Browse Month: September 2006

09/28/2006

September 28, 2006: the day our country died.

Today the Senate passed S3930, which legalizes many forms of torture and gives the government the right to detain anyone who is suspected of terrorism indefinitely. The highlights– or rather lowlights– of the bill include no less than the following horrors:

  • The Geneva Conventions will be re-defined by the President, allowing him to specify different methods of torture as permissible during interrogation. Moreover, his definitions can be kept secret.
  • The definition of an enemy combatant has been expanded to include American citizens, and allow anyone declared as such to be imprisoned immediately and indefinitely without appeal.
  • Judicial review of terrorism cases will be prohibited. Appeals of violations of the Geneva Conventions will be denied.
  • Evidence given under coercion (read “torture”) will be permissible in court. This is even retroactive to past actions taken by the government.
  • Secret evidence will be permitted. People accused by the government (and lucky enough to have a trial at all) can be condemned on evidence they aren’t allowed to see.
  • Torture has been redefined to include anything that produces pain less than that of “total organ failure”. This includes waterboarding, exposure, personal indignity, and even rape.
  • The whole idea of habeas corpus— the right to challenge imprisonment– has been suspended for those accused of terrorist activity.
  • All of these things– every one of them— are direct contradictions of existing American law. They completely revoke many of the rights citizens of this country have had since its founding, and in fact redefine the legal system in a way that’s comparable to the days prior to the Magna Carta (which codified, for the first time, the right to a fair trial). Even the Alien and Sedition Acts pale in comparison to the sweeping oppression seen here. This is, in a word, tyranny. We now live in a place where the government can imprison anyone for as long as they want– without even having to provide a reason.

    The Constitution itself says this:

    The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

    Our country is not in rebellion (yet)– the only time in our nation’s history when habeas corpus was suspended was during the Civil War, when there was open rebellion, and President Lincoln decided it was necessary to do so. It is a great stretch to believe we are being “invaded” or that the public safety, in general, is being threatened to such an extent that a measure of such magnitude is the only option.

    Supreme Court Justice Scalia is on record as saying:

    The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive.

    Indeed, we have now abandoned that… we have discarded the “very core of liberty” in the name of an impossible war being fought against an ideology.

    It’s difficult for me to express my outrage and, indeed, profound sadness at this monumental injustice. In a single day we have gone from a nation where freedom and justice for all were fundamental rights– as stated in the closing phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance– to a nation where the irrational fear of terrorists has driven our lawmakers to the extreme and convinced them that a fair trial has no place in our system of law.

    If there was ever any question about whether the terrorists have won, this is the answer. They have won in an unprecedented way. They have caused our country to abandon its most basic principles.

    America as we have known it is dead.

09/28/2006

I keep expecting the weather to turn into that crummy fall stuff, where it’s sort of grey most of the time, and there’s a cold wind that picks up occasionally. But for some reason, it’s been absolutely gorgeous for the past few weeks. It’s been sunny, and the temperature has hovered in the 70’s– which I always believe to be the perfect outdoor conditions.

Thus, my lunchtime ultimate games have been fabulous. With some nice warm sun and no wind, the conditions are ideal. I find myself wishing we played more than just twice a week, because I know the weather won’t last, and I want to get in as much game time as I can while it holds. Then again, it’s a real distraction from work (sigh) so maybe it’s for the best.

09/24/2006

The scary thing here (besides the t-shirt) is that I actually took a Pascal class in college.

09/22/2006

At lunch today I was talking with Craig and Rick and we decided that it’s not the technology that matters; it’s the marketing. Take, for example, the recent rumors that Yahoo is going to buy the Facebook web site for around a billion dollars (yes, that’s a “B”). Looking at Facebook, you don’t see anything particularly exciting or innovative. In fact, as far as the so-called “social networking” sites go, it’s pretty humdrum. It’s not the most popular, it doesn’t have the most features, and honestly I’m just not sure what makes it worth nine zeroes.

I’ve got technology. It’s coming out of my ears. I’m fast, capable, and innovative when it comes to building web sites. I haven’t yet met a customer who presented me with an impossible challenge in web technology. In fact, given a few weeks of dedicated time, I could probably build Facebook. And yet no one is offering to buy my web sites for a billion dollars.

Why? Because I don’t have any marketing juju. I’m a terrible marketeer, I’m a terrible sales guy, and in general I haven’t got the foggiest clue how to go out there and sell my goodies. All of my business is via referral– which is great, don’t get me wrong– and I’ve never once landed a job by simply calling someone or sending an unasked-for proposal.

So I guess if I want to make a bil, I need to find a marketing genius to help me.

09/19/2006

Uh oh, trouble’s a-brewin’ on Planet Bush.

Today the president said this to the people of Iran:

Your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation’s resources to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons.

This sounds eerily familiar. Let me think… where have I heard that before? Didn’t we go through this about five years ago? But wait, there’s more:

We look to the day when you can live in freedom, and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners.

Gee, that sounds like a nice, friendly big brother ready to put an arm around the Iranians and protect them from the bullies. Just like we did with Iraq. It’s sure nice to have a big brother like George Bush.

09/19/2006

In celebration of Talk Like a Pirate Day, I eschewed my usual bandanna for today’s ultimate game in favor of a full-on black cloth that flowed in the wind behind me. Had I cut eyeholes into it, I’m sure I would have looked like the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride.

Ahoy, thar be monsters here!

09/18/2006

The Bionic Woman is real.

Claudia Mitchell, a woman who lost her arm in a motorcycle accident two years ago, has a bionic arm that she controls via thought. It’s wired to muscles in her chest, and she’s able to move it just as she moves her other arm. She can even feel heat and pressure in her hand, and a year after receiving the arm she is able to peel an orange.

Amazing.

09/18/2006

Consider a few quotes from the President:

We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a moment that retreat would bring an end to conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied.
There is no single battleline which you can plot each day on a chart. The enemy is not easy to perceive, or to isolate, or to destroy. There are mistakes and there are setbacks. But we are moving, and our direction is forward. I think I reveal no secret when I tell you that we are dealing with a stubborn adversary who is committed to the use of force and terror to settle political questions.
This is a war of unparalleled brutality. Simple farmers are the targets of assassination and kidnapping. Women and children are strangled in the night because their men are loyal to their government. And helpless villages are ravaged by sneak attacks. Large-scale raids are conducted on towns, and terror strikes in the heart of cities.

But it’s not President Bush– it’s President Johnson, speaking of the Vietnam War in the late 1960’s. Interesting how he paints a picture of a terrorist enemy who is brutal, barbaric, and requires unprecedented measures to defeat. One could easily make that argument for every enemy the United States has ever faced.

Yet today we hear about how The Terrorists are so much worse than all of the enemies we’ve ever faced, how the government needs extraordinary powers to stop them, how we as citizens must steel ourselves for a war that may never end, how we must always be standing ready to sacrifice our rights and our freedoms in the name of the cause. Why is today’s war any worse than those of the past? How are the al Qaeda fundamentally worse than the Viet Cong?

Quoting Glenn Greenwald:

The only difference is that, for the first time, we have a President who claims that America is too weak and ineffective to defeat those enemies while adhering to our defining values and a superior set of civilized norms. George Bush is the first President, certainly since World War II, if not ever, to claim that we have to become the enemy and to descend to their barbarism in order to protect ourselves. What is new and unprecedented is not the enemy we face, but the fundamental and depraved changes to our national character which the President insists we much accept in order to win.

09/17/2006

“Even he, to whom most things that most people would think were pretty smart were pretty dumb, thought it was pretty smart.”

— Douglas Adams

09/14/2006

The weather has been absolutely fantastic lately– perfect for ultimate. Today’s game was a great one. We play games to seven points, and in today’s game the scoring went something like this:

  • they started off the game by scoring two in a row. 0-2 them.
  • we stopped being lazy and scored four in a row. 4-2 us.
  • they took back the gauntlet and scored four in a row. 4-6 them.
  • we rallied against their game point and scored two in a row. 6-6.
  • So it was down to the last point, and everyone was tired because it was a tough game. After a few minutes of play, we had possession and I broke deep. I left my defender far behind me, and the throw came. It was a long bomb– probably a fifty-yard pass– but it was fading deep to the back corner of the end zone. I shifted into high gear and sprinted for all I was worth. The disc kept fading, and I knew I wouldn’t make it. I dove, but it was a foot out of reach. Dang.

    The game continued for perhaps another five minutes or so, with possession trading back and forth crazily. There were amazing defensive plays, a few lucky passes, and it was anyone’s contest. I love that kind of ultimate– everyone is playing to their maximum ability, everyone is absolutely exhausted, but everyone knows they only need the one break to win the game.

    Finally, I got the disc at about half-field and saw one of my teammates cutting across the end zone. I threw a forty-yard pass that curved exactly the way I wanted, and he met it near the sideline. Score, game over.

    Awesome.

09/14/2006

As if the demotion of Pluto– err, I mean 134340– wasn’t enough, the IAU has now renamed Xena to the much less cool name of Eris (the Greek god of lawlessness). The moon of Eris is Dysnomia.

It’s getting harder to keep track of the outer solar system these days…

09/13/2006

I was poking around the web a bit and came across a web site with this image on their home page (I’ve blurred the rest of the header to protect their identity):

For some reason that photo is funny and weird and creepy all at the same time. A couple of men on a beach… one guy holding a little globe and smiling at it… his friend putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. It gives me shivers. What kind of stock-art photographer came up with this pose?

Yech.

09/13/2006

Here’s a funny idea from today’s junk mail pile…

09/12/2006

Now that Pluto has been demoted from planet status, it has been reassigned an asteroid number.

134340

Poor Pluto.

09/11/2006

To commemorate Patriot Day, I present a copy of a revised Terrorist Threat Level scale. It shows the number of fatalities in several different categories, beginning with the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. (One could argue whether or not this was a “terrorist” act in the sense that the current administration uses the word, but no matter.)

Yep, it’s clear we need to be concerned about being killed by terrorists. The irony, perhaps, is that as I write this I’m battling a stuffy nose. I see that dying from the flu is six times more likely than dying from a terrorist act. Hopefully I’ll recover okay.

09/10/2006

Laralee and I really enjoy playing Settlers of Catan, a strategy board game that involves commerce, planning, and a little bit of backstabbing. The only real bummer for us is it’s a three- or four-person game, so we can’t play as often as we’d like… we have to wait until we’re hanging out with friends who are willing to play.

I figured the kids are old enough now to grok a game like this, so today I sat down with them and explained it. Alex and Kyra took to it right away, and played surprisingly well. Kyra started out strong, and Alex took a little longer to get moving but was soon cruising as well. The game ends when someone hits ten points, and near the end it was 9-to-9-to-9, so we were fighting for that last point. Kyra ended up victorious, although I think Alex was going to win on his next turn.

So all in all it was a lot of fun, and both of them are excited to play again. Finally Laralee and I will be able to get our “Settlers fix”!

09/10/2006

Seen on Digg, in a discussion about how Bush is outright lying about torture being used on “certain detainees”:

I love this new spin term for torture: “alternative interrogation method”. That’s like calling beheadings “alternative medical procedures”.

It may seem funny, but at the same time it’s a sad commentary on how the President stands before our nation and says, “I’ve said to people we don’t torture. And we don’t.” Yet on the very same day, it’s announced that certain people who have been held as “enemy combatants” were most certainly tortured, and will soon be given the privilege of a trial without a jury, without fair legal representation, and without the opportunity to even see all of the evidence presented against them.

How long can this continue?

09/08/2006

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

— Aldous Huxley

09/07/2006

Another month (August) has come and gone, and Baghdad has seen another 1,500 or so of its residents killed in the ongoing violence there. This is the third straight month that more than 1,500 civilians were killed. Do the math, and you’re looking at more than fifty people per day being slaughtered by their fellow countrymen. And that’s just one city in Iraq.

But I’m sure the Bush crowd has the situation under control. Civil war? Hah! They treat it like it’s a bunch of high school kids pulling nightly pranks or something.

Wake up.

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