APRIL 2018

APRIL 2018


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Friday, June 13, 2008


I could not help feeling sorry for New York Governor Paterson last year. All he wanted to do was announce that progress was being made on a bill to extend health care benefits to people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. But Republican Senate Majority leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Democrat Sheldon Silver couldn’t stop getting their little digs in at each other so that Paterson ended up with his head in his hands. I thought he was going to cry. And that is just politics as usual. It could have been much worse. Everybody involved could have been Republicans.
Pardon my gloating, but these pompous Republican pols were supposed to be taking over the entire world because they were morally superior to us “common folk”, i.e. those who did not believe that humanity began at the instant of conception, who did not want the government to protect us from “gay” marriage, and who had the temerity to ask questions of the Republican leadership about the war and the law. And now we have word that our Republican overlords have been ripped off to the tune of at least $725,000 by one of their own, Christopher Ward, Treasurer for the National Republican Campaign Committee. So I guess it is true; there is no honor amongst thieves.
Mr. Ward had the power to wire transfer money from half a dozen RNC accounts without having to seek clearance from anybody. Thanks to this Gruppenf├╝hrer management style so favored by Bush, over the last five years the GOP has been paying for renovations to and making mortgage payments on Mr. Ward’s Bethesda, Maryland home. I’ll bet it’s a really nice house, too. According to one of the Republican investigators, “He (Ward) doesn’t appear to have undertaken a particularly clever fraud,” which raises the question of just how clever you have to be to pull one over on the current generation of GOP leadership. And after they got ripped off, these brainiacs had to shell out another half a million dollars to investigate the theft of the first three quarters of a million, and fork over another three hundred thousand to fix their broken accounting systems. The only thing worse for them than getting robbed was finding out they had been robbed. According to Rep. Tom Cole, Republican from Oklahoma, “We got dealt a bad hand.” God, don’t these guys ever accept personal responsibility for anything?
In fact things may be far worse than that. The investigators had to admit under questioning by reporters that there were some accounts and documentation that they didn’t have access to. It must have been some investigation. Good God, is there anybody high up at the GOP who is not a crook or an idiot, or both? And, I might also begin to wonder, are any of these morally pure GOP leaders actually hetrosexuals?
I ask this second question because the list of Gay-Old-Party members who made their living by gay baiting goes back at least as far as Roy Cohen, Joe McCarthy’s "gay" attack dog. There was the Reverend Ted Haggard, leader of the homophobic National Association of Evangelicals who was forced to first declare, “I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man from Denver”, and was then forced to admit that, yes, actually he had. Then there was Bob Allen, a Florida state Representative and State Chairman of John McCain’s Presidential campaign, until last year when he was forced to resign after offering a cop twenty bucks to accept oral sex from the Represenative. More recently there was Congressman Mark “The Page Boy” Foley, and Senator Larry “Mr. Wide Stance” Craig, and Washington State Republican Representative Richard Curtis, who was busted for soliciting a gay prostitute. And now we have Mr. Glenn Murphy Jr., who last year at this time ran the Clark County Kentucky Republican Committee and was head of the Young Republican National Federation. Then last July, at about 6:40 am, Glenn was displaying passionate affection to a 22 year old man who was sleeping in the bottom bunk bed after a late night party at Glenn’s house. The application of unsought attention awoke and inspired the young recipient to debunk him self and, two days later, to secretly record Glenn’s confession and apology. What do you say in a situation like that? “I should have never given up smoking?” Or perhaps you could try and blame it on your sinus medication, or perhaps it was a desperate an attempt to save the young man from one of those dangerous four hour erections we hear so much about.
And this is the second time Glenn got “up” early with a younger man. He did it at least once before in 1998. This time Glenn Murphy took a plea deal, and will be sentenced on June 30, 2008. He negotiated two years with four suspended. But I wonder if any of these Republicans will ever serve any time for hypocrisy. It appears to me that homophobia and homosexuality have a very similar genetic element, the primary difference being that you usually have no choice about being gay, but hating gays is all about choice.
