The Daily 750

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The Queen

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I'm here,with Queen Charlotte.

The Queen

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Sage Advice

Friday, November 25, 2005

I chose these stylish, comfortable, 1-1/2" heels:
Patrick writes that there was a little bit too much sage for him yesterday. I find it hard to have too much sage. It's not like dill or tarragon, where one tiny dried flake can make the difference between having Dill or Tarragon soup instead of Cauliflower or Chicken. But, to each his own.

The Shoalwater used its herbs and spices mostly well. I ordered the Traditional Turkey dinner, held the turkey and substituted both dressings -- traditional and cornbread. The traditional is better. It's more flavorful and has texture, with bits of celery and whatnot in the moist bread, while the cornbread is too far to the dry side and doesn't taste of anything but cornbread cooked with a bit of broth.

But I'll order the same next year, and ask if they'll hold the mashed potatoes, too, in exchange for an extra scoop of traditional. I'm not a vegetarian, but Thanksgiving dinner is all about the dressing for me -- and apparently for everyone else. I've seen three or four polls asking "What's your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner" and most everyone answers "the dressing." I haven't seen a "turkey" answer yet.

We had champagne and saw a couple other friends, and chatted with the owner about his plans to open a restaurant in town next year, and though I'd really rather be together with family friends and family family all at once, in a commotion of pots and pans and smells and stories and saran wrap, there's something really swell about coming home to a clean house with nothing to do but put on my jammies and pick out a book.


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Giving Thanks

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Because our relative families live far to the south and east of us, Josh and I have joined a small family of friends in the tradition of crossing the bridge to Washington and having Thanksgiving dinner at one of the best restaurants on the coast, the Shoalwater. This will be our fourth year together, and the only decision I have to make is what shoes to wear, and for that I am thankful.

We're an irreverent bunch and if there's been a prayer at the table I have missed it. Sometimes I try to steal a moment, long enough to think of the word "Thanks" with a smile, in between the first clanging of martini, wine, Sprite and water glasses and the first sip of vodka. It's the same way I pray on a plane during takeoff: silently, privately, pretending to be fully engaged in my surroundings while having a back-channel one-way conversation with Whoever or Whatever I think might be Up There at that moment.

There's a whole other world in my head. A movie. You're in it, and you, and you and you and you. Aunty Em and Toto too, from time to time. I once told my grandmother about that, and asked if she had a movie in her head. She said, "No, but I've always got a song in my heart" -- and she started singing "Cindy, oh Cindy/Cindy don't let me down/Write me a letter soon/And I'll be homeward bound." The Beach Boys did it in '62 or '63 (it shows up as a bonus track on the 1990 CD reissue that combines Surfin' USA and Surfin' Safari), but her version is from The Highwaymen's 1961 eponymous album.

this is an audio post - click to play

She probably saw them on Perry Como's show, or maybe Lawrence Welk's, and I was probably sitting on the old green couch between her and my granddaddy. For that I am thankful. And for being able to visit with her next week and sing again, I'm thankful.

My two sisters thrived in precarious conditions -- one lives in Key Largo, Florida; one is a single mother of a 13-year-old boy -- and for that I am grateful. The boy vacationed for a week in San Francisco with us this year and I didn't have to ask him 20 times to get up and get dressed, and for that I am grateful.

My dear father-in-law died earlier this year, of a Parkinson's that he did his best to outrun. The worst of it was short-lived, given the possibilities, and there's some hope my mother-in-law's heart may mend. For all that I am grateful.

I have a boss who doesn't pay me nearly enough and never likes anything I write, but but but but but . . . and his wife and his kid too . . . and for all that I am thankful.

I get to help run a public radio station! Thank you thank you.

This past year my mother has made it very clear she loves me oodles, as a mother can only love her firstborn, but says she doesn't like me much -- she wouldn't choose me as a best friend, if she had her druthers, and she does. For that I am thankful, because all those years of pretending were wearing on us both.

A couple weeks ago I watched C-SPAN's three-hour interview with the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose most recent book is about Abraham Lincoln. These interviews always feature a segment in which the author is interviewed in her home or study, and is asked how she spends her day. Doris said that she and her husband Richard, also a writer, are early risers. They enjoy breakfast and the newspaper together, then go to their separate studies to write. At lunch they rejoin and go into the village for lunch, after which they run errands or read or research, or maybe write some more. Every night they go to the same restaurant and join another 20 or 30 friends for dinner.

I turned to Josh and said, "I'm going to quit cooking dinner in 2006." He said, "Why wait? I'll take you to dinner tonight."

I am not worthy. I am very grateful.

I'll take your dressing leftovers, and be thankful for them too.

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In Which I Admit to Diana and Josh Et.Al.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Everyone, I mean each and every kind one of you who took the time to comment or call or email, said the American Standard's problem was on the inside. I took your advice and bought the bright blue guts. I took a few days to collect my thoughts, my tools, my turkey baster, my knee pads, a couple towels.
And today, at 12:00 high, I looked the Standard square on and decided it needed a new shutoff valve.

Four trips to the basement, one broken valve handle, a trip to that awful locally-owned Ace Hardware -- awful because all the guys who come in get a "Hey, how ya doin'" and a five minute chat, and the one clueless lady wandering around with an old wet part in her hand and muttering to herself gets ignored -- after all that and a middling flood that produced a shower in the basement, the Standard was found to need . . . new guts.

And so, I admit first to my mother and then to my husband, and then to

So, it works, it's wonderful, thank you thank you.

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Today's the day.

