Wednesday, April 30, 2003

More On Santorum

The Light of Reason has some observations about Santorum's recent remarks about homosexuality, the Texas sodomy law now before the Supreme Court, and the role of government in our private lives:

[Reason]: Comments like those [...] make it necessary for me to repeat the point again: Santorum is not interested in merely debating a moral issue. He wants to criminalize a whole range of consensual sexual activity between adults -- and he wishes to threaten people with fines and jail sentences if they engage in sexual practices in private that he does not approve of. I repeat: Santorum is not interested in a debate -- he wants to throw people in jail. He may indeed be standing on principle, but it is the principle which ultimately underlies a dictatorship -- and it is not the principle underlying the original conception of the United States. [Emphasis added.]

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Afternoon Sun

The day started out grim. The sky was gray and the clouds hung low, skirting the edges of the treetops. It was drizzling. The ground was wet. And the air was thick and humid.

What do you do when you're looking down the barrel of a gun? When you're standing at the edge of an abyss the bottom of which you cannot see? This morning was that kind of morning. The kind that makes you groan. The kind that makes you stay in bed.

As the day wore on, the man sat by his window, in front of his computer monitor, wondering about the day and the next and the next one after that. The open window brought no breeze. Gazing out brought no relief.

Yet by time afternoon came, the clouds had lifted and the sun shone brightly in the western sky. The breeze was cool as it blew over his typing hands. Shadows of ash leaves danced on his desktop.

Miracles happen everyday when our eyes are opened wide enough to see them. Sometimes they are little, sometimes they are small. Sometimes the sun coming out is just enough.

And as he sat there, in the breeze, amid the dancing ash leaf shadows, with the yawning abyss behind him, he remembered how yesterday he had walked past a van in a parking lot. A man was loading groceries, loading groceries for another man sitting in a wheelchair, another man who had no legs, who held his wheels tightly to keep from rolling back downhill. The second man was smiling as he told the first man where to put the bags.

He sat there and remembered this. And the miracle of the sun cast away all his shadows.

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It's Not About Homosexuality

Robin Goodfellow has a few observations about sodomy laws and the recent remarks of the esteemed Senator Santorum:

[Goodfellow]: Nobody expects these laws to actually be enforced fairly if they are enforced at all, they expect them to be enforced rather unfairly, against homosexuals and homosexuals alone. [...] These laws are a way to specifically target homosexuals while pretending, as Sen. Santorum does, to be concerned about other issues.

The problem with this is that Senator Santorum is not pretending about anything. He's dead serious. And the certainty with which he holds his views make this an issue that goes far beyond the pro/anti-gay color with which this issue has been painted.

Andrew Sullivan has [written] [a] [lot] on the Santorum statements. Anyone interested in understanding this issue should read him.

[Sullivan/Slippery Slope]: Where do we draw the line in policing private sexual behavior? [...] Do I think it should be a crime for a man to have sex with two women at once? Or an orgy? Nope. It's none of mine or the state's business. And that applies to having live-in long-term girlfriends, or any other type of consenting private relationship people might want. (Emphasis added.)

This is the real issue at root here -- an issue that no one seems to be discussing much, besides Sullivan.

Santorum is unapologetic about his view that the state can and should criminalize private behavior that conflicts with his own personal notions of correct-family-values.

This isn't about homosexuality, and illuminating Santorum's comments exclusively in that light (a light that many heterosexuals will be too tempted to ignore, since they perceive that it doesn't concern them) obscures the truly frightening scope of government as seen by many in the far right wing.
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 Tuesday, April 29, 2003


1. Only One Bag

I saw a man at the grocery store meticulously pack one paper bag with the groceries he had just bought. One by one, he put his things into it -- clearly, it seemed, so he wouldn't need a second one.

When he was done, he looked at the second bag that he had brought with him and puzzled briefly what to do. He refolded it carefully and began to put it inside the first, but then (glancing briefly at the checkout clerk) he put it onto the pile of unused bags and turned and left the store.

2. Forgotten Bags

As I stood and watched this man, I moaned to myself at having forgotten to bring my old bags with me -- that pile of brown paper stacked neatly in the pantry waiting to be called again for grocery duty.

It seems I can never remember to bring a bag along no matter what I do.

3. Empty Bags

Trudy is a rememberer. When she drove off to the grocery store, she remembered to take two or three bags from that pile in the pantry.

She wrote her check out with glee, happy at having brought the bags that now sat at the end of the counter waiting for the bagger. I can just imagine her happiness that the pile of paper in the pantry was three bags smaller.

But as she looked up from her checkbook, a vision of horror struck her eyes: the bagger had ignored her bags and packed instead all her groceries into white plastic bags, probably no more than five items to each. She was tired. She was hungry. And this clueless bagger had stolen her day's one moment of satisfaction.

As she pointed at the cart laden with a dozen or more mostly empty plastic bags and at her still-empty paper bags lying folded beneath the bagger's hands waiting for the next batch, she said in a defeated voice, We try so hard to recycle.

The bagger probably had no idea what she was talking about.

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 Friday, April 25, 2003

Story Telling

So why did you tell me that?

Tell you what?

Tell me that story. Why did you tell me that story?

I guess I just wanted to share it.

But what was the point? Did your story have a point?

It didn't have a point.

So why did you tell it?

I just wanted to share it.

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 Thursday, April 24, 2003

Never Tell

Bobby is a gun person. He feels strongly about it. He's licensed to carry.

Bobby used to keep a .357 magnum under his bed. Until, that is, one day when he walked into his bedroom and saw his three year old playing with the phone on the bedside table. Not the gun; the phone, but that was close enough for him. I guess the gun isn't under the bed anymore.

Bobby's son knows he carries. The boy tells on his dad to his mother (his father's ex-wife).

Mommy! Mommy, you know what?

What, baby?

Daddy's carrying a gun!

A look of horror comes over Bobby's face. (The story doesn't tell about the look on hers.)

Son, you never tell someone when you're carrying.

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Economic Interests

Some people refer to leftist politicians in South America as autocrats, viz. criticisms of Venezuelan President Chavez as an undemocratic thug. But look at this translation of recent statements by the courts in Argentina (Argentina not Venezuela) [emphasis added]:

[indy/argentina]: 13:40 [...] The judges Bonorino Pero and Piombo -- both of whom worked for the military dictatorship in Argentina -- upheld a resolution that stated: The life and physical integrity of people has no supremacy over economic interests.

With courts saying things like this, it's not difficult to see why the left gets characterized this way.

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Andrew Sullivan on the Senator Santorum's shocking views that our liberties are secondary to his views on what ought and ought not be permissible behavior:

[Sullivan]: This is not about homosexuality as such. It is about the principles of limited government, tolerance, civility, compassion and the soul of the Republican party. There are no deeper political issues. No war is worth fighting if our political leaders feel contempt for basic liberties at home. I realized this more profoundly after reading Santorum's full remarks, which are far more alarming than the small, doctored quote that created the immediate fuss. If you care about basic liberties in the privacy of your own home, read Santorum's attack on them, my arguments below, and make your own mind up.

Sullivan points to a transcript of the interview in question here.

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 Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Ed B.

Ed had a reassuring voice. It was low and calm and complemented by his warm personality. He was returning my call. Rushing inside, I picked up the phone as he was leaving a message.

Wait. I'm here, I said.

Oh, good!

I told him I had a car, the keys and a title to donate.

Well that's all I need, he said, chuckling. I'll be by in the morning.

And he was. Like clockwork he showed up in a van pulling an empty trailer behind. I didn't know what to quite what to expect from our brief conversation on the phone, but when he drove up, I wasn't disappointed. Everything about Ed matched the sound of his voice. The twinkle in his eyes, his slow walk, the plainness of his clothes, his smile, it all fit his voice to a tee. Even the wrinkles on his face. His name tag said, Ed B.

That's quite a trailer you've got, I said.

Isn't it!? he replied. And take a look at this mount I had a buddy build for me.

He walked over and slapped his left hand on a flat steel plate attached to the trailer hitch.

I just slip my winch in here and pull 'em up on the trailer if they aren't in running order. I had it mounted high so the cable doesn't rub on the end of the trailer.

And he told me the story of how he used to tow the cars on a dolly. (Two vehicles and one set of brakes!) He was quite happy with the trailer and the winch mount and the winch. He even had a compressed air tank in case the cars came with flat tires. And you should have seen the come-alongs he strapped the car down with once he got it on the trailer.

