Friday, September 29, 2006

New Tools

We hereby grant you these tools to combat global terror.

We create for you the power to hold whomever you suspect wherever you wish for as long as you wish in secret. And we further give to you the sole power to decide what stern measures may be applied to those you hold. And we forbid any outside review of the process.

In the interest of freedom and democracy and the global war on terror, we grant these things.

With liberty and justice for all.

Hat tip: Motivated by an entry in Robert K. Brown's A Work in Progress in which he highlighted a line in an editorial in the Minneapolis/St.Paul Star Tribune which reads: The bill the House approved allows him to hold whom he wants where he wants for as long as he wants and do with them whatever he wants, in secret.

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 Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Believing in fairness and opportunity does not make you naive. It doesn't mean you're weak when you insist that accused enemies be treated humanely and with due process. It doesn't mean you're a traitor when you believe that your countrymen who break the Geneva conventions should be tried as war criminals. And it doesn't make you unpatriotic to disagree with your government when you say these things.

I am an unapologetic liberal, because I believe these things. Because I believe in fairness and opportunity. Because I believe in compassion and justice. Because I believe our own government should be held to moral standards as high and higher than those we apply to others. And because I believe that dissent in defense of these values is a true act of patriotism.

These things make America strong. They are our bedrock.

  • fairness and opportunity
  • decency and justice
  • moral clarity
  • freedom to dissent

So I expect my government to act as if fairness mattered and as if opportunity was important rather than playing games with words and budgets. I expect my government to condemn torture in spirit and deed and to put in place mechanisms to make sure that it cannot happen rather than escape clauses to pardon it. And I expect my government not only to tolerate but to celebrate those who see things differently than they do.

It is a measure of our times, that these points should need making, but are they too much to ask?

Update/Hat Tip: The original motivation for this entry is from a talk in Austin by Markos Moulitsas. (It was a book-signing for Crashing the Gate.) In his talk, he longed for progressives and Democrats to be willing to just stand up and say, I am a liberal because I believe in freedom and opportunity.... This entry was my extrapolation on that theme, but as you can see, Markos' thoughts are the kernel of it. I should have credited him when I originally wrote this. Thank you, Trudy for pointing that out.

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 Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Maybe It Can Wait

Compromise, the rebel Senators say, as they hide behind words and cave on their demands. I am not a racist, the Republican candidate for the Senate says, as he crafts his words carefully to try to cover his tracks. The media have not covered the full report, the spokesman says on the one hand, as they refuse to declassify it on the other. It's the economy, the Democrats say, as they tuck their tails and slink into a familiar, safe but increasingly small corner.

I like your writing lately, she said. At least you're not sounding furious.

But furious I could be with an opening paragraph like that. Now then...

In the front yard by the curb, a volunteer Blackfoot Daisy (Melanpodium leucanthium) has begun to bloom between two clumps of wispy grass. By the stone walkway, the White Rain Lily (Zephyranthes candida) has come back after being gone so long. And by the bench. Oh, by the bench, the Purple Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis) is abloom , filling the yard with an intoxicating sweetness, celebrating the 1/8" rain we had the other day.

Furious, yes. But maybe it can wait. (That's what they're depending on, after all, the senators and candidates and spokesmen and insiders. That's what they're hoping for.) Maybe it can wait a little while longer.

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 Monday, September 25, 2006

Vast Media Conspiracy

Newsweek covers worldwide.  Only the US has a different one.

Conservatives are fond of pointing at the vast left wing conspiracy in the media. Of course, it's difficult to refute them; there's not a whole lot of listening that happens when that point is made.

Maybe a picture would help. (These are different covers for the same issue of the magazine. All of them except the one released in the United States have a dramatic cover and a headline: LOSING Afghanistan.)

Hat tip: Rising Hegemon, who points to MSNBC.

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 Saturday, September 23, 2006

Something Has Come Between Them

There is some kind of snarling coming from the other room. A viscous sound coming from the gritted teeth, it seems, of some coiled monster waiting to strike. I can imagine the bared teeth and the squinting, glinting eyes staring into the face of its victim.

And there is some kind of other sound coming from the room, too. A woman making fun of the snarls. Ooh, ooh! she says, as it growls and howls in return. She is clearly not impressed.

Something has come between them, it seems. I thought that it was that stuffed, green frog, but it turns out to have been a rawhide stick.

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 Thursday, September 21, 2006


The good president from Venezuela, acted quite the clown at the UN yesterday, wouldn't you say? (devil, smell of sulfur)

Yes, but then we've got one of those ourselves, don't we? (axis of evil, mission accomplished)

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 Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What You Have Done

It's clear to everyone but the blindest of fools and the stubbornest of shills that your triumph of democracy and liberty and freedom that was to be Iraq is a hopeless, shameful wreck.

There is no freedom. There is no liberty. There is no democracy. There is only death and despair and spiralling hatred.

You let the bull lose in the pottery barn in search of that promised slam dunk, but all you've got to show for it is broken shards on the floor and blood everywhere.

Look what you have done.

catalyst: Abu Ardvark quotes the director of the CIA's Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program.
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 Monday, September 18, 2006

Heresay Evidence

ACSBlog has an entry by Geoffrey R. Stone and Harry Kalven on the Bush proposals for admissable evidence in military tribunals. The administration proposes allowing evidence that is

  • coerced,
  • secret or
  • heresay.
Stone and Kalven discuss the latter.

In their discussion, they find Justice Scalia to be a strong voice against heresay evidence:

1) Scalia on the notorious Sir Walter Raleigh trial:

Lord Cobham, Raleigh's alleged accomplice, had implicated him in an examination before the Privy Council. … At Raleigh's trial, [Cobham's statement was] read to the jury. Raleigh argued that Cobham had lied to save himself. … Suspecting that Cobham would recant, Raleigh demanded that the judges call him to appear, arguing … 'Call my accuser before my face.' The judges refused and, despite Raleigh's protestations that he was being tried 'by the Spanish Inquisition,' the jury convicted, and Raleigh was sentenced to death. One of Raleigh's trial judges later lamented that 'the justice of England has never been so degraded and injured as by the condemnation of Sir Walter Raleigh.'

2) Scalia on whether heresay evidence might be acceptable if it were judged reliable:

Dispensing with confrontation because testimony is obviously reliable is akin to dispensing with jury trial because a defendant is obviously guilty.

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Ordinary Rocks

It was just an ordinary rock. Or rather they were three, sitting in the water near the river's edge in the shade thrown down by the cliffs soaring upwards a few feet from the shore. Sometime, a long time ago, those rocks must have fallen from somewhere up on those cliffs. What a noise they must have made.

And there were three Sycamore trees growing out of the cracks and seams between the rocks. And there were two turtles sitting on a log in the water just beyond those rocks, the light of the morning sun warming them. And hidden in the shadows under the trees, behind the rocks, close to where the water lapped against the narrow strand, there was a Great Blue Heron, standing as still as a statue, watching my boat float by.

along Town Lake
Austin, Texas USA

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Bruch Schneier on the growing HP spying scandal:

[Schneier/HP]: this is the sort of thing that would get a "hacker" immediately arrested. But if the chairman of the HP board does it, suddenly it's a gray area.

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 Sunday, September 17, 2006

That Dr. Pepper

I had a Dr. Pepper that night. I should have known better.

