Friday, December 30, 2005

Am I Seeing Clearly?

King George III of England

Perusing this morning for real news, I came across an op-ed piece about Emperor Bush written by Martin Frost. The opinion of a former member of Congress normally would be of little interest to me, but Frost's discussion of King George W. Bush is groundbreaking in its singular distinguishing feature -- it was published on I realize it is early in the morning, but is Faux News really saying something critical about the Emperor?

King George W. ?
Monday, December 26, 2005
By Martin Frost

Was it Richard Nixon with his willingness to break the law to hold onto the presidency? Was it FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who bugged Martin Luther King Jr. and anyone he considered to be a political enemy?

And then it struck me. President Bush most closely resembles King George III of England. You remember him -- he’s the guy whose high-handed rule led to the American Revolution.
I went back and re-read our Declaration of Independence. Our founding fathers cited King George’s various acts of tyranny-- including housing foreign troops in the homes of colonials against their will.

The American Revolutionary War followed, which eventually led to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill or Rights (the first 10 amendments). And there it is in black and white: the fourth amendment. Let’s take a moment to look at the exact words of the fourth amendment to the Constitution adopted more than 200 years ago:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”

Not bad for a group of farmers who were creating a new country -- one that has survived for 216 years and is the oldest continuous democracy in the world.

Now the "new King George" would have us believe one of three things: (1) the president’s powers as commander-in-chief supersede the fourth amendment during the war on terror (2) the resolution adopted by Congress shortly after the 9/11 attack can be read to give the president the authority to conduct domestic wiretaps against American citizens without going to court to seek a warrant and (3) modern technology is such that the founding fathers could never have anticipated the need to conduct wiretaps without a warrant.

Let’s look at each of these arguments.
First, it takes a very broad reading of the commander-in-chief clause to justify any conduct as superseding the constitution. President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeus corpus during the U.S. Civil War, an action that was very controversial at the time; it is hard to equate the ongoing war on terror with the American Civil War, which threatened the very existence of the Republic.

Second, I was a member of Congress when we passed the resolution giving the president the authority to use all force necessary against the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Congress clearly meant this as authorization to go into Afghanistan and find Usama bin Laden. No one ever thought this authorized our government to wiretap American citizens in our own country without court approval. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle wrote an op-ed piece in the Dec. 23rd Washington Post detailing how the Bush administration proposed last minute language to the 9/11 resolution which would have given the president the power to engage in domestic spying without a search warrant, and that this language was specifically rejected by the bills’ authors.

And third, the modern technology argument is an interesting one but is not very persuasive. Congress in 1978 passed legislation permitting spying inside the United States under certain circumstances. That law created a special court that can respond within hours to a request for search warrants. And the law also contained an exception, permitting the Attorney General to authorize wiretaps in an emergency situation and then seek a warrant within 72 hours.
And so the question remains, why did the president set up a system of wiretapping of American citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA) without a warrant?

Does he simply want dictatorial powers? Does he so mistrust the court system (even a secret one specifically set up to make it easier to wiretap people inside the United States) that he doesn’t want any of the traditional checks on the power of the executive to violate basic civil liberties? Does he just want a political issue that makes him look tough and opponents (Democrats and some Republicans) look weak?

I used to think that extreme right wingers out West who wanted to arm themselves and undergo paramilitary training to be ready to resist tyranny in their own country were crazy. An argument now can be made that they were quite sane.

Let’s hope that a bipartisan political coalition is able to restrain this administration from actions that are inconsistent with the framework of liberty established by our founding fathers. Let’s don’t leave the defense of our freedoms to self-declared militias. We are a better country than that.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christmas

Thank you to everyone for the well wishes, kindness and support over the past few weeks. It has been a rough ride, but it is touching that people who have never met can share such personal experiences.

Although I am not one to celebrate holidays, hubby insists on making a big deal out of Christmas so I make an effort to be festive. We got a huge tree and had a good time decorating it and surrounding it with gifts. My parents celebrated Christmas when my sister and I were kids. They viewed it as an American, not Christian, tradition and were disappointed when my sister and I came of age and thought it was foolish to celebrate a holiday that was not ours. For years, I avoided the stress of the December retail stupor and didn't feel like I was missing anything.

Now I am married and Christmas is back in my world with all the aggravation and enjoyment that comes with it. My trip to Target last week for a last-minute gift was a reminder that the missing link in evolution is out there (it walks among us and it only takes a $50 DVD player to reveal its existence). We bought gifts for everyone who came over to our house for Christmas dinner and it was fun wrapping them. Even the religious Muslims in the family agreed that everyone should celebrate Christmas and gleefully retrieved their gifts from under the tree.

Notwithstanding this manufactured hoohah non-issue over Happy Holidays, Christmas is a secular tradition in America that everyone should use as an excuse to let everyone in their lives know just how important and special they are. You see, I find it extremely difficult to believe that Jesus would have wanted people to make such a fuss about his birthday. For as much as I think Jehovah's Witnesses are a bit nutty for refusing to celebrate birthdays, their refusal to turn Jesus' birthday into a retailers bonanza seems most consistent with the spirit of Jesus' life and the essence of Christianity.

