Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chemo 4 and--forget it! I'M IN REMISSION!

I've only cried like that once before as an adult. When Dad died 11 1/2 years ago, I cried out of pain--when the nurse practitioner said the phrases "total remission" and "no trace of disease", I broke down so completely out of sheer relief and who all knows what else that the two episodes are going to be indistinguishable. I realize by my reaction in both cases that most of what goes on behind the mind is nearly impenetrable. I had obviously bottled up so much anguish and sheer terror during the last few months that when the dam burst, it flew wide open in an instant, leaving me defenseless against an onslaught of joyous tears. September 27, 2005 was the first really great day of this year (wedding days that end in overheated physical exhaustion and cancerous collapse don't count!) after an incredibly long string of truly awful ones. Words cannot express my feelings at this point, and I'm quite sure there are those out there that would welcome my silence. (Haw!)
The next two months are going to be just as agonizing as the previous two have been, however. I am still undergoing chemotherapy, which will last until the end of November, even given this tremendous news. It's simply that the light at the end of this tunnel isn't that light at the end of the tunnel, and that's really saying something.
For those others of you who have kind thoughts for me, though, thank you. Thank you from the depths of my renewed soul for keeping me in mind during your busy lives. Thank you for the emails, cards, phone calls, and even the comments here. Thank you for letting me lean on you a bit, even if you didn't realize it. Thank you for all the offers of help and succor. Finally, thank you for allowing me the privilege of calling you "friend", or "TBO", or "BS", or simply "loved one". Because one thing I do recognize about what's inside my mind is that the love I feel for the good people around me is as real and concrete as any structure ever built.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Book review--Beyond the Age of Innocence

In this tantalizingly brief and well-balanced book, Mahbubani manages to sum up what is both good and bad about the US over the last few decades. The author, formerly the UN ambassador from Singapore, enjoys a unique and wonderfully qualified position from which to turn his analysis on this country and the effects our diplomatic policies have had upon the world. His aim is not to place blame on any individual Administration (to the chagrin of, most likely, any and all in our increasingly polarized socio-political landscape, but to the benefit of all), though, but rather to encourage a new dialogue based on a more enlightened perspective.
Mahbubani brilliantly begins his book by stressing what is good about what the US has done for the world. By doing so, he hopefully disarms those who would dismiss him as someone who wants to simply "blame America" for whatever befalls it in the wake of increasing terrorist attacks. His discussion of how the US has benefited mankind in general, and many nations around the globe in particular, will be familiar to anyone who grew up in this country and attended school here. Our participation in the World Wars of the 20th Century, the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine, and even our advancement of democratic principles in opposition to Stalinist Communism, all the while establishing and maintaining the highest standard of living in the world, are each applauded to some extent or another, allowing even the most hardened "patriot" to buy into his discussion.
The balance of the book, however, delves into the much thornier issues surrounding what America has done wrong, and it is here that the author dispels any simplistic jingosim the first main chapter might engender in its readers. Simply put, Mahbubani stresses that the US has forgotten its original "mission" as a symbol of fairness and decency. From Winthrop's vision of the New World as a "city upon a hill", through the Founding Fathers' construction of a republican democracy, to Lincoln's description of our nation being the "last, best hope on earth" for a nation meant to be "of the people, by the people, and (most importantly, imho) for the people", the US has meant to stand as a beacon of hope to the rest of the nations and citizens in the world that it is possible to have a strong nation dedicated to equality among its populace. The problem, as Mahbubani notes, is that over the last few decades, while Americans as a whole still believe in that mission, our elected officials have conclusively decided that other impulses are more important, and this disconnect between what the electorate believes about our country and what our country is actually doing in the world is becoming increasingly dangerous.
Mahbubani's main objection with American diplomatic policies stem from our behavior toward the Soviet Union and our allies after its collapse. During the Cold War, American diplomacy was geared to propping up any government that opposed the Soviets, leading us to ally ourselves with some very strange bedfellows and ignoring anti-democratic impulses in those countries where they interfered with that main goal. Especially toward the end of the War, where we maintained good relations with (or even helped put into power) despots such as Saddam Hussein, or the Taliban in Afghanistan, let alone our massive support of the incredibly corrupt House of Saud or the corrosive state of Israel, our mixed message of "we're the good guys" and "oppose the Commies or else" played poorly in countries not directly benefiting from our aid. The most salient features of this "diplomacy", though, came to the fore after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since we no longer had that overarching enemy to fight, our aid to many countries we had employed to fight alongside us has quickly and irretrievably dried up. Mahbubani's choice of a prime example is Pakistan, which had acted as a prime and relatively uncomplicated ally in South Asia. Even though the Pakistanis did nothing "wrong", we pulled our aid from them in as abrupt a fashion as we did less democratic nations such as Afghanistan, making our rationale obvious to any in the world looking on. Those countries left in the lurch felt both abandoned and betrayed, making them resentful of us and increasing the likelihood that they would become friendly harbors for any new enemies--Osama bin Laden, anyone?
Mahbubani makes the point that, by the 1980s and increasingly since then, we have no longer been acting as an emblem of any vision; we are "acting like any other country". His use of our treatment of the monetary struggles in Thailand and Indonesia in the 1990s makes this clear as well. While those countries struggled mightily to stave off bankruptcy or widespread inflation in the face of a regional economic collapse, the US used its influence (in the agencies designed to help in such crises--the IMF and the World Bank) to dramatically curtail assistance, asking instead that these faraway countries employ draconian and painful internal policies, leading to the devaluation of their currencies and an attendant decline in trading power for them. When a similar crisis hit our important partner next door in Mexico, on the other hand, we urged the IMF and the World Bank to bend over backwards to help them back on their feet.
That the countries we have actively prevented helping out have almost all been comprised mainly of Muslims has gone unnoticed nowhere in the world except on our own shores, and it is this lack of political/social/diplomatic awareness that Mahbubani sees as the greatest threat we pose to the world. Our almost willful ignorance of the consequences of our actions has gone on for far too long, and even friendly people like Mahbubani fear that it may be too late for the US to finally exit our "Age of Innocence" and become responsible members of the world community once again.
Mahbubani has done a remarkable job in making obvious what America faces in the real world--and what should have been obvious to us all along also; one quibble I have is with his attempt to distinguish between American "unintended" and "intended consequences". His discussion is almost irrelevant to his main point, since if we begin to do one simple thing--try to see ourselves as others see us and act to reconcile the two visions--we don't need to ascertain the difference between intent and actions. Will we do so? Mahbubani is unwilling to go this far, but it is clear that this has all been happening under the auspices of Republican Party, whether through the Executive Branch under Reagan and the Bushes overriding the Democrats in Congress if need be (think of Iran-Contra as an example of support for anti-Communist aid directed by the Administration in clear disregard of Congressional oversight), or in the Legislative Branch through their undermining of the power of the Executive Branch (pick any number of examples of Gingrich and all the goons in Congress who completely hamstrung any attempts Clinton might have had to pursue a separate agenda). Mahbubani might want to be generous, but voting Americans need to know who's screwing us, don't they?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Confirmation hearings