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Still Sorting Truth From Fiction

Monday, November 21, 2005

Congressman John Murtha said: "Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency." Like Bush, he either received bad information or he's lying for political purpose. I'll say he got bad information and offer him some fresh details.

US fatalities:
July -- 54
August -- 85
September -- 49
October -- 96
November -- 67
Total: 351

Iraqi fatalities

July -- 304 police/military    518 civilian
August -- 282 pol/mil    1524 civilian
September -- 233 pol/mil    640 civilian
October -- 215 pol/mil    465 civilian
November -- 99 pol/mil    470 civilian
Total: 1133 pol/mil    3617 civilian

I've scanned the data from Friday back to October 26, and can find only one Iraqi civilian who was not killed by insurgent mortar, roadside bomb, suicide bomb, or gunfire.

In 50 attacks from October 26 to November 9, three were targeted on US forces.

It seems clear that the primary target of the insurgency is Iraqis and, through them, the hearts and minds of Americans who will urge their own leaders to withdraw American troops from Iraq given that there were no WMD in Iraq from which to rid the world and that nation building isn't going so well.

I urge you to read John Burns' Sunday NY Times piece about why it took so long for the US military to find the Interior Ministry's torture center in Baghdad. Burns writes this:
As the conquering power, America brought with it many assumptions, and among the most costly of these has been the belief, deeply ingrained in the American experience, that reason, principle and persistence can prevail.
And this:
To a great extent, the American story in Iraq has been one of a profound clash of cultures - of invaders who came with a belief that they could transplant the virtues of democratic bargaining and a civil society that secures the vital interests of all, only to be confounded by what Iraqis themselves often describe as the culture of Ali Baba, the mythical villain of Baghdad. In that culture, maneuver and guile, secrets and untruths, terror and treachery are, too often, the coin of the realm for deciding who gets wealth and power.
And there is also this, from James Lileks' Screed today, which takes on Kurt Vonnegut, currently on a tour for his latest book, A Man Without A Country, and all but calling suicide bombers "awesome, man.":
But there is nothing to be gained from pointing out that Vonnegut is an addled old fool whose brain has rusted in the antiestablishment default position for so long he cannot distinguish between suicide bombers and people who stage a sit-in at a Woolworth’s counter. There is nothing to be gained from attacking the messenger when his other message is so delicious. Of course, all it would take is a few book editors in a few magazines to say “to hell with the old coot; I have a cousin serving in Iraq, and I’ll be goddamned if I give this hairy old fool a pass because he wrote a book my brother loved in college. What’s the matter with us? Do we excuse everything because it kicks Bush in the nuts? If Madonna puts on a suicide belt in her next video and sashays into St. Peters to protest, oh, I don’t know, popery, do we give her a f*$*#ing golf clap for pushing the envelope again?”
And so we return to Murtha. You may think he's an American icon, even a hero, and also want US troops withdrawn as soon as possible. But don't foster his erroneous notion that it's because they're the primary targets of the insurgents.


One other legislative soundbite caught my attention this weekend, this one by Senator Joe Biden, on "Fox News Sunday," talking about Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito:
The fact that he questioned abortion and the idea of quotas is one thing. The fact that he questioned the idea of the legitimacy of the reapportionment decisions of the Warren Court is even something well beyond that.
What Alito wrote (.pdf file) is (emphasis added):
In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment.
In the same 1985 employment application, Alito also wrote:
I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.
The concept of "one man, one vote" was pretty much settled even by activists 20 years ago, and hasn't been and isn't on the Supremes' radar, much less their agenda. Even Alito notes it as an early college interest, which makes sense because major reapportionment had only recently taken place when he was in college. Quotas and particularly abortion, on the other hand, remain of interest to him because they are active issues in which he could play a decisive role.

Until this employment application was released, Biden had said that Alito's opinions were unlikely to trigger a filibuster and that the Senate would, after a char-broiled grilling, vote up or down on his nomination. That moderate talk has changed now that a brown-nosing reference to a hoary issue has been unearthed. Why? Because reapportionment, that process by which a state's conglomeration of electoral districts is made to look like a Jackson Pollock painting, keeps Democrats in office.

Biden could have made the argument that keeping Democrats in power helps to assure that America doesn't go to hell in a rushbasket. I'm sure he'll make that argument today or tomorrow, after a few of his advisors tell him how self-serving he sounds.

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Heroes and Criminals

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another magnificent day in history.

Today's hero:

He is Robert Jackson, the chief American prosecutor in this trial:

The Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal began 60 years today, November 20th, in Nuremberg. The sentences: 12 deaths by hanging, three life sentences, four prison sentences of under 20 years.

Franklin Roosevelt appointed Jackson to a number of positions including, in 1941, to the US Supreme Court, from which he was granted a leave of absence to prosecute the Nazi war criminals (a position also of appointment from FDR). Jackson never went to college. Josh says, "He read the law, like Abraham Lincoln."

One of Jackson's most famous quotes is a bit of a paraphrase from a dissenting opinion he wrote in a case in which the majority of the Supremes said that, in 1949, Arthur Terminiello, a Catholic priest, had not committed the act of disorderly conduct when his outrageously vitriolic, pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic rant to a group of sympathizers in a Chicago auditorium, incited the protestors outside to riot. "There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom," Jackson wrote, "it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact." Thus the phrase: "The Constitution is not a suicide pact." In other words: The Constitution is not intended to grant rights so broadly as to bring down the nation.

Why is it that, in the annals of crime, it's almost always the criminals and almost never the heroes who are remembered?