You can never have too many giant come-alongs, I said, figuring if carpenters can say it about their clamps, surely Ed felt it about his come-alongs.

That's for sure! This car isn't going anywhere.

Somehow (I don't know how.) we started talking about Illinois. Perhaps I mentioned my brother or maybe our annual summer trips up north.

Well I'm from Chicago! he exclaimed with the glee of a 20 year old. The South Side. Leo Derocher when to my high school. State football champs several years in a row.

I am sad to say I don't remember where. None of the towns he mentioned even rung a bell. I never did know the South Side at all.

And then he started talking about the winter and the cold and the arthritis in his fingers and how he moved to Texas many years ago.

I moved here twenty-one years ago and am never leaving, I said.

He smiled, got in the van, started it up, and drove off.

And that was the last I saw of station wagon #2.

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 Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Day 56

These guys are running across the country. They're in Missouri.

[runtheusa/Day56]: He gave us a friendly wave and it was clear that he wanted to chat. We ran to him, he asked what we were doing, and we explained. His name was Linley Lipper, and he explained that he too was a runner. He then asked where we were eating dinner and where we were staying. Our answer was and innocent, yet honest, We don't know. As genuine as anyone could be, Linley quickly replied, You guys are gonna have a huge Easter dinner with my family and stay at my house.

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The Room

There was this room. I don't remember how big it was. It seemed vast and full of many men: rugged men with dark faces and wiry hair and dark mustaches, men with fatigues and black leather boots, men with rifles checked at the door. They were talking among themselves.

My friends, I said.

The talking continued.

My friends, I repeated loudly. We are not perfect. We all make mistakes.

This got their attention.

In my country we have wrestled with hatred and persecution and injustice. We, who like to think of our country as the Land of the Free!

There were a few smiles and a distant chuckle from the back of the room.

But we have struggled mightily to overcome our past, to build on what we have learned, to profit from our mistakes, to move forward.

I took a drink of water from a glass on the podium in front of me.

Today you you have a similar opportunity. You have an chance to remake your country. But none of us can realistically claim that we can right all the wrongs of the past. We cannot. You cannot. But you can take charge of the present, of your future. You can decide to move forward.

I looked at the men in the room. Their faces were expressionless.

We are determined that our presence here will enable you to build a better nation.

They were still emotionless.

A nation based on faith...

Their faces lit up. They nodded and voiced agreement.

... A nation based on tolerance. A nation based on openness. A nation based on truth and justice.

They were quiet again. I was finished. When the lights came on, one of them walked up to me. He put his hand on my shoulder.

I think you do not understand us, he said. I think perhaps you should go home soon.

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 Monday, April 21, 2003

Cicso and the quest for easy evesdropping

At news.com, tech and policy journalist Declan McCullagh has an interview with Cisco's Fred Baker [1, 2] about evesdropping capabilities the company is building into its equipment. The interview itself is interesting in that it sheds some light on the thorny issues a technologist has when building (or not building) such technology into protocols and hardware. More interesting (and IMHO more important) is this snippet of the conversation:

[Declan/Cisco]: Have you had requests for this capability, directly or indirectly, from government agencies? Yes and no. [...] We've had discussions with government agencies, but (they're generally not) asking us to build a product. They do that with ISPs, who then come to us.

The substance of the privacy rights of Americans derives from the constraints the Constitution imposes on the government. The argument usually goes something like this: if you don't like that company's products, then don't buy them. The power of the marketplace is deemed to be the appropriate arbiter of privacy issues in the private world.

Our world is increasingly one in which government regulation is implemented by the private sector at the direct or indirect behest of the government. With the absence of Constitutional protections defining the proper and allowable role of the private sector in this regard, there is good reason to be cynical -- to fear that when faced with Constitutional constraints the government will just outsource the work to the private world.

And this isn't just an abstract, paranoid whine. In the article, there is a short discussion about the (lack of) audit trail capabilities alongside the evesdropping capabilities. Why are there none? Because the customers aren't asking for it? Lacking legal constraints, what customer would ever ask for audit capabilities? Do we need them? How do we make sure we get them?

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The Right Angle

Pat travelled to a distant country to take our culture and a little bit of journalism there. To teach them, newly emerged from under the foot of a tyrant's boot. To teach them how to build a free press. It doesn't come naturally after years of cowering in the dark.