Thus, I am taking it upon myself to redefine Christmas in America. It has been a joke for years between our family and a Jewish family with whom we are close that only in America do a Jewish family and Muslim family exchange Christmas gifts. This year, they gave us framed pictures of my mother they took at my wedding. They come over to check on my father to make sure he is doing okay. We all got together on our mutual day off and shared each other's company. There is something to be said for that. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Rest In Peace

The three of us were at her side when she took her final breath Tuesday evening. It was a peaceful farewell and she is no longer suffering.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I Wouldn't Wish This On Anyone: Part 2

It has been two weeks since my mom's condition deteriorated. At first, the changes were subtle, but they have become far more pronounced in the last few days. She will slip into a coma soon.

Strangely, that prospect is somewhat comforting. For the first week and a half following Thanksgiving, I was told that my mother was going to die by drowning in her own lung (her lungs and abdomen are continuously filling with liquid) or by spontaneously bleeding from her eyes, ears, etc. The torment of having to choose which horrific death my mom would suffer was eating at all of us. Can you imagine having to make that choice?

Thus, it was oddly comforting when the hospice doctor came over last week and said that my mother would slip into a coma and would go from there. Her liver has failed and the kidneys are next.

She won't eat and when we try to get her to drink, the liquids come out through her nose, although I haven't quite figured out why. The dehydration is so bad that she no longer produces saliva, which makes giving her the necessary morphine an incredible challenge. Swallowing is no longer a real possibility, so we mash up the pills, mix them with cranberry juice and administer the doses with a dropper. Since she won't or can't swallow the long-lasting 12-hour morphine pills, we have to repeat this scenario every 1-2 hours. I am not sure how much she weighs, but it isn't much. Skin and bones are all that is left of what was once a vibrant, dynamic woman. I am not sure if she sees or hears us because her glassy eyes seem to see through us.

My sister says that people in comas still feel pain so tomorrow we have to figure out how we will administer the morphine when she completely checks out.

No one deserves this. Neither to experience it nor to witness it. Please do not take your health for granted. If you are over 40 and you have not yet gone for a colonoscopy, it's time to make an appointment.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Setting The Record Straight

This post will not be about my mom, who happens to be quite a resilient fighter. It is about phonies who really piss me off.

There is a small-minded, bigoted, moronic blogger out there who has posted several comments to my blog, wishing comfort to my mother. He has sent repeated e-mails of good wishes and even offered to attend the funeral when that time comes. And I was really touched. Someone who has never met me displaying such kindness is a wonderful example of what is possible in this world.

Boy was I wrong.

Although I float somewhere between atheist and agnostic and abhor religious institutions, my family is Muslim. If you want to intelligently discuss things you find troubling in the Quran, I'll probably agree with you. Rest assured - I have been called an infidel by whackjob Muslims more times than you ever have. If you think there are Muslims out there running amok, you will not hear any disagreement from me. But, if you condemn all 1.2 billion Muslims or Islam as a whole based upon what some of them do, then you cross the line with me. Not because I am an apologist for Islam or Muslims. I am not. It is because your insults and condemnations apply to my mother who is currently fighting for her life, those insults apply to my family who I love dearly and your ignorance envelopes many of my family's friends who have provided an endless fountain of kindness, support and love during these difficult times.

The offending blogger has been wishing good thoughts to my family while writing on his blog that Islam is evil, violent and suggesting that no other religion in the world has people who do bad things. Hypocrite! If you think my mom, a moderately religious Muslim woman, is an evil, violent savage, save your insincere, phony good wishes. You aren't doing us any favors. Every person of color has had the experience where someone says to them, I think all X are violent savages, but you aren't like those ones. Don't do me any favors. You don't know what makes up the majority of Muslims, you have no idea what efforts are afoot in the community to improve the state of affairs and, like Hitler who you surely admire, you make no distinction between those who are secular and those who are fanatics. What is even more hypocritical is that the same mainstream media this moron constantly insults is the source of his expertise on Islam, its adherents and the adherents of all other religions in the world.

I could care less if someone likes Islam. It makes no difference to me if someone dislikes Muslims. I won't try to convince you otherwise and there are plenty of other blogs where you will find reassurances of your ignorant beliefs. Bigots like being bigots. They are pathetic, insecure human beings who can only feel a sense of value by insulting others. Facts make no difference in their world. To those people, you are not welcome here. At a time when I am under an incredible amount of stress, the last thing I will tolerate is your petty, small-minded, small-penised insults about a group of people whom you have never met and do not otherwise know. Go get some prozac and a dildo and fuck yourself!

P.S. One more thing, you don't have shit to say about violent religions if you believe in the Old Testament you rotten hypocrite.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Having doctors in the family is a blessing and a curse.

The nurse who came to see my mom on Friday said my mom probably wouldn't make it to Monday. It's almost midnight on Sunday and mom is still kicking. Indeed, she is impressively lucid in spite of the incredible amounts of morphine she's getting these days.