And what could be the ultimate irony of this vile period in Republican Party history, if the evanglicals should abandon the GOP this fall, as all indications are that they will, it will represent the maturation of Karl Roves' wedge politcs. It leaves behind a ravaged and hollow Republican Party, having alienated all sides of the political debate. And the only core of support the GOP can count on will be those who have persisted in supporting the Republicans even while the Republicans were denouncing and demonizing them; homosexuals.
Irony can be such a bitch, can't he?
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I have always admired Alexander Hamilton. How could you not admire a man who could write, “A well adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous” That kind of self knowledge belies the life of a boy who was abandoned by his father at the age of ten, at twelve watched his mother die in the bed next to him, and was then adopted by a cousin who shortly thereafter committed suicide. Hamilton not only survived but within ten years became one of the most successful and powerful men in America, the man who invented the American economic system. But that childhood also goes a long way to explaining how such a smart man, a happily married man and a devoted father could fall for something as old and obvious as the Badger Game.In 1791 in Philadelphia, twenty-three year old Maria Reynolds, a lovely and avaricious mental midget, approached Hamilton, who was the Secretary of the Treasury. She told Hamilton that her husband, James Reynolds, had abandoned her and their daughter. Could the noble and handsome Secretary Hamilton provide her with the funds to return to New York? Smitten and horny, as his wife was in far off Connecticut, Hamilton agreed to deliver $30 to her rooms that evening, where the game began.The original badger game involved sticking a live badger in a box and then sending in a terrier. After a few seconds the owner would pull the dog out. If the dog held the badger in its jaws, it was marked as a plus. Then the badger would be returned to the box and the dog would be sent in again. This was repeated several times in front of a crowd, with the shouting and betting building to a crescendo. The similarity between the original sport (outlawed in England in 1835) and the blackmail performed on Hamilton was that the dog could be counted on to grab the badger every time, even though it was never allowed to actually keep the badger.Shortly after Hamilton’s first liaison with Mrs. Reynolds, Mister Reynolds made his re-appearance in the role of the wronged husband. He wrote Hamilton, “You have deprived me of every thing thats near and dear to me. … you have made a whole family miserable.” James was a born conman who had been one of Hamilton’s commissariats during the revolution, scrounging food, clothing and ammunition for the Continental Army despite the penury of Congress. But he was also a wife beater – if we believe Maria.
Eventually James got to the point; “…give me the sum of (a) thousand dollars and I will leve (sic) town and take my daughter with me…”. Hamilton paid, and James then wrote, “I have not the Least Objections to your Calling, as a friend to Boath (sic) of us”.
The dog now had the scent and Hamilton continued to visit Maria regularly...and to pay regularly – in April, $135, in May and June, $50, in August, $200. The game went on for two years, with Hamilton enjoying the nubile Maria in Philadelphia, while urging his wife to remain in Connecticut, and even borrowing from friends for the money to keep James silent. But the end of the game was predictable, given James’ character.Reynolds and his partner Jacob Clingman were arrested for cheating revolutionary war veterans out of their back pay - which congress had also been doing for years - and James expected his “friend” Alexander Hamilton to rescue him. Hamilton, however, was not willing to use his office to cover up his personal peccadilloes and refused to help. Angry, James started singing to anybody who would listen that Hamilton had given him inside information on Government bond sales.
In particular Clingman sang to Hamilton’s arch enemy, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson gleefully dispatched Congressmen James Monroe and Fredrick Muhlenberg to confront Hamilton in person. And to everyone’s stunned surprise Hamilton admitted to the affair but denied everything else. He even provided proof in the form of letters between himself and both of the enterprising Reynolds’. Muhlenberg and Monroe were so nonplussed they agreed to keep the affair secret, and Hamilton resigned from the cabinet (January 1795.) But Jefferson had made no promise of secrecy, and he filed the information away for use at some opportune future moment, which came in 1797 - which is how we know the entire sordid tale.