And now another tyrant has taken up residence, in the great tradition of that land: a thug with a brutal approach to governing. Yet this tyrant is different from the last. He is a friend of the west: he facilitates pipelines and military bases, a friend of freedom indeed.

But Pat sees things the way they are, new bases set up in perpetuity, corruption and graft, the shiny new boots of a new fearless leader. And Pat's writing pulls no punches: jabs at the autocrat, ridicule for the hypocritical bureaucrats singing the praises of freedom, willfully blind to the land still squirming under a different boot.

And then Pat feels the squeeze. The bureaucrats have a way of catching up with you when you cross their path. They don't like the light of day. They don't like their hypocrisy exposed. They don't renew Pat's papers.

So Pat is no longer free to write, no longer free to teach. Because freedom is in the eye of the beholder and Pat isn't looking at things from the right angle.

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 Sunday, April 20, 2003

Three Days in April

I. Day One.

I have bad news for you, Jeff said with a certain grim look on his face. He glanced over his shoulder at a man in greasy pants and a grimy blue shirt with his name embroidered above the pocket. Then he looked back at me.

We found water in your oil pan. It was milky brown when it came out. It seems like your car has been thru some water. Either that or the head gasket's blown.

He turned to the man in the blue shirt. Isn't that right, Joe?

The man in blue pushed out his lower lip and nodded. Yes it is.

Jeff looked back up at me. We changed the oil anyway, but keep an eye on it.

II. Day Two.

A day later, I checked the oil, having driven downtown and back once. It was milky again. I walked back down to the mechanic's shop, where Jeff was sitting at the desk and recognized me when I got to the front of the line.

Yes sir, he said.

It looks like the gasket's blown, I said, not really knowing what I was talking about. I drove it once and now the oil's milky brown again.

He frowned.

Can you give me a ball park estimate on how much something like that would cost to fix?

Ballpark... He shuffled some papers on his desk and then looked back at me. $900 to $1,000. It depends.

Ok. That's what I need. Thanks.

The vehicle's bluebook value is $1,000. The Escort Wagon had to go. It was a good car, certainly better than the last. Ten years isn't bad.

III. Day Three.

We sat in the office having survived a used car sales experience. Caleb wasn't pushy, and he wasn't obnoxious, and he knew what he was talking about. And in not being pushy, he made the sale. The price was right (or good enough), the car was right (or good enough), and we just wanted it to be over.

So we sat in the office, having been passed off from Caleb to the Office Manager. We sat looking at his face and the notes he'd scribbled on a pad as he told us the final amount. Trudy took out her checkbook. (We have been preparing for this moment for some time and were anything but fertile ground when the poor guy tried in vain to interest us in a 5% loan -- rates are so low, he said.)

I don't know if I can write that small, she said.

But she did, and as of tonite we have a bank account with a gaping hole where the money used to be and a shiny, kinda-used Jetta wagon sitting in the driveway where the Escort used to be.

When we replace this one, the boy will be out of college.

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 Saturday, April 19, 2003

I made the mistake of getting online tonite when I was hungry. In such a state I was not in a charitable mood, and it was probably not the right time to read Robert Fisk:

[Fisk/The Indepdendent]: Iraqis are right to ask why the Americans don't search for this information, just as they are right to demand to know why the entire Saddam cabinet -- every man jack of them -- got away. The capture by the Americans of Saddam's half-brother and the ageing Palestinian gunman Abu Abbas, whose last violent act was 18 years ago, is pathetic compensation for this.

[...] catastrophe usually waits for optimists in the Middle East, especially for false optimists who invade oil-rich nations with ideological excuses and high-flown moral claims and accusations [...] America's war of "liberation" is over. Iraq's war of liberation from the Americans is about to begin. In other words, the real and frightening story starts now.

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Take It Somewhere Else

It was spring. The sun was warm. The sky was blue. The leaves on the trees were a new light-green. The wind in the woods was fragrant and full of the hope that a midwest springtime brings. The ground was warm enough to sit upon.

A boy and a girl took off from school. The year almost done, they drove north to the Pines in a caravan of friends, and there in the park in the sun on the grass, the kids gathered and ate and talked and reveled in spring.