6am the next morning...
Alarm goes off.
Trudy gets up.
I struggle to shower, dress, make the bed.
Breakfast tacos out.
Trudy goes to work.
I catch the northbound 338 bus.
Down South Lamar, across the river.
Up North Lamar, to Central Park.
Find a bench in the shade under the oaks.
Read a book.
Watch joggers run by.
Light drizzle -- It'll pass.
Heavy rain -- I dash for shelter.
Read more.
It's lunch time.
Catch the southbound 338.
Down North Lamar.
Back across the river.
To P.Terry's hamburger stand.
Cheeseburger, fries, milkshake.
Catch the next southbound 338.
Back up South Lamar.
Transfer to the 311 to the middle school.
Walk across the soccer fields.
Get home.
Say hi to the dog.
Get a drink of water.
Read email.
How to get to Trudy's work?
Check the bus maps/schedules.
Need to catch the bus at 2:56.
There's only 15 minutes!
Leave in a rush.
Across the soccer fields.
Barely catch the 311.
Transfer to the 338.
Down South Lamar again.
Across the river again.
Up North Lamar again.
Wait for the 19 in the blistering sun.
24th to Mopac to Mesa to Steck.
Get off the bus.
Walk to Trudy's work.
She's still working on a case.
Wait for her to finish.
It's dinner time.
Look for a falafel place we know.
Eat dinner.
Drive to Round Rock.
Watch the high school football game.
Watch the marching bands.
Hail Mary with 14 seconds to go!
It ties the game!
Screaming fans. Overtime.
A field goal for Austin!
A touchdown for Stony Point!!
Bitter disappointment.
Drive back to Austin.
Pick up Ben at the high school.
Drive home.
Fall into our beds.
Set the alarm for 6am for tomorrow's parade...

What was I thinking when I had that Dr. Pepper?

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 Friday, September 15, 2006

South Austin Jug Band

As shadows of evening deepened about the great pecan tree, they came on stage and began to play. They wasted no time: bass, mandolin, fiddle and guitars bursting into song as soon as the introductions were done.

Black sky overhead thru the canopy of the tree. Colored lights strung along the fence. White lights hung high in the branches and more colored lights even higher. A gentle breeze blowing over us. Tapping feet. Trudy's hand in mine. And their music.

Man, I love it here.

South Austin Jug Band at Unplugged at the Grove
Austin, Texas USA

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 Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Band Jamboree

We sat in the fading drizzle on the western side of the stadium as 11 Austin high school marching bands sat in the stands on the east. The wind blew the rain away, and the setting sun burst thru the clouds. A rainbow lit up the eastern sky, encircling the bands in a brilliant double arc that reached from horizon to horizon. Then the show started.

Imagine 11 bands together playing the Star Spangled Banner to their parents and friends in the stands on the other side of the field.

Imagine it being (to the day) the school district's 125th birthday and the crowd singing the Happy Birthday Song.

Imagine 11 high school marching bands, some small, some large: Reagan, Lanier, Travis, Crockett, McCallum, LBJ, Anderson, Austin, Akins and Bowie.

Imagine batons twirling, flags flying, dancers dancing, and each band playing and marching their hearts out.

Imagine the entire Akins band shouting chants of encouragement to every band as they marched onto and off of the field.

And imagine then, the University of Texas Longhorn Band marching into the stadium from outside, great orange banners streaming in the breeze, hundreds upon hundreds of marching legs moving exactly in unison to the cadence of drums. Imagine them standing on sidelines stretching almost from end zone to end zone. Imagine them playing Kansas and Chicago and Journey! Imagine the drum major in his white suit and cowboy hat fetching the band single file from their phalanxes and spelling out "Texas" in cursive characters. Imagine The Wabash Cannonball and March Grandioso and The Eyes of Texas. Imagine the high school kids standing and screaming and clapping and cheering. And the parents, imagine the parents across the field from the kids watching all of this, standing and crying and singing and smiling from ear to ear.

34th Annual Marching Band Jamboree
Austin Independent School District
Austin, Texas USA

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 Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11

bright blue morning skies
another day in the life
and then the towers fell

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 Saturday, September 9, 2006

Waiting For The 311 Bus

He could have been a pirate.

His hair was black and grey and wiry and hung down just short of his shoulders. His beard was as wiry as his hair, and a close look revealed short, neat braids along his jaw from his chin to just below his ears.