Shortly thereafter the lovely Maria divorced the imprisoned James and married his partner in crime, Jacob Clingman. The lovebirds moved to Alexandria, Virginia and dropped out of history. But Maria's divorce attorney back in New York had been Aaron Burr, who would in a very few years would shoot Alexander Hamilton down in a duel. And that, one way or another, is the way most badger games end.In contrast there was Mr. William A.E. Moore, a “friend” (meaning finanical supporter) of President McKinley. Mckimley appointed William as U.S. Counsel to Durban, South Africa. William was in route to Durban with his wife, Fayne Strahan, when they stopped in Paris. And it was while in a Paris hotel that William "surprised" Fayne while she was "engaged" romantically with a Russian nobleman. Mr. Moore offered to swallow his insulted pride for a mere $2,000. But the Russian chose instead to call the police. Mr. Moore’s appointment was revoked and he was forced to return to the United States.
Then in 1898 the pair tried the same gag on Mr. Martin Mahon, proprietor of the New Amsterdam Hotel, in New York City. (a bit of a comedown this, from a Russian nobleman to a mere hotel owner.) This time, when William burst into the room, he took the trouble to beat up the mark, i.e. Mr. Mahon, and steal $175 from his wallet. He then stuffed a cigar into the mark's mouth and walked him down the street as if they were friends.
Alas, the mark went to the police again and this time William Moore was sent to Sing Sing for several years. Fayne, meanwhile, moved to South Dakota where she got a divorce. Some years later she moved to London where she took to the stage, as a chorus girl in the hit musical, “The Messenger Boy”. William was eventually released from jail and inherited $125,000 from an uncle. Last heard of he was living in a luxury retirement. And that was the true wages of sin for what today would be called “Grifters.And in case you are thinking that these are historical footnotes, in 2007 in San Antonio, Texas, an attorney, Ted H. Roberts, was convicted of three counts of theft for a badger scam he ran with his wife, fellow attorney Mary Roberts, who was convicted of 5 counts of fraud. Mary trolled the internet looking for married men seeking sex, and engaged them in chat rooms until they either revealed their fantasies or actually met her for sex, whereupon Ted would inform the marks that he was going to sue them for “alienation of affection”, unless they agreed to “settle”. The couple netted something around $160,000 from five marks before they were caught.
The true punchline of this story, however, was delivered by a witness fir the defense; past president of the Texas Bar Association, Broadus A. Spivey. Mr. Spivey swore under oath that the hightec badger game was not illegal because it was not substantially different than the average lawsuit. “Litigation is coercive,” he testified, in case there was anybody left in this nation who did not already despise lawyers.
Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson understood the rules of this game as well as anybody today.
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Monday, June 09, 2008


I once heard a nurse suggest that doctors should be required to take a class in apologies, particularly to nurses. But upon reflection I’m not sure that would be a good idea. Back in May of 2001 a 68 year old Australian woman had part of her colon removed. The surgery was a success but the patient, Ms. Pat Skinner, insisted that something was wrong. Her doctors assured her that she was merely suffering the psychological effects of major surgery.
But eighteen months later, when Ms. Skinner still refused to accept her doctors’ assurance that no matter what she felt she felt she was actually feeling just fine, the hospital relented and finally agreed to re-x-ray her abdomen. Her doctors were stunned to discover this woman who had no medical training had been right all along. On the x-ray was a clear image of a 7 inch-long pair of surgical scissors that had been left in her abdomen: Ooops. In October of 2002 the chastised surgeons removed the forgotten tool and Ms. Skinner made a full recovery. And then, in April of 2004, Ms .Skinner went public, holding a press conference and hiring an attorney. St. George’s Hospital in Sydney professed to be surprised that Ms. Skinner had waited so long to take action legal action. I suspect Ms. Sinner was motivated to finally go public once it became clear that, as the hospital was forced to admit, that no one on the operating team had been disciplined in anyway. The CEO told a local radio station, “I’ve been executive director here for four years and this is the first time this incident has occurred”. Ms. Skinner’s lawyer might have been quick to add, “That they know of”.