I am almost scared to go to sleep in case something happens and, at the same time, I want to sleep because I do not want to witness the finale if the nurse was right. My sister, the physician, says all the signs of liver failure are there. Yellow eyes and skin, reddened palms and other yucky stuff. :-( It's not pretty. She then went into graphic detail about all the things happening in my mom's body until I finally told her to put a sock in it. Sometimes ignorance is bliss and I want to be as blissful as possible right now.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I Wouldn't Wish This On Anyone

All three of us are quite testy these days. On a good day, the hospital at which my sister works is an hour and a half from my parents' house. Since good traffic days are a rarity in Los Angeles and the insta-communities mushrooming along the eastern border of the county, she spends over two hours of each evening driving to see my mom and wakes up at 5am to spend another two hours returning to her patients. Two nights ago, she arrived at the house later than usual, explaining that a young boy with bruises all over his body (including suspicious places) was admitted as she was preparing to leave. Half in jest, half in sadness, she tells us that she can make it home for dinner as long as everyone agrees not to beat their child to death that day.

The reality of the situation is slowly hitting my father, a man who has managed to go through life without expressing much emotion -- at least none that I have ever seen in my 32 (almost 33) years on earth. It's hard to watch him on the verge of a meltdown. He awakes my mom from her stupor and feeds her every few hours. Somehow, I think he thinks that half a banana is going to make the difference. When I tell him that spiritual, not physical, nourishment is what she needs, he yells at me. This is his way of expressing emotion. A man utterly incapable of saying "I love you" is showing it with feedings of bananas and yogurt all day.

I feel like a walking zombie. Sleep and food seem like a luxury these days and I am certain I am not getting enough of either. It's hard to get sleep at my parents' house because every little noise sends me into a panic about my mom. On the few nights I come home to sleep, I contend with my husband's worse-than-usual snoring and the new couch won't be delivered until next week. Food does not taste very good. Under this stress, I am not good company and my already low patience threshhold is being taxed.

Word has gotten out in the community about my mom and the parade of well-wishers was endless last weekend. It turns out that the day my sister called the mosque to ask about Islamic burials was the same day as a memorial service for Mustapha Akkad, a filmmaker who was killed in the Jordan bombings. Even though my parents have never been members of the mosque, and my dad has offended many of the holyrollers with his philosophizing about Buddhism and the yarmelke sitting on his desk from years of his friend's son's bar mitzvahs, there is a common bond among those who were daring enough to leave their homes, families and cultures behind to go to a new land with dreams of something better. Everyone knows everyone else.

It was a pleasure to catch up with some of the people we haven't seen in over a decade. Most of them were polite, somber, said their $.02 and left. There were four religious bitches my parents barely know and who I cannot stand, however, who showed up unannounced on Sunday and worked my mom into a fit. They wanted to know the entire history of my mom's illness, why doesn't she have a feeding tube, why isn't she on chemo, etc. And, they directed all those questions to my semi-lucid mother. After politely asking them to speak in a more calm, peaceful tone with my mom, after asking them to cease the demands for a play-by-play account of my mom's illness and treatment, and after being ignored by them, I cussed at them until they were so offended they left. In Arab culture, hospitality is number one. Even if you do not like someone, if they are in your home, you have to treat them like royalty or you will bring dishonor upon your family. Since I have been bringing dishonor upon my family since I was at least 16, I figured there was no reason to change things now. I can only hope they were so offended they will never come back, but I doubt I am that lucky.

Things have quieted down since the weekend and the routine at the house is as predictable as it can be. When my sister wakes up to leave to work, she gives my mom her morning dose of morphine. My father follows up with breakfast and they head to the living room. Even though my mom spends the majority of the day sleeping, she insists on getting out of bed, sitting in a chair for part of the day (where she falls asleep) and lying on the couch. Since she is so weak and emaciated at this stage, we carry her around the house, we lift her up so she can sit up to eat. We used to give her the evening dose of morphine at 8pm, but by Wednesday she had developed such a tolerance that she cried in agony by 6:30. It's important to stay ahead of the pain because, if you don't, it is bloody murder to conquer it.

After re-reading the hospice literature, it appears that Friday was the turning point from 1-2 months before death to 1-2 weeks before death. Eyes are glassy, loss of focus, conversations with people who are dead, sleep is much of the day.

It's horrible. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

Spending the last week watching my mother deteriorate before our eyes has confirmed what I already thought about the Schiavo case -- that Terri Schiavo's parents were sick, twisted, evil people. How on earth two parents can insist on jamming tubes into their daughter so that she can be no more than a blow-up doll boggles my mind. And to make it a public circus! Where is the dignity? That isn't pro-life, it is pro-torture. But I suppose that shouldn't be shocking since the people who claim to be pro-life are also -- you guessed it -- Dick "Let's Torture Everyone" Cheney's biggest fans. I am not one to wish bad things on people, but it is apparent to me that those who think Terri Schiavo was "murdered" have never seen their mother scream in agony because the morphine ran out; they have never watched their mother, who looked healthy two months earlier, reduced to skin and bones. The people who think Terri Schiavo was murdered are sick, evil people who know nothing about dignity, about mercy, about life.