Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation

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Wrung out

Forget the heat (the sticky, cloying, humid, salt crusting heat; which even wearing kilts only ameliorates a little). Forget that gardening in such heat is an exhausting pleasure (the blueberries are doing well, so too are the potted dill, and the seeds which drifted to odd places, and the za’atar, and the basils, and rosemaries [I should plant some rue].  The asparagus seems to have recovered from being attacked by something a couple of weeks ago.  The grape is in riotous leaf, and the bunches swell apace.  The tarragon spreads, poppies work their way to flowering.  All is well in the world of plants).

Forget the vicissitudes of politics.  The rage at the Voting Rights Act being overturned, and the joy at the same being done to DOMA, and the mixed joy of Prop 8 being killed by inaction.  Ignore the continuing hackeries and hypocrisies of Scalia, and the fatuous reasoning of Alito.  Try to ignore that Texas didn’t even wait until the next day to start crafting vote limiting legislation (and that N. Carolina, Virginia and Mississippi jumped on that bandwagon today).

Set aside the emotional roller coaster of Wendy Sweet’s, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” filibuster, and the tricks used to kill it; and that those tricks failed because people joined in the effort, and held the fuckers’ feet to the fire (people stood up to be counted, with, Sen. Sweet).  All of those are true.

And all of those are exhausting (cheese, bread, and bacon; with coffee, are helping.  It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, but I can hold off on the whisky for a bit longer).  But I had some personally unsettling today.

On the way to the train with MBF (it’s a semi-regular ritual that I walk her to the train before I get coffee/garden) someone called out to us.  It was a sort of strident tone, so we turned. I thought he was going to ask somthing about my kilt. He asked if I was wearing a knife; in a judgemental sort of tone.  And then he came back, from about 10 meters away, and started to lecture me, about how Jersey City is safe, and he’s lived her all his life and I don’t need to worry, and “you don’t need to carry a knife to defend yourself.”

I was just short of dumbfounded.  Today’s knife is so NOT a knife for fighting. (Among other things it’s not quite 3″ long (blade),  and sort of stumpy). I probably looked through him as I said, “it’s for that”, with as much disdain as I could muster.  MBF said he “tried to look up your kilt” as he walked away.  When that registered I asked, “really”.  She said he’d stared at me, and my kilt, as we left.

Which caused me to wonder at it some more.  The knife seems to have not been his real interest, when I think about it.  Until I turned to face him, my knife wasn’t all that visible.  Maybe he noticed it at my belt. Maybe he’s practiced enough to have IDed it at 20ft or so, but he had to have turned around to look at me, since he was coming from the off-side.  If he’d not turned around, he can’t have seen it, not unless he has X-ray vision.

So I think it was my kilt, and my hair (long, and it was down) which really got his attention.  I don’t know quite what to make of it, but it is the sort of thing to make one a little uneasy.  If I were wearing a knife for self defense his manner would so not have made me think it was less necessary.


You no longer have the right to remain silent

I used to tell people (until today) that they should be willing to talk to cops, with a lawyer.  The phrase to use was, “I’ll be glad to speak with you when my lawyer gets here,” for anything except a witness statement at the scene of the incident (i.e. if they want a statement at a later time, esp. where you didn’t volunteer yourself as a witness, you don’t talk without a lawyer present).

The Supreme Court changed the rules today. Miranda, as a functional object, no longer exists.  Silence is no defense against self-incrimination; refusing to speak can be used against you as evidence of guilt.  One must specifically invoke the 5th Amendment to get it’s protections.  That’s my takeaway (with some support) from Salinas v Texas.

First thing to know, cops don’t have to remind you of your rights if they don’t arrest you.  If they can deny that you were a suspect until you slipped up and gave them something suspicious, they can ask you anything they like.  Under this new ruling your silence can be used against you.  If you stop talking, that’s suspicious, and can be used by the prosecution to show a guilty mind.  Moreover, the only way to get out of that is to say the magic words, “I am not talking to you because I have a 5th Amendment right to avoid saying anything which might be used to incriminate me”.

Petitioner, without being placed in custody or receiving Miranda warnings, voluntarily answered some of a police officer’s questions about a murder, but fell silent when asked whether ballistics testing would match his shotgun to shell casings found at the scene of the crime. At petitioner’s murder trial in Texas state court, and over his objection, the prosecution used his failure to answer the question as evidence of guilt. He was convicted, and both the State Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, rejecting his claim that the prosecution’s use of his silence in its case in chief violated the Fifth Amendment.

That’s bad enough.

(b) Petitioner seeks a third exception to the express invocation requirement for cases where the witness chooses to stand mute rather than give an answer that officials suspect would be incriminating, but this Court’s cases all but foreclose that argument. A defendant normally does not invoke the privilege by remaining silent. See Roberts v. United States, 445 U. S. 552, 560. And the express invocation requirement applies even when an official has reason to suspect that the answer to his question would incriminate the witness. See Murphy, supra, at 427-428. For the same reasons that neither a witness’ silence nor official suspicion is sufficient by itself to relieve a witness of the obligation to expressly invoke the privilege, they do not do so together. The proposed exception also would be difficult to reconcile with Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U. S. 370, where this Court held in the closely related context of post-Miranda silence that a defendant failed to invoke his right to cut off police questioning when he remained silent for 2 hours and 45 minutes. [*2]

That was a case where the defendant was silent after being reminded of his rights.  Since he didn’t say, “I am asserting my right to remain silent”, the cops were allowed to badger him.  When he started talking  they argued not only that he had waived his right, but that he had never asserted it, so they weren’t violating it when they kept asking him questions.

This rulig goes further.  It asserts that you have to specifically mention the 5th amendment or it doesn’t count (that’s why I said you need to know “magic words” to exercise your rights).

To be sure, petitioner might have declined to answer the officer’s question in reliance on his constitutional privilege. But he also might have done so because he was trying to think of a good lie, because he was embarrassed, or because he was protecting someone else. Not every such possible explanation for silence is probative of guilt, but neither is every possible explanation protected by the Fifth Amendment. