat — created public outrage over food safety. Even though the book was written by a socialist agitator, a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, eagerly read it.

After confirming Sinclair’s claims, Roosevelt battled the drug companies, the big food processors and the meatpacking companies to protect American consumers from irresponsible corporate behavior. He argued that bad business practices were ultimately bad for business. After a fight in Congress, Roosevelt largely got his way with passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

The decades that followed were hardly an idyll of pure food and flawless regulation. But the nation’s diverse agricultural and food-processing system limited the size of outbreaks. Thousands of small slaughterhouses processed meat, and countless independent restaurants prepared food from fresh, local ingredients. If a butcher shop sold tainted meat or a restaurant served contaminated meals, a relatively small number of people were likely to become ill.

Over the past 40 years, the industrialization and centralization of our food system has greatly magnified the potential for big outbreaks. Today only 13 slaughterhouses process the majority of the beef consumed by 300 million Americans.

And the fast-food industry’s demand for uniform products has encouraged centralization in every agricultural sector. Fruits and vegetables are now being grown, packaged and shipped like industrial commodities. As a result, a little contamination can go a long way. The Taco Bell distribution center in New Jersey now being investigated as a possible source of E. coli supplies more than 1,100 restaurants in the Northeast.

While threats to the food supply have been growing, food-safety regulations have been weakened. Since 2000, the fast-food and meatpacking industries have given about four-fifths of their political donations to Republican candidates for national office. In return, these industries have effectively been given control of the agencies created to regulate them.

The current chief of staff at the Agriculture Department used to be the beef industry’s chief lobbyist. The person who headed the Food and Drug Administration until recently used to be an executive at the National Food Processors Association.

Cutbacks in staff and budgets have reduced the number of food-safety inspections conducted by the F.D.A. to about 3,400 a year — from 35,000 in the 1970s. The number of inspectors at the Agriculture Department has declined to 7,500 from 9,000.

A study published in Consumer Reports last week showed the impact of such policies: 83 percent of the broiler chickens purchased at supermarkets nationwide were found to be contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

Aside from undue corporate influence and inadequate financing, America’s food-safety system is hampered by overlapping bureaucracies. A dozen federal agencies now have some food safety oversight. The Agriculture Department is responsible for meat, poultry and some egg products, while the F.D.A. is responsible for just about everything else.

And odd, conflicting rules determine which agency has authority. The F.D.A. is responsible for the safety of eggs still in their shells; the Agriculture Department is responsible once the shells are broken. If a packaged ham sandwich has two pieces of bread, the F.D.A. is in charge of inspecting it — one piece of bread, and Agriculture is in charge. A sandwich-making factory regulated by the Agriculture Department will be inspected every day, while one inspected by the F.D.A. is likely to be inspected every five years.

Neither agency has the power to recall contaminated food (with the exception of tainted infant formula) or to fine companies for food-safety lapses. And when the cause of an outbreak is unknown, it’s unclear which agency should lead the investigation.

Last year, Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, both Democrats, introduced an important piece of food-safety legislation that tackles these problems. Their Safe Food Act would create a single food-safety agency with the authority to test widely for dangerous pathogens, demand recalls and penalize companies that knowingly sell contaminated food.
It would eliminate petty bureaucratic rivalries and make a single administrator accountable for the safety of America’s food. And it would facilitate a swift, effective response not only to the sort of inadvertent outbreaks that have occurred this fall, but also to any deliberate bioterrorism aimed at our food supply.

The Safe Food Act deserves strong bipartisan backing. Aside from industry lobbyists and their Congressional allies, there is little public support for the right to sell contaminated food. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you still have to eat.

Eric Schlosser is the author of “Fast Food Nation” and “Reefer Madness.”

feeding hungry mouths and wiping smelly behinds

Apparently, women are hyperverbal because of the oxytocin in our brains. And we're paid 72 cents per dollar that men make (on average) because we've been tending to (presumably) our children's needs —eating and pooping — for millenia. Interesting ... but now what?
Questions for Dr. Louann Brizendine: He Thought, She Thought
By DEBORAH SOLOMON
Published: December 10, 2006

Q: As a professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, you’ve drawn some strange conclusions about “The Female Brain,” to borrow the title of your debut book, which argues that a woman’s brain structure explains a good deal of her behavior, including a penchant for gossiping and talking on the phone.

A: The hormone of intimacy is oxytocin, and when women talk to each other, they get a rush of it. For teen girls especially, when they’re talking about who’s hooking up with whom, who’s not talking to whom, who you like and don’t like — that’s bedrock, that excites the girl’s brain.

You make it sound as if female friendship and affection is just a search for oxytocin.

Sixth-grade teachers will tell you that girls get up and go to the bathroom together; girls say they have to go at the same time. They need to go off and intimately exchange the important currency of their day, which increases their oxytocin and dopamine levels.

Your book cites a study claiming that women use about 20,000 words a day, while men use about 7,000.

The real phraseology of that should have been that a woman has many more communication events a day — gestures, words, raising of your eyebrows.

Are you concerned that you are rehabilitating outdated gender stereotypes that portray women as chatterboxes ruled by female hormones?

A stereotype always has an aspect of truth to it, or it wouldn’t be a stereotype. I am talking about the biological basis behind behaviors that we all know about.

Were there any research findings you were reluctant to include in your book because they could be used to bolster sexist thinking?

Any of this could be taken badly. I worried, for instance, that stuff about pregnancy and the mommy brain could be taken to mean that mothers shouldn’t go to work. The brain shrinks 8 percent during pregnancy and does not return to its former size until six months postpartum.

How big is the average male brain?

It’s about the size of a cantaloupe. It’s 9 to 10 percent larger than the female brain.

But the size of one’s brain is unrelated to one’s level of intelligence, right?

Yes. Remember, the female brain has more connections between the two hemispheres, and we have 11 percent more brain cells in the area of the brain called the planum temporale, which has to do with perceiving and processing language.

If women have superior verbal skills, why have they been subservient to men in almost all societies?

Because of pregnancy. Before birth control, in the 1700s and 1800s, middle-class women were pregnant between 17 and 22 times in their lifetimes. All these eons upon eons, while Socrates and all these guys were sitting around thinking up solutions to problems, women were feeding hungry mouths and wiping smelly behinds.

And yet all human brains begin as female. Or so you claim in your book.

All brains start out with female-type brain circuits until eight weeks of fetal life, when the tiny testicles start to pump out adult-male levels of testosterone that travel in the bloodstream up to the brain. You have to grow all of the basic sex-specific circuitry in the male brain before birth, because that’s when the entire road map is laid down.

Although your book draws heavily on other scientists’ research, you don’t do any clinical research yourself. Isn’t that a drawback?

No. I don’t like doing clinical research because of placebos. In a “double-blind placebo-controlled study,” as they are called, neither the doctor nor the patient knows what the patient is taking. I don’t want to give patients a placebo. It’s cruel.

Not in the long term. How are scientists supposed to find a cure for cancer and more generally advance medicine if no one does controlled tests?

I am glad someone does it, but I’d rather help each female brain that walks into my clinic walk out in better shape.

dimanche, décembre 10, 2006

celebrating world human rights day


finochet
Originally uploaded by loucovinagre.
Today is World Human Rights Day and I really can't think of a better day to learn that Augusto Pinochet is dead.

On Sept. 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Dr. Salvador Allende. Before the coup, Chile was one of the most stable democracies in Latin America, with a long tradition of democratic civilian rule. Pinochet's regime used state-sponsored murder to quash the opposition. For 17 years, his thugs ran roughshod over the country, disappearing and torturing prominent intellectuals, dissidents, and anyone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The [Rettig] commission’s report cited victims by name and described the ghastly circumstances of their deaths by firing squads, beatings, mutilations, drownings and electrocutions. In all, the report attributed at least 3,200 killings and disappearances to the Pinochet security forces.
Another 30,000 were tortured, but not killed. Thousands of Chileans were expelled from and fled the country to escape the regime. With the help of the United States, Pinochet and other like-minded generals in South America founded Operation Condor, to destroy Marxist opposition in Latin America. Although Pinochet was arrested in Britain, he never stood trial for the atrocities he and his goons perpetuated in Chile. That he lived in Chile with impunity is an outrage.

Something tells me that he died with the same defiant attitude. He will not be mourned by those who love human rights. Here's one take on his death:
augusto pinochet died on world human rights day. i'll call it poetic. i won't call it justice.
justice would have been if they had flayed him alive while raping him repeatedly with a red sickle-shaped dildo.
In thinking more about his death, I have to say that I don't think there can be justice for what Pinochet and other perpetrators of state-sponsored terrorism did. I like this account, written by the loved ones of someone who was disappeared in Argentina's dirty war.
Alfredo Gonzalez
Detenido - Desaparecido
el 4 de marzo de 1978
Gota a gota, la gota de agua perfora la piedra.
Así pasará en la conciencia de los asesinos de mi hijo.
- En tu cumpleaños, tu mamá y tu gran familia.
Alfredo Gonzalez
Detained - Disappeared
March 4, 1978
Drop by drop, the drop of water perforates the stone.
That's what will happen to the conscience of my son's assassins.
- On your birthday, your mother and family.
I love this tribute. It seems so zen, and is lovely in that sense. At the same time, what really does it for me is the undercurrent (forgive me) that makes it really beautiful poetry about water torture. I am many things, and I don't see myself as a violent person. I can't say that I'd intervene if someone else was seeking justified retribution. I hope it never comes to that. But my sense is that I'd just walk away and let nature (yes, violent human nature) take its course.

In the end, it's times like these when I want to believe in an afterlife, where those who committed the unspeakable are forced to account for the atrocities they visited upon humanity.
Augusto Pinochet, 91, Ex-Dictator of Chile, Dies
By JONATHAN KANDELL
December 10, 2006

Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the brutal dictator who repressed and reshaped Chile for nearly two decades and became a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and corruption, died today at the Military Hospital of Santiago. He was 91.

Dr. Juan Ignacio Vergara, head of the medical team that had been treating him, said his condition degenerated sharply a week after he underwent an angioplasty after an acute heart attack.

General Pinochet seized power on Sept. 11, 1973, in a bloody military coup that toppled the Marxist government of President Salvador Allende. He then led the country into an era of robust economic growth. But during his rule, more than 3,200 people were executed or disappeared, and scores of thousands more were detained and tortured or exiled.

General Pinochet gave up the presidency in 1990 after promulgating a Constitution that empowered a right-wing minority in the Senate well into the new century. He held on to his post of commander in chief of the army until 1998. With that power base, he exerted considerable influence over the democratically elected governments that replaced his iron-fisted rule.

He set limits, for example, on economic policy debates with frequent warnings that he would not tolerate a return to statist measures, and he blocked virtually all attempts to prosecute members of his security forces for human rights abuses. Through intimidation and legal obstacles, General Pinochet sought to ensure his own immunity from accountability and in fact was never brought to trial. But in an astonishing turn of events nearly a decade after he stepped down, he was detained in Britain and then, on his return to Chile, forced to spend his retirement years fighting a battery of legal charges relating to human rights violations and personal corruption.

During those last years he lived in near seclusion, mostly at his home in Bucalemu, about 80 miles southwest of Santiago, scorned even by many of his former military colleagues and right-wing civilian ideologues. Many were disillusioned by revelations that he held, at the least, $28 million in secret bank accounts abroad.

“The humiliation Pinochet has gone through is probably a better outcome than any trial could have achieved,” said José Zalaquett, Chile’s foremost human rights lawyer.

General Pinochet won grudging international praise for some of the free-market policies he instituted, transforming a bankrupt economy into the most prosperous in Latin America. They included removing trade barriers, encouraging export growth, privatizing state-owned industries, creating a central bank able to control interest and exchange rates without government interference, cutting wages sharply, and privatizing the social security system. Many elements of the so-called Chilean model were widely emulated in the region.

But by the time of his death, even some of those economic victories had been called into question. The privatizing of Chile’s social security system, in particular, has come under attack as being unjust and is undergoing revision. And across Latin America, many of the countries that had adopted similar changes are reversing some of them, responding to a growing wave of popular, leftist revolt over foreign competition and unequal distribution of wealth.

General Pinochet initially led a four-man junta in the 1973 military revolt that brought him to power. President Allende, a democratically elected Socialist, was found dead after shooting himself during an assault on the presidential palace in Santiago. The coup followed many months of political unrest and economic chaos. Hyperinflation, recession, labor strife and middle-class protests had all sapped the Allende government of popular support.

General Pinochet (pronounced PEE-noh-shay) soon made it clear that he had little use for political parties, banning all of them, and he also dissolved congress and scrapped the constitution. He blamed the democratic political system for allowing a coalition of Socialists and Communists to take control of the government. In a 1973 news conference, he asserted that Chile would require “an authoritarian government that has the capacity to act decisively” and would not return to the traditional political party system for a generation. It was a vow he kept.

In 1974, General Pinochet elevated himself to president, reducing the rest of the junta to a consultative role. He appointed military officers as mayors of towns and cities throughout Chile. Retired military personnel were named rectors of universities, and they carried out vast purges of faculty members suspected of left-wing or liberal sympathies.

The press was censored, and labor strikes and unions were banned. A fearsome security apparatus known as the National Intelligence Directorate, known as DINA, persecuted, tortured and killed Pinochet opponents within Chile and sometimes beyond its borders. A government-commissioned report issued in 2004 concluded that almost 28,000 people had been tortured during the general’s reign.

Military regimes were the rule rather than the exception in Latin America in the 1970s. Whether right wing, as in Argentina and Brazil, or left wing, as in Peru, military dictators came to power promising to impose economic discipline but departed, after some initial success, with the economy in disarray.

General Pinochet proved to be the exception. Though no economic expert, he had at his service a team of technocrats, who, months before the coup, put together a radical plan to overhaul the country’s battered economy. Some had studied with the Nobel Prize-winner Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago and embraced his notions of free-market forces and monetarism.

But economic transformation was slow and painful. Mistakes by the general’s economic team provoked a deep recession in the early 1980s that left more than a third of the work force without jobs. The poor survived with the help of soup lines and temporary employment in public works projects that paid less than the minimum wage.

Attempts at strikes or other forms of protest were ruthlessly put down by General Pinochet’s secret police. That repression gave the free-market policies time to take hold. Since the mid-1980s, Chile’s gross domestic product has grown an average of more than 6 percent a year, the most impressive performance in Latin America.

There were few hints in General Pinochet’s early life that he harbored either political ambitions or ideological convictions. The son of a customs inspector, he was born into lower middle-class circumstances on Nov. 25, 1915, in the Pacific port city of Valparaíso. He graduated from the military academy in Santiago in 1937 and rose steadily in the officer corps. He was already a general, and only 55, when he was given the important post of commander of the Santiago army garrison in 1971.

It was a crucial moment in President Allende’s term. Elected the year before with only 36 percent of the vote, Dr. Allende, a physician, had pressed ahead with a socialist program to nationalize mines, banks and strategic industries, split up large rural estates into communal farms, and impose price controls. The measures soon resulted in steep declines in production, shortages of consumer goods and explosive inflation. A general strike paralyzed Santiago in late 1972, and General Pinochet, as garrison commander, was called on by Dr. Allende to impose a state of emergency in the capital.

This was the first time most Chileans became aware of the tall, broad-shouldered army officer with a brush mustache on his unsmiling face. General Pinochet imposed a curfew, ordered the arrest of several hundred demonstrators on both the left and the right and announced, “I will not tolerate agents of chaos no matter what their political ideology.”

His seemingly neutral stance convinced Dr. Allende that he was an officer who could be relied on to observe the Chilean military’s century-long tradition of loyalty to civilian government. In August 1973, he appointed General Pinochet commander in chief of the army.

Less than three weeks later, the armed forces overthrew the government. The presidential palace, known as La Moneda, was bombed and strafed by the air force. Dr. Allende shot himself rather than surrender, according to his personal physician.

Aside from battles at some factories in the Santiago suburbs, there was little resistance to the overwhelming firepower of the military units that fanned out across the country. Tens of thousands of Allende sympathizers were rounded up and brutally interrogated. A majority of the killings took place in the three months, long after resistance had ended.

In most cases, prisoners from a slum or agrarian community would be executed as a means of terrorizing their neighborhoods into accepting military rule. The killings were often cynically, and falsely, justified as cases in which prisoners were shot while trying to escape.

The images that most shaped the outside world’s low opinion of the military regime were scenes of Santiago’s main sports stadium filled with prisoners, and by the public appearances of General Pinochet, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, his face set in a scowl, his arms folded defiantly across his chest. Although a majority of executions, jailings and cases of torture took place shortly after the 1973 coup, serious human rights abuses waxed and waned over the next 17 years.

By the late 1980s, the economic prosperity General Pinochet created had lulled him into assuming that in free elections he or his chosen candidate would receive the grateful support of a majority of Chileans. But by then most were either too young to remember the Allende years or too confident about the strength of the economy to believe that only an authoritarian government could insure growth and stability.

In 1980, a new constitution backed by the Pinochet government made the armed forces “guarantors of institutionality,” giving them a nebulous role as political arbiters. It included several other limitations to full-fledged democracy. But in a 1988 plebiscite, an ample majority of Chileans voted against an attempt by General Pinochet to stay on as president for eight more years.

In presidential elections a year later, the former dictator’s candidate was handily defeated by Patricio Aylwin, a centrist Christian Democrat supported by parties of the left. In 1993, another Christian Democrat, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, was elected president by an even greater margin.

To the delight of the Chilean business community, foreign investment, which had been stunted during the years the government was regarded with international opprobrium, poured back into the country, and Chilean products were welcomed everywhere abroad. Officials of the new Christian Democratic administration were not inclined to tinker with the roaring economic machine they inherited from the Pinochet administration.

“We may not like the government that came before us,” Alejandro Foxley, who was finance minister under Mr. Aylwin and is foreign minister today, said in a 1991 interview. “But they did many things right. We have inherited an economy that is an asset.”

With the transition to a democracy going so well, even admirers of General Pinochet hoped he would settle into a quieter period. Instead, he staged unannounced military maneuvers or placed his troops on sudden alert and gave notice that he would not tolerate attempts to prosecute his era’s human rights violators. “The day they touch one of my men, the rule of law ends,” he warned in 1991.

In a rare exception, he stood by as two subordinates were convicted of ordering the murder of Orlando Letelier, foreign minister in the Allende government. Mr. Letelier was killed by a car bomb in Washington in September 1976, along with an American colleague, Ronni Moffitt. The incident, considered the worst act of state-sponsored terrorism on American soil, strained relations between Chile and the United States for almost two decades.

The two subordinates went to prison in 1995. They were Gen. Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, the head of DINA, the notorious secret police, who was sentenced to seven years; and his second in command, Col. Pedro Espinoza, who was sentenced to six years.

Stories of corruption began swirling around members of General Pinochet’s family as well as military personnel, and he used his power as army chief to protect them. He quashed judicial and congressional investigations into the financial dealings of his elder son and of army officers who were accused of running an illegal investment banking operation. Until revelations emerged in late 2004 that he had accumulated secret accounts totaling as much as $8 million at Riggs Bank in Washington, the general himself was rarely accused of corruption and lived in Spartan style. Later, Chilean investigators found that he had as much as $28 million in secret bank accounts in a number of countries.

Through his strong-arm tactics against the democratic governments that succeeded him, General Pinochet was making the point to Chileans that if they wanted to enjoy the capitalist virtues of his former dictatorship, they had better overlook his human rights violations.

Those violations were well documented by the National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, a nonpartisan group appointed by Mr. Aylwin to investigate the killings and disappearances carried out under the general’s 17-year dictatorship. The commission’s report cited victims by name and described the ghastly circumstances of their deaths by firing squads, beatings, mutilations, drownings and electrocutions. In all, the report attributed at least 3,200 killings and disappearances to the Pinochet security forces.

Retired as dictator but still in command of the army, General Pinochet scoffed at his human rights critics. Asked about the discovery of a mass grave of his government’s victims, he was quoted in the Chilean press as joking that it was an “efficient” way of burial.

Protected by personal security squads, the general also continued an active social life. He was feted by wealthy admirers on his birthday and on the anniversary of his coup. He was often invited to speak at luncheons given by political supporters and leading businessmen. When he finally stepped down as army chief, he joined the Senate as an unelected, permanent member, apparently intending to grant himself further immunity from prosecution.

But the general did not count on the determination of some jurists abroad to bring him to justice. In October 1998, while recuperating in a London clinic from a back operation, he was arrested by the British police in response to an application from a Spanish judge, seeking the general’s extradition to Madrid to stand trial on charges of genocide, torture and kidnapping.

A 16-month legal battle ensued, ending with a decision to send him back to Chile in March 2000 because his physical and mental ailments made him unfit to stand trial. Days after his return, Ricardo Lagos, the first Socialist to be elected president since the 1973 overthrow of Mr. Allende, assumed office.

For the rest of his life, the general had to fight off lawsuits and accept the humiliation of constant news reports about widespread brutality under his rule. President Lagos allowed the hundreds of criminal complaints filed against General Pinochet to run their course in the courts. He was succeeded in March 2006 by another Socialist, Michelle Bachelet, a former political prisoner and exile. Her father, an air force general loyal to Dr. Allende, was jailed by his colleagues and died in prison after being tortured.

General Pinochet spent his final years in near seclusion, with his wife, the former María Lucía Hiriart Rodríguez, 84, with whom he had two sons, Augusto and Marco Antonio, and three daughters, Lucía, Verónica and Jacqueline. They all survive him.

In rare public remarks, he continued to insist that he enjoyed the gratitude and wide support of Chileans. But polls indicated that well over half of his compatriots believed he should have been prosecuted for his human rights crimes.

Larry Rohter and Pascale Bonnefoy contributed reporting.

vendredi, décembre 08, 2006

palabra.

[Insert Andy Rooney voice here]
In my day, it was "word," followed by "sentence," and maybe, just maybe, "paragraph."

Here are some new ones, for your general edification. Feel free to incorporate them in your repertoire:
w0rd n shit
when someone is agreeing with what someone else is saying. Also could be used in the beginning of a sentence if the person talking is excited because they know what they are talking about.

"Damn dude, he was acting crazy today"..
"word n shit, yea he was."

"i was at the mall and i went into Man Alive, and they were having this big ass sale.."
"oh w0rd n shit!! yea i went there too and bought so much..blah blah"

word fucking word
It when a word is divided by two, and have the word fucking in the middle. For example Urbandictionary, giving: Urban fucking dictionary.

It's used when you're exited, angry, sad, can be used in a lot of situations.

Word fucking word, example:
It's the Xbox fucking 360!
Old fucking man, get out!
It's on the Play fucking station, what the hell do you think, Game fucking Cube? Get out!
Fight fucking club is a great movie.

Word Diggity
Very Very cool or Extremely Awesome
That movie was word diggity, man!

word on a biscuit
Used to describe the ultimate agreement.
The highest use of the word "word"
Mike: Hey Bob - I've got front row tickets to the concert.
Bob: That right there is word on a biscuit


word out
to mark the end of a conversation and your departure. opposite of word up
"Dude, I gotta run, word out"

"a handbag with a heartbeat"

A friend of mine once remarked "that's not a dog, that's a purse" when we saw a Yorkie in a restaurant.

I have to admit that I'm a fan of nearly all dogs, but that there's a special place in my heart for larger dogs, like my own sweet golden retriever, Casey. If I lived in a shoebox-size apartment, I suspect that I'd be walking a much more compact canine: a French bulldog.
Woman’s Best Friend, or Accessory?
December 7, 2006
By RUTH LA FERLA
OH, the places Paige has been. Like all the top New Yorkers, she dines downtown at Mercer Kitchen, eyes the heart of palm at the deli E.A.T. on Madison Avenue and appraises the calfskin boots at Gucci. “We even drink together,” said Dina Lewis, a real estate agent and Paige’s constant companion.

At Plug Uglies on Third Avenue, “Paige sits on the bar stool and everything,” Ms. Lewis said. “It’s like having a very good-looking, very drunk friend with you all the time.”

Except that Paige is a doll-sized Chihuahua. She travels with her mistress everywhere, scoping out the world from the confines of a Balenciaga look-alike bag.

Paige is what is known as a sleeve dog, an emblem of status since antiquity. Once toted by fashionable women inside the folds of their gowns, diminutive pets have been the favorites of nobles from Marie Antoinette to Elizabeth II. The pseudo-royals of Hollywood also favor them, actresses and gossip-column fixtures like Tori Spelling and Mickey Rourke.

Now, thanks in part to their red carpet visibility, compact breeds are more popular than ever. “We’re seeing a nationwide trend toward smaller dogs,” said Niki Marshall Friedman, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. For example, registration of the Brussels griffon has gone up 231 percent in the last 10 years; Norwich terrier registration has risen 91 percent.

Flaunted as fashion statements, pint-sized canines are, to some minds, the fur-bearing equivalent of a pair of Louboutin pumps or other accessory. “I think of them as a handbag with a heartbeat,” said Robin Bowden, a vice president of Prudential Douglas Elliman, a real estate company in Manhattan. Ms. Bowden’s office on West 17th Street is a kind of home-away-from-home to a clutch of lavishly outfitted lap dogs belonging to various employees. “They have little beds and they scamper up and down,” she said. “I’ve seen brokers showing expensive SoHo lofts, turning up with these tiny puppy dogs in their designer bags.”

In some parts of town tiny pets as chicly turned out as their owners vie with BlackBerry pagers as on-the-go emblems of status. “People like the portability of a small dog,” Ms. Friedman said. They are also impressed by celebrities, she added, who like to show off their Charos, Freddies and Desirees on the red carpet.

Yorkshire terriers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, French bulldogs and papillons, which can live in small apartments, are among the most coveted breeds, according to the kennel club, favored by young women and baby boomers alike. “As the kids go off to college, having Fluffy around is a comfort,” said Bob Vetere, the president of the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association. “The pet attains an elevated status,” Mr. Vetere said. “To make ourselves feel better, we tend to reward it in human, not in doggie, terms.”

In the view of many owners, no amount of pampering is too much. They blithely ignore health ordinances barring dogs from restaurants. Muffin, a 3-year-old Yorkie, is a weekend regular at the Cafe Orlin on St. Marks Place in Manhattan. “I like to take her to brunch,” said Alex Revana, her mistress.

Ms. Revana, a freelance fashion stylist, has provided Muffin with her own doggie garment rack with miniature hangers to hold knitted, fleece and quilted cover-ups. Muffin’s toys include a rubber Chewy Vuitton, and she dines on California Natural, organic pet food.

Paige, Ms. Lewis’s dog, owns 40 outfits, among them an Hermès coat. Part of Ms. Lewis’s closet is designated for the dog. Like her mistress, she likes to make a fashion statement. “With the two of us it’s an equal opportunity thing,” Ms. Lewis said. “I sit up at wee hours of the night online to find that one store in, like, Canada or Switzerland, so Paige can have that one sweater that no New Yorker will ever have.”

Mr. Fudge, a 4-year-old Chihuahua who belongs to Wendy Kaplan, a fit model and personal style consultant in New York, owns a yellow Old Navy raincoat, a denim fleece vest and, for blustery days, an orange simulated snakeskin coat with a pocket “in case he needs a biscuit,” Ms. Kaplan explained.

Mr. Fudge travels in a leopard-spotted bag. “There are places I have to sneak him into — the post office, Gristedes, the neighborhood bakery,” Ms. Kaplan said.

No fan of ordinances barring pets from restaurants and other indoor public spaces, she demanded: “Why should that be? We are after all a doggie culture.”

To a degree, that seems correct. Designer boutiques, hotels, airlines and even neighborhood bars are quick to extend doggie hospitality. “All kinds of services present themselves that allow people who have pets to travel with them,” Mr. Vetere of the pet products organization said. “You’re talking about the Tinkerbells of the world as opposed to the Godzillas.”

Rebecca Rand, a spokeswoman for the W hotel chain, which offers a canine-friendly Woof program, said guests traveling with small dogs have become a significant trend. “People are treating them more like family, so we try to accommodate them as much as possible,” she said. That includes pet pillows with special treats placed on them at turndown time.

Lap dogs and others are tolerated, if not always welcome, at many offices these days. Some 20 percent of businesses polled in a survey by the pet products association last spring permitted pets in the workplace, Mr. Vetere said. And 38 million working Americans over 18 believe having pets at work leads to a more productive environment.

Melanie Lazenby, a real estate agent in New York, said that bringing Eva, her five-pound Chihuahua, to the office has even brought her clients. Recently the owner of a $3.5 million Greenwich Village apartment, also a Chihuahua owner, gave Ms. Lazenby the listing once she glimpsed Eva. “It was all on the basis of doggie love,” she said.

All this canine-human togetherness can raise eyebrows. No one is more mindful of the potential absurdities of a lap dog than some owners. “To some people in the office I could be considered borderline tragic,” Ms. Lewis said with a laugh. “I figure life is short, so why not enjoy the frivolous, ridiculous side of it.”

Not everyone is amused. The sight of Ms. Lazenby, tall, impeccable and fair-haired, dressed identically with her dog, has the potential to engender sneers, she knows. “It’s the classic ‘Legally Blonde’ situation,” she said. “If your dog has on a really fancy jacket and you have on a fancy jacket, too, it makes some people smirk.”

It also gives some dog trainers pause. They point out that pets are not accessories, and treating them like prize possessions, no matter how well meaning, can deprive an animal of what it needs. “Socialization, training and exercise are paramount,” said Bash Dibra, a trainer based in New York. “Otherwise you have a problem.” An overly coddled dog can become territorial and aggressive, Mr. Dibra said. “Sometimes the dog goes into a rage. It’s not a happy situation.”

Patty LaRocco, who brings her Yorkie, Dylan, to business and social gatherings, acknowledges that doggie socializing has its limits. “A banker in a nice suit doesn’t want Dylan jumping up and down.”

On the other hand, pets can be a social icebreaker.

Ms. Lazenby, who moved to Manhattan just weeks before 9/11, recalled: “It was very hard to meet people. The whole city was in a depression, and it wasn’t really a social time.

“I bought the dog because I was so lonely, and she ended up bringing tons of people into my life.”

It does not surprise Ms. Kaplan, the fit model, that Mr. Fudge is a people magnet. Tricked out in a pink rhinestone collar, he accompanies her to parties, where “people who might not otherwise talk to you, talk to you,” she said. And why wouldn’t they? “My dog makes better eye contact than some of the people I know.”

quotable

"We need a president who's fluent in at least one language."
-Buck Henry

jeudi, décembre 07, 2006

sugar cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk together flour and salt in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer or 6 minutes with a handheld. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 6-inch disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out 1 disk of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into an 8 1/2-inch round (1/4 inch thick) on a well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin. (If dough becomes too soft to roll out, rewrap in plastic and chill until firm.) Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with cutters and transfer to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging cookies about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, gather scraps and chill until dough is firm enough to reroll, 10 to 15 minutes. Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll scraps only once) and bake on cooled baking sheets.

If using icing and coloring it, transfer 1/4 cup icing to a small bowl for each color and tint with food coloring. Spoon each color icing into a sealable bag, pressing out excess air, and snip a 1/8-inch opening in 1 bottom corner of bag. Twisting bag firmly just above icing, decoratively pipe icing onto cookies. Let icing dry completely (about 1 hour) before storing cookies.

Cooks' notes:
  • Dough can be chilled up to 3 days.
  • Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.
Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.

mercredi, décembre 06, 2006

mc cassius

Did Ali invent rap?
ESPN is running a program on Ali and rap. (I know, stay with me.)
The ESPN documentary "Ali Rap" (airing Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) is built loosely on the premise that Muhammad Ali unknowingly invented rap music, simply by being himself in public. If true, this would mean that rap did not originate (as commonly believed) in the South Bronx during the '70s; it would mean rap was invented in Kentucky during the '60s.
Anyhow, I am impressed by how this page incorporates video with what is, ostensibly, a feature article on the topic.

They could do more with how the text is laid out and other visuals, but what's above the fold breaks the mold of the traditional "feature story with a box to the side for some video" layouts I'm used to seeing.
Via Leo

australian cloning ban overturned

I love the concept of a conscience vote. (If only we had them in the U.S.)

Strike that, I'd settle for a Congress full of individuals with a conscience.
Australian Parliament overturns cloning ban
By Jane Bunce and Peter Veness
December 07, 2006
AUSTRALIAN scientists will be able to create cloned human embryos after Parliament voted to overturn a ban on the research in a rare conscience vote.

The decision gives hope to thousands of Australians living with debilitating diseases.

Liberal senator Kay Patterson's private member's Bill will allow researchers to clone embryos using donor eggs and cells without sperm and extract their stem cells for medical research.

The Bill succeeded despite Prime Minister John Howard and new Labor leader Kevin Rudd speaking against it at the 11th hour.

Mr Howard said he struggled with his decision, but ultimately decided he could not support the legislation despite his respect for the late John Lockhart, who chaired the government-appointed stem cell review committee and recommended ending the ban.

“I don't think the science has shifted enough to warrant Parliament changing its view (since the 2002 vote to ban therapeutic cloning),” he said.

Following his speech, Mr Howard went into the public gallery and embraced Mr Lockhart's wife, Juliet.

Mr Rudd said he found it very difficult to support a law that would allow human life to be created for the single and explicit purpose of experimentation and ultimate destruction.

Senior Cabinet ministers Peter Costello, Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews also spoke against the technology.

Parliament was given only its second conscience vote of the year on the legislation, following a vote on the abortion drug RU486 in February.

But after an emotional four-day debate, the final vote was an anti-climax, with MPs electing not to call a division and have their choice recorded.

An earlier conscience vote, on whether debate should continue to a third reading, returned an 82 to 62 result.

The House of Representatives also voted down an amendment that had threatened to scuttle the legislation.

The change would have prevented stem cells being extracted from the eggs of aborted late term female foetuses, but this procedure will remain acceptable under the bill.

Liberal MP Michael Ferguson's amendment would have sent the bill back to the Senate, where it passed by only two votes last month.

Many MPs expressed fears it would not have survived a second review.

Speaking after the vote, Senator Patterson, a former health minister, thanked Mr Howard for giving MPs a free vote and congratulated the members on the debate.

The majority of the more than 100 MPs who spoke on the Bill were in favour of changing the law.

Education and Science Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said the legislation was a chance for Parliament to give hope to sufferers of conditions like diabetes and motor neurone disease.

Dr Nelson said his brother, who died just over two years ago from chronic disease, lived his last years inspired and energised by his search for a cure.

“My generation has benefited enormously from the sacrifices, scientific endurance and judgment of those who pioneered not only difficult research but also legislative frontiers,” he told Parliament.

“We owe it to the next generation no less to show the same wisdom and indeed the same courage.”

Ms Bishop said much progress had been made in the field of embryonic stem cell research in recent years and the hopes of many injured and sick Australians rested with the researchers.

“I cannot, in all conscience, stand in the way of the only ray of hope available to sufferers of devastating and debilitating disease and injury,” she said.

But Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said Parliament was agreeing to treat humans as commodities in passing the Bill.

“Instead of nurturing our offspring, we as a species will have agreed to plunder them,” he said.

a series of revolting developments

Does it surprise you to hear that we've been "staying the course" in Iraq for longer than it took to complete the european half of World War II?

Each time I think about it, I get my knickers in a twist and become incoherent. Fortunately, my friend Sandra recently wrote (quite eloquently, in my opinion) about the topic.
A Series of Revolting Developments
By Sandra Millers Younger
My father has this saying that he uses mostly to comment on slight inconveniences. For example. If your dog looks up from his kibble with disgust as if to say: "Give me a break. You're over there eating filet mignon, and I get cereal? Again?" Or if you sit down to watch your favorite t.v. program only to find it's been pre-empted by the World Series. And you hate baseball. In that kind of situation, my father might say, "What a revolting development!" I'm not sure where this idiom of his came from, probably some old Bob Hope movie. But it's been running through my mind a lot lately, and with a more sinister timbre than my dad ever intended. In fact, it seems we're hip deep in revolting developments these days. It's hard even to decide where to start the list. Oh, wait, I know. How about Iraq? Let's call it Revolting Development No. 1.

The situation "on the ground in Iraq," as White House press secretaries and intrepid reporters love to say, continues to devolve from bad to worse to worst. As the weeks, months and years creep by, things rachet down a few more notches and go right on devolving, descending beyond the boundaries of human imagination into a whole new nightmarish paradigm. A few major U.S. media outlets have finally taken the in-itself-newsworthy step of using heretofore verboten terminology to describe the hell Iraqi citizens and deployed U.S. troops must live--or die--with every day, every hour, every minute. So it's OK now, well, almost OK, to call this Dantean scenario "a civil war."

A few pundits have noted it has already taken us longer to impose our will on the formerly sovereign state of Iraq than to complete the European half of World War II. But still there's end in sight. Warring insurgent groups are competing to see who can create more havoc and instability. And the fledgling puppet government we've installed, purple thumbs notwithstanding, seems impotent to control the violence. So the bombs just keep exploding, and the body parts just keep flying. At this point, anywhere from 30,000 to 650,000 Iraqi citizens have died in the violence. The first figure even George W. Bush accepts; the second is the conservative midpoint of a recent and respected study. Respected, that is, by everyone except George W. Bush, who immediately dismissed it as "just not credible." Adding to these horrific losses, a goodly proportion of the Iraqi intelligentsia, those most able to lead and sustain a nation, have fled the country rather than join the casualty statistics. Yet in the midst of all this mayhem, we in the U.S. must debate the PC-ness of whispering, much less printing the words "civil war." Revolting Development No. 2.

Of course I'm oversimplifying for effect. The media's real problem with officially declaring Iraq a civil war zone is that the White House refuses to use the term. And the reason for that is the rules of war say third parties should not intervene in family squabbles. So if Iraq really did deteriorate into civil war, which--despite what NBC, the New York Times and the L.A. Times may think--the White House insists it has not, how could we possibly continue our current involvement there without seeming to take sides one way or the other? We couldn't. We'd have to get out instead. Omigod! Revolting Development No. 3? Only to the presidential cowboy and his posse.

More rational minds have long been arguing it's time for us to get out anyway. And of course while the debate rages, we continue to lose American lives. Which, if you believe the president, are much more valuable than Iraqi lives. That's what I conclude anyway from his continual warnings that if we don't fight the terrorists over there, we will end up fighting them over here. Much better then by his calculus for Iraqi children rather than American children to be blown into bits by random explosions in the streets. At least until they're old enough to join the military, and then it's OK for us to send them "over there" where they can be blown up, too.

In addition to all the Iraqi lives lost, more than 3,000 American sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews, cousins, friends, coworkers and comrades in arms, have died in the violence. Which, just for emphasis, is more of us than the terrorists killed on 9/11. (Revolting Development No. 3.) Add to that 20,000 wounded. Twenty thousand, the population of my hometown, all with some sort of injury, some temporary, some permanent. Lost arms, legs, eyes, mobility, brain function. That kind of thing. No. 4.

Then there are those who return home physically intact, but with shattered psyches. Many Iraq War veterans have now served two or more combat tours. Can you imagine being 18 or 21, even 38 or 51 for that matter, and living in constant, unrelenting mortal danger? There is no front in this war; thus, no behind the lines security, not ever a moment when it's safe to let down your guard. Car bombs, improvised explosive devices and outwardly benign suicide bombers may be lurking in every shadow, around every corner, behind every smile, 24-7, eight days a week. In short, any moment in Iraq could be your last. What kind of toll must that take on the mind? Now and for the rest of these young lives? What kind of reverberations must that have in the lives of their friends and families? The damage is simply incalculable. Are we only up to No. 5?

I am not merely humming kum bah yah here. I was a once a Marine wife. So I know a little bit about the way military people think. I know that nearly every one of today's military personnel volunteered for duty. I know most are competent, well-trained and highly principled. Most believe in the mission, believe they are making a difference. And despite the lack of press about the noncombat side of our effort in Iraq, there's no denying the good work American military people have done in terms of "nation-building," trying to put things back together again and helping the Iraqi people regain their footing. The problem is not with the military. The problem is with the White House. Those who volunteer to protect our nation with their very lives should never have been asked to go to Iraq in the first place. Not by a paranoid cadre of power-hungry egomaniacal civilians. Not on the basis of lies. Not without sufficient resources to succeed. Not without a plan beyond an initial triumphant, statue-toppling march into Baghdad. And certainly not over and over and over again. Which brings us to Revolting Development No. 6.

I recently met a young woman, the mother of three small children, whose Marine husband is currently serving his fourth tour in Iraq. His fourth tour. How many times can you roll the dice? No wonder even un-retired generals are starting to say, enough, the U.S. military is simply maxed out. And yet, in his radio address today, President George W. Bush, the same George W. Bush who four weeks ago admitted to a "thumpin" rebuke at the hands of midterm voters and sacrificed his beloved secretary of defense in penance, this same George W. Bush had the gall today to reprise his ragged mantra. The U.S. is committed to staying in Iraq until the job is done, he said, that is, until we've achieved victory. Sure the going is tough, he said, but never doubt that we are leading the Iraqis into a new era of democracy. Yada. Yada. Yada. Let freedom ring.

And there you have No. 7, a particularly revolting development. With all due and genuine respect for the office of the president, please, Mr. Bush, just stop talking. We don't believe you anymore. You've told so many lies I doubt if even Barney or Mrs. Beasley believes you anymore. All that talk about victory and freedom. Staying the course. Beating back the evil empire. All those religious words you throw around to appease big blocks of voters. It all just sounds ridiculous now. Because we're not doing the right thing in Iraq, and the world knows it. We're not accomplishing anything. We're not finishing anything. We're not winning anything. And we're certainly not leading the Iraqis to democracy. If anything, we've led them to slaughter.

Of course, Saddam Hussein was a psychotic despot. Of course, life in the old Iraq was difficult and repressed. Political dissidents were tortured and killed. It was a bad scene. I get it. But have we really improved the situation "over there"? Or have we only made it worse, dramatically worse? Have we really made the American people one bit safer? Or have we betrayed the sacrifices made by past generations to protect our liberties, so many of which we've now traded, in a moment of national vulnerability, for your empty promises of national security? Have we really staunched terrorism at its source? Or have we only confirmed the extremists' accusations of American arrogance, depravity and imperialism? Have we really defanged the evil empire? Or have we at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Haditha, and in countless congressionally approved offshore torture chambers, actually become the evil we once so loudly decried? Which of course would qualify as a truly revolting development.