He spoke with a raspy voice. And as he spoke, he looked at me with his head askew with his right eye closed, unless he was making a point, in which case both eyes opened wide.

And he had an earring hanging from his right ear.

But in spite of his cursing about the couple who stole all his tools one time when he was away from home for a while and his comments to a woman sitting behind us about how he wouldn't bite (unless she asked him to), he had a gentle air about him.

He showed me how to collect prickly pear fruit. How you have to use welding gloves and long-bladed garden shears when collecting the fruit. How you have to put them in a bag held well away from your body. And how you put them on a skewer and burn the spines off them before cutting them open.

He told me how to slice the fruit and scoop out the meat. He talked at length about jalapenos and Hungarian peppers and chile pequins and how to make them hot (or not). He talked about how to de-seed jalapenos and mash them and mix them with prickly pear fruit to make jelly.

And he told me how you can sell a few jars to friends to earn some extra money.

Yes, he could have been a pirate, but of course he wasn't: pirates don't share their secrets.

waiting for the 311 bus at Westgate Mall
Austin, TX USA

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 Tuesday, September 5, 2006

I Told Them No

1. A Sleepless Night

It was Thursday night. Actually, it was very early Friday. I had slept a bit, but in the wee hours my eyes popped open and I just lay there in the darkness. My mind was racing. My heart was beating. And I was beginning to sweat.

I tossed aside the sheets and stumbled into the living room, turning on a light and picking up my book. The Captains of the West stood at bay before the Black Gate outnumbered and surrounded by the forces of Sauron. Sam and Frodo scrambled to the crest of the Morgai and looked down on the bleak plains of Mordor. All hope was lost.

I read for a while and then retreated to the couch, trying again to sleep or at least decide what to do.

Just the day before, I was certain I would say Yes to the job. The team seemed terrific. The potential for bonuses was substantial. And they matched the salary I quoted them. Yet something was biting me, and in the blackness of the night I wasn't at all certain what it was.

My mind ran thru the final conversation about vacation. The prospect of dropping yet again back to two weeks per year was frustratingly demoralizing. I've done it before, but now I'm running out of time, since Ben will be off to college in less than three years.

Two weeks off just wasn't enough, but negotiations on that point went nowhere. Yet that particular issue evidently wasn't what was bothering me. It was something else.

2. Saying No and Wondering Why

Morning came. The darkness gave way to grey light creeping in. I could hear Trudy getting ready for her day's work. I stood up and walked into the bedroom. She was standing in the doorway looking at me.

I've decided to say no, I told her.

She saw the agonized look on my face. She knew I hadn't slept much. She reached out and wrapped her arms around me.

And so, here I am again at square one, tweaking my resume again, looking at job boards. Hoping that I'll find something else, something better. But what better? What else?

For me, decisions like these don't get made rationally, they simmer, they percolate, and then they just seemingly spring forth. I didn't myself fully understand what better I was looking for. I didn't know what else I hoped to find.

For heaven's sake, what had I done? Where on earth did that no come from!?

3. Understanding Why

My grandfather engineered things that made the twentieth century turn. My father was a professor. My mother taught German on one vertex of her career and Community Mental Health on another. One aunt was in social work and philanthropy. The other was a professor. My brother and his wife are doctors. One cousin is a grass roots community organizer. His wife is a nurse. Another cousin and her husband are public school teachers.

Talk about lives with purpose! And here I was considering a job writing software for a trading company.

Now I know that I'm never going to solve world hunger or bring on world peace. I just write software for a living. But in the end, my heart wasn't invested sufficiently in this job to make the two weeks of vacation acceptable.

Had they negotiated on the vacation, things might have come out differently. If I knew we would have time to go travelling and camping with Ben during our last three years together, things might have seemed different. But they didn't negotiate, and I knew I wouldn't get those years back ever.

And so with the prospect of only two weeks per year off and with the examples of my family in my head, I told them, No.

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