Depending upon which study you are reading, medical screw-ups injure or kill 100,000 patients every year in America (Institute of Medicine study – 1999), or 3 patients out of every 100 ( HealthGrades – 2005). And the Harvard School of Public Health published a study in the November 2007 “Annals of Surgery” that indicated a surgical error rate of 52%, including everything from minor recording errors to 84 cases in 2006 of wrong site surgery. All of which makes the results of a survey of airline pilots and surgeons even more interesting: 90% of pilots said they would be willing to listen if a team member had reservations, while only 50% of surgeons would listen to another doctor or nurse trying to tell them they were cutting the wrong thing.
This past week Doctors at the Asahi General Hospital outside of Tokyo delivered some good news to a 49 year old male patient. He had experienced general good health all his life, except for a minor surgery in 1983 to treat an ulcer. But this May he was forced to seek treatment for abdominal pain, and was diagnosed as suffering from a softball-sized likely malignant tumor in his gut. However the surgery discovered not a tumor (thank goodness) but a “crumpled… greenish-blue surgical towel”, missed and forgotten by the ulcer surgery a quarter of a century before. This being Japan the hospital administrators apologized, but if this had happened in the United States the hospital would have probably threatened to sue the patient to recover the cost of the towel, and some congressman on retainer to an insurance lobbyist would have suggested a bill to protect health insurance providers from being held responsible for “towel-frauds”.
In February of 2006 doctors at the Rhode Island Hospital performed brain surgery on the wrong side of a patient’s head. And then in August of that year they did it again, on a different patient. In July of 2007 neurosurgeons at the very same hospital performed an emergency surgery on a patient with a bleed inside his skull,…and again they opened the wrong side of his head. I guess in this case the third time is not the charm, since the hospital was fined $50,000. In June of 2006 a surgeon at the Milford Regional Medical Center in Massachusetts removed an 84 year old woman’s kidney, when they were supposed to be removing her gallbladder. But that worked out okay since it was later discovered that her gallbladder didn’t need to be removed. And that same year, a 47 year old patient at the West L.A. Veterans VA Medical Center had his possibly cancerous right testicle successfully removed: except they were supposed to have removed his left testicle. Oops again, I guess.
Which brings us to the strange tale of Donovan’s brain: in February of this year eighteen year old Donovan McGowan was struck by a car. He was rushed to Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, where doctors had to open his shattered skull to relieve pressure on his swelling brain. They saved his life. A month later Doctors inserted a series of metal plates to replace the sections of his damaged skull. Almost immediately after this second surgery Donovan began to report fierce headaches. The National Health Services doctors in Glasgow assured him that this was a perfectly normal reaction to coming face-to-face with your own mortality at such a young age - well, Donovan’s mortality, actually, not the doctors.
But being so young and feeling so certain of him self, Donovan refused to accept the doctors’ explanation, particularly when, by March, a large cylindrical lump began to protrude beneath his left temple. Upon being presented with the lump Doctors admitted that it did appear as if perhaps something odd was happening and they approved another C-scan to look a Donovan’s brain. After the scan the doctors and hospital administrators explained, according to Donovan, “This is quite embarrassing but there is something metallic, like a tube, still in your head from the operation.” According to the well educated medical experts it appeared that somehow, someone involved in Donovan’s surgery had forgotten to remove a four inch a surgical swab after the operation. Originally it had been left in the back of Donovan’s head, but like the proverbial bad penny, had worked it’s way around the outside of the boy’s skull to it’s present location, bulging out of the side of his head like some bad horror movie affliction. Donovan was insulted. “I can’t believe they were saying it’s embarrassing for them. It’s been more than embarrassing for me having to walk around with his lump on my head” Donovan described the staff as “groveling” in their apologies to him, and added “They weren’t quite so pleased with themselves when I told them I’d called (The tabloid newspaper, the Glasgow) Sun, though.”
And in March of 2008 there occurred a surgical screw-up that exemplified the entire range of medical screw-ups. A retired German woman went into a Bavarian clinic for an operation on her leg and awoke in the recovery room to discover instead that her sphincter had been removed. It reminds me of the observation by that world famous medical expert, Doctor Nick Rivera, who once said, "Well if it isn't my old friend Mr. McGregg — with a leg for an arm and an arm for a leg." And in Doctor Nick's immortal words, "Bye, everybody!"
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