In the sun, on the grass, the boy and the girl held hands and kissed. Intoxicated with each other. In the sun. On the grass. They kissed.

Clean up your act, Chico!

A man in a brown shirt with a badge and a broad leather belt with a holster scowled at them and looked the boy in the eyes.

The boy sat up. The girl was embarrassed.

Take it somewhere else.

Clearly spring affected this man differently from the way it affected the kids.

White Pines State Park, Illinois, spring 1976

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 Friday, April 18, 2003

Being Sorry

They were laughing hysterically. I've seen them do that before. They were running around in the yard. I've seen them do that, too. Then, outside my window in plain sight for me to see, one of them began throwing a chair around -- or at least that's how it seemed to me.

They were laughing. The chair was lying askew on the ground. And one or two of the boys were on the ground, too. The volume was climbing, and they were tugging on something else, and it was impossible to get any work done. So I stood up and walked outside.

What's going on? I asked as I came around the corner. The lawn chair had been thrown again. Come on, you guys. You'll break something.

They were quiet. They all looked at the chair. I looked down at it lying on its side. It was broken, the corner of the seat severed from the left front leg.

Oh man. You did break something.

The boys stood still, looking quite somber. Devin, who had evidently been at fault, refusing to heed the pleas of his friends to cool it, was rolling on the ground holding his shoulder in mock pain. He looked up but said nothing.


Some days latter, outside the garage, I tapped Devin on the shoulder.

Devin, I said, Come on over here. There's something I want to talk about.

He followed me to the corner of the garage where the chair, broken three days before, was lying on the drive. I motioned at it. He looked at me -- silent.

There's something about this that bothers me.

A question mark appeared above his head. He was not sure was was coming next.

It's not that I'm angry about this broken plastic chair. Things like this happen. What bothers me is that you didn't even apologize.

Oh, he meekly responded.

I waited. He said nothing more.

So here's what I want you to do.

He looked at me -- waiting.

You have to deal with throwing it out. I want you to take this chair home and throw it out in your garbage can. It won't fit. When you have to explain where it came from, that will be a substitute for not apologizing to me.

Ok, he said in a still-meek tone.

As we turned to walk inside the house, I heard him say, I'm sorry.

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 Thursday, April 17, 2003

En Ecuador

She's in Ecuador now:

[Dervala]: In the Andes [...] hiking paths go right over the peaks, and as you gasp out the carbon dioxide that has collected in your wobbly legs, you look down and feel like a gnat on an elephant. Last week I saw a condor swoop not far overhead. What a world.

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Taking A Break

I've seen some stopping to look from across the street. I've seen some glancing over as they run by. I've seen some stare and point as they got out of their cars in the driveway next door. I've seen some look at our new stone wall, at the newly mulched terrace behind it -- look and admire or look and wonder.

Today I saw some wander over during lunch and sit on the rocks in the corner. They were taking a break from stripping the shingles from the neighbor's roof. Taking time off for lunch. So they came over and sat down, making themselves comfortable on the flat limestone, pinching the well mulched herbs behind them and tasting them.

Who are these guys who come over here? Who are they to sit on my rocks and pinch at our herbs? Just who do they think they are!?

I don't know. But I know that the rocks are there to sit on. I know that herbs are for tasting. And I know that the terrace is a good place to sit in the shade and take a break.

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On Reading History

This piece starts and ends with Machiavelli, but in the middle, look at this:

[Delong]: And then there are those whom one really wishes one had gotten to know in person. For who would not like to be good friends with (if one were quick and witty enough to avoid becoming one of his targets) John Maynard Keynes, or David Hume, or John Stuart Mill, or Adam Smith?

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 Wednesday, April 16, 2003

My Pride

I'm not flag waver, far from it, but this (linked from [TalkLeft]) is what we are so dang proud of (emphasis added):

[Justice Breyer]: [...] I cannot tell you how the courts will answer these questions. But as you understand, answers will be forthcoming. Our judicial system is open. [...] And, if the government claims that the court lacks jurisdiction to decide a particular matter, the court, not the government, will decide if that is so [...]

[...] in our system, habeas corpus represents the norm, lack-of-jurisdiction the exception.

[...] We do not yet have authoritative judicial answers to many of the legal questions raised, but past experience during periods of emergency suggests several general principles [...]