I have little doubt that John Roberts is going to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for a long, long time. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing kinda depends on what you take away from these hearings. Roberts is presenting himself as someone who respects the rule of law, precedent, etc. etc. etc., like all good judges are supposed to. He refuses to answer questions on things that he might have to rule on later, he believes in the right of privacy, just like any other nominee would, regardless of political persuasion. My issue is that who's to tell if he's lying or not? Who can say with any certainty that Roberts doesn't actually and fervently believe the things he's saying today, but that he might change his mind 1, 5, 10, 20, 30, or 40 years from now and become a raging lunatic hell-bent on upending our skeletal welfare system, or eliminating equal opportunity under the Civil Rights or Voting Rights Acts?
This is the problem I have with lifetime appointments and our confirmation process. People change over time, and there's very little chance that once appointed, any judge will be taken off the bench, especially one with as high a visibility as the SC. A judge might be completely competent today, but become mentally unfit tomorrow, and only in extreme cases can we do anything about it. More to the point, though, I feel little comfort in the knowledge that Roberts might be saying the right things, for the most part, because I have absolutely no trust in the abilities of the person who appointed him. There are obviously many things about Roberts that we don't know (all easy cynicism aside, why else would the Administration refuse to obey the law and hand over the documents requested by the Senate?), and they won't come out through these hearings, either. We won't know who this guy is until he begins to rule on cases--surely no sane liberal/Democrat would have voted to confirm Thomas, for example, if they knew he would become Scalia's lapdog out on the right wing fringe, do you think?--and by then it's far too late to do anything about it. He doesn't have enough experience as a judge (oddly, that isn't an issue when appointing a Justice of the SC) for us to evaluate him on his rulings, and questions about his work as a lawyer can all be sidestepped by claims that everything he ever said or did was at the behest of his clients. Our ignorance of who John Roberts really is should be enough to disqualify him--there's no there there!--but unfortunately, the process works in quite the opposite fashion. Since there's nothing obvious to object to, he'll sail through. I'm as scared of him as I was Ashcroft, Ridge, Brown, and all of Smirky's other appointees, but I'll be living with this clown for decades, and that makes him potentially much more dangerous . . .

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Will Katrina blow Smirky away too?

While nowhere near the first response most of us to the left of center have had to this tragedy, the politicization of Katrina began before it even made landfall. The most egregious example of it, naturally, came yesterday when Smirky led off his radio address--he can't even be bothered to go on the teevee; that's how much he cares for the Katrina victims!--by talking about 9/11. So I feel entitled to ask and answer this question that so many of us would love to hear a resounding "Yes!" to.
The answer, of course, is, "Are you kidding me? Why should it?" Let's recap, shall we? This Administration has:

1) Lied and bullied its way into power by sending, under cover of darkness, its stormtroops into Florida during the recounts in 2000, terrorizing the vote tabulators and officials into quitting early and often.
2) Lied and bullied both its allies and opponents in Congress whenever possible, making sure that any who oppose its policies have been characterized as unpatriotic following 9/11, regardless of whether those policies have been foreign or domestic.
3) Relentlessly pursued its domestic agenda of class warfare against the poor and middle class, regardless of the actual needs of the economy or welfare of the country, its citizens, or the world as a whole.
4) Disregarded the world community's attitudes or desires in an attempt to bully the world into accepting an imperial Pax Americana, ignoring the plentiful lessons history has for us that condemn such foolhardy hallucinations.
5) Actually broken Federal law by exposing the identity of an undercover operative.
6) Continually refuses to obey the law regarding the Separation of Powers clause of our Constitution by engaging in obstructive practices whenever asked for documents or information necessary for Congress to do its job properly.

Bush personally has:
1) Ordered the deaths and woundings of thousands upon thousands of Americans, Afghanis, and Iraqis without a shred of conscience or clear idea as to purpose, unless we are to believe our eyes, ears, and minds and conclude that the "War on Terror" is all about war profiteering for Smirky's buddies, with just a smidgen of childish pique, all based on lies perpetrated to the American public.
2) Participated in the ever more premature and sickeningly ironic charade that was his staged photo opportunity aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln--"Mission Accomplished" indeed.
3) Traveled the country attempting to convince us to dismantle Social Security, failing miserably.
4) Continually failed to hold any of his associates accountable for their failings or illegal actions, contrarily praising them or awarding them medals instead.
5) Refused to take responsibility for any of the actions of his Administration or political party, even though he is its head, unless they redounded to his credit.

And he is still around. As is everyone he still wants by his side. Anyone thinking the devastation of an entire city and the surrounding area is going to affect him or his cronies, even given the blatantly negligent incompetence of his Administration's response, isn't paying attention. Smirky's already killed far more Americans, caused far more harm to our economy, and cost the taxpayers far more money, than Katrina possibly could. Should a blog entry on 9/11 have been about something more elegiac? Perhaps if we had a President or a political leadership that even appeared to care about America's true ideals or Americans' dreams and hopes, my patriotism would have taken a different tack today, but until that happens, 9/11 will only inspire disgust and hatred. Disgust and hatred not of those who attacked us, tragically, but of those who continue to profit from it cynically, either monetarily or politically, or, in this Administration's case, both. Impeach Bush? No. Arrest, convict, and condemn him and his cronies to death for their crimes against humanity.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Chemo 3, cont'd

Well, I woke up Thursday weak, somewhat dizzy, and a bit nauseous, which is not a good way to be. The real concern, though, was my temperature, which climbed throughout the day. I called in sick to work and stayed in bed all day, playing the game "do we call the doctor now, or wait another hour to see what happens?" TBO was good enough to humor my lack of desire to travel in my condition; we called the nurse practitioner and she suggested that the fever, at least, might be a new (to me) side effect of one of the side effect-fighting drugs. Unfortunately, the rest was probably my own stupid fault--I had tried to bolster my protein intake a couple days earlier by getting a small bit o' sushi. Um, oops. Now I'm on cipro for a cycle, and had to go to the UCLA clinic for a few hours yesterday for a blood draw. I felt much better yesterday, and I'm back to what passes for normal today, although I have to forego any trips to the outside world at all this weekend. Great. We don't know for sure yet if I poisoned myself, but the consequences are serious enough anyway. No more Tekka Maki for me! : (

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Wretched hag

Wife and mother of liars who made it to the top of the political heap, Barbara Bush is no slouch when it comes to being a twisted, sick scumbag herself. Clearly falling into the same trap her husband did during his re-election campaign, when he so obviously showed himself to be 100% out of touch with the people in this country, Babs uncorked this tribute to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina: "What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them ." You demented filth. It is no surprise how your sons became so worthless in that household. Wrap your "beautiful mind" around the fact that you're going to burn in Hell for all eternity, and let's all hope it works out very well for you, too.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Chemo 3

In the neverending quest to avoid nausea, we once again came up short. The docs and nurses came up with a new drug yet again, and all seemed well until about 3AM. While the bout lasted as long as on the very first night, it was nowhere near the intensity (thank Jeebus!). I outlasted it once more, with the help of the first anti-nausea drug prescribed me.
The merry-go-round of symptoms and effects hasn't ceased either, as my fatigue is way up and the vision loss returned as well. Can bone pain be far behind? Yes. Yes it can, if there is any luck in the universe! Let's hope no more later . . .