1) The Constitution applies even in times of dire emergency. [...]

2) [...] emergency or no emergency [... the law and the Constitution] seek an equilibrium permitting the government to respond to threats without abandoning democracy's commitment to individual liberty. [...]

3) A proper equilibrium requires courts to learn from past mistakes. What mistakes? They include the speech-censoring Alien and Sedition Acts [...] They include treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II [...]

4) To avoid those mistakes bench and bar must ask at least two questions: Why? and Why Not? [...] "why is this restriction necessary?" [...] why not achieve your security objective in less restrictive ways?

[...] the American law-making process is one, not of law being dictated by judges or, for that matter, legislators. It is one of law "bubbling up" [...]

That is why the many disagreements among us, reported in the press -- about government restrictions, security threats, civil liberties -- do not mean that disaster is upon us, but that the democratic process is at work. [...]

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 Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Post Mortem

This piece is a thoughtful reflection on the post-war anti-war movement:

[The Lincoln Plawg]: Having failed to stop the Iraq war, does that mean that we just give up? Of course not. Here, as the old saying has it, the best is the enemy of the good. By despairing at being unable to do the impossible, we are distracted from doing what we can.

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Mail Time in Utopia

The mailman just drove by. Under a dull white sky with a gentle wind blowing out of the south bending the limbs of the oaks and elms, with the morning doves cooing in the canopy and strutting on the lawn, the mailman drove by as he does every day.

Sheltered from the chaos and stupidity of adventure and war and death and starvation and sickness in the world around, the clock tick of suburbia is the mailman and the garbage man and the coming and going of the kids to school. We are so sheltered here in our happiness and our safety, so sheltered in our little warm utopia.

Excuse me, I think I'll go check the mail.

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Not Good Signs

Now that antiwar voices have been stifled and the neocons are basking in the glory of the mother of all liberations in Iraq, there are a few distressing indications of the future may hold for US foreign policy.

They looted the Ministry of Planning. They looted the Ministry of Education. They looted the Ministries of Irrigation, Industry, and Foreign Affairs. They looted the Ministry of Information (that bastion of truth). They ransacked hospitals. They burned libraries. They trashed the Archeological Museum in Baghdad and the museum in Mosul. [Fisk/Ministries] [Fisk/Libraries]

All this while US forces sat by and watched and maintained a strong force to prevent the looting of the Ministry of Interior, which is where the oil fields were governed, which is where the oil fields will be governed. While all these other places were sacked and looted and burned, US forces protected only the oil.

And the pundits and press secretaries and spokesmen and Secretaries and Generals poo-poo the notion that it's all about oil.

At least the Iraqis can look for hope to the generosity heaped by the US upon the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Oh. Wait. Maybe not.

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 Monday, April 14, 2003

Bun Run

After the race was over, they sat on the hill in the grass. They sat there and looked down on Auditorium Shores, across the river at the city shining in the sun. They sat on the hill and watched the elite runners meet at the line for a run of their own -- the African men, the Russian women, the others fast and lean.

The runners lined up, three dozen or so, and waited for the horn. They were off in a dash: speeding as a pack under the banner, down the street, around the corner, up the ramp, over the bridge, and along the street on the other side of Town Lake.

In little more than four minutes they were past mile 1. In less than nine they were at mile 2. The first of them finished in 13:34 -- barely enough time for a conversation, barely enough time to listen to the music, barely enough time to watch the people watching and waiting and pointing as the first of the runners came back down the river and across the bridge.

In barely enough time they were done.

Schlotzsky's 5K Bun Run, Austin TX, 13 April 2003

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 Sunday, April 13, 2003

An Unusual Celebration

I don't suppose it is a usual way to celebrate: to dig in the dirt and rake out mulch. I don't suppose it's the kind of first anniversary you would have imagined one year ago as you stashed our cake in the freezer.

But the race wore us out, and the walking too, and the art and the music and the sun and the wind. So when you lay down for a nap outside in the shade when we got home, it seemed ok to dig a little and rake.

While you slept, it seemed ok to celebrate that way -- for just a little while.

Happy Anniversary.

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 Friday, April 11, 2003

After School

This is the time of dappled sun, cool-warm air, and gentle breezes blowing. The oak pollen has fallen from the trees, Pecan trees around town have started to bud out, and the Ashes, whose initial greenery of several weeks ago was obliterated by an ice storm come down from the north, have in the last day or two caught up with the Oaks and Elms.

In a few weeks, the heat will come, but for now the air is pleasant and sitting outside is a reminder of a mild summer day in Illinois.

After school, the boys wander by. First the eighth graders, then the seventh, and then a group of sixth graders who stop by for a drink or a snack and sit out front or out back and talk and laugh and generally do the things that make adolescent boys famous.

So they're out there now, four boys this time, with backpacks strewn helter-skelter and bicycles lying on their sides. They're out in front sitting in the dappled cool-warm shade, laughing and talking and being loud. And the dog is hopping from lap to lap, thrilled that they are here again.

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 Tuesday, April 8, 2003

It Was Supposed To Rain

It was supposed to rain last night. The weathermen had storm warnings posted, and I can only imagine the colorful graphics they must have presented on the evening news. Thunder and lightning, they said. A possibility of hail.

But the rain did not come or the thunder or the lightning. And the bombarding hail we had a few weeks ago was evidently enough for a while.

The rain did not come, although we were looking forward to it, for the ground is getting dry and hard, and summer has begun to loom its hot head over the horizon.

Although the trees and shrubs and perennials needed it and although the new stone terrace in the front is ready to hold the running water back, the rain did not come.

It did not come last night, and today the sky is a cloudless blue, and a blustery wind is blowing out of the north, and those storms the weathermen saw on their radar screens are certainly long gone by now.

It was supposed to rain last night but did not. Maybe next time.

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 Thursday, April 3, 2003

Serious Conversation

So we're having this serious conversation, me in the kitchen talking about copyrights and derivative works and the public domain and The Creative Commons, the boys in the dining room listening to what I'm saying.

Or at least at first they're listening to what I'm saying. But gradually things begin to slide. Somewhere around the time I mention The Creative Commons, my son begins pulling his sweat pants up to his shoulders, having removed his shirt because is was soaking wet from the rain. And his friend begins to laugh at the admittedly ludicrous sight of this pair of yellow pants walking around the dining room with a disembodied head on top.

They both laugh, and the sweat-panted kid falls to the floor and howls while he rolls. He's trying to get his arms out from inside but cannot for the taunting of the other who's poking and prodding at him from the side.

They've long ago lost track of whatever it was we were talking about. And I've long since given up, too.

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 Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Where Is Sam?

The sun goes down later now, late enough that there isn't any rush after a run by the lake. Lots of runners just hang around by the bridge and leisurely stretch or talk or relax.

There was quite a crowd there this evening when a woman walking alone came up with a desperate look on her face. She glanced around from runner to runner.

Does anyone have a cell phone? she asked loudly.

She didn't get a response. There is so much going on in the evening there that someone walking up and yelling out loud isn't much cause for notice.

Does anyone have a cell phone? I've lost my son. She barely got the last word out.

A dozen sweaty people walked up. One handed her his phone. Others asked his age, his name, the color of his hair and clothes. She could barely get the answers out.

We're not even from here. We were at the Hyatt and I said we should go for a walk. And now I can't find him.

Some runners went back toward town to look. I ran across the bridge and toward the park. The sun was going down. Although the day had been warm, it was windy and the temperatures were dropping. I ran down to the soccer fields, to the wisteria gazebo on the point. There was no sign of a 12 year old boy. I ran back.

When I got there, there was still no sign of the boy. His mother was still in tears, but now some police were there with her. I told them where I had been and that I didn't see him.

She had tears in her eyes. I gently touched her arm. This is a friendly town, I said. He's safe. You'll find him.

They did.

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 Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Configuration Control

He's a stickler for order: everything in its place, neatly arrayed, nothing moved or turned or misconfigured. He walks from room to room, up the hall and back, looking thru the doorways, checking the tables and counter tops.

And when he finds something askew, a box that's been left behind, a bag that's been dropped, when he finds anything that's not to spec, he lets us all know. He issues a loud warning, barking orders that something is amiss, calling out to all of us, alerting us to the latest flagrant violation of his configuration rules.

He's a stickler for order, and nothing misses his eye. Guinness. The configuration control guard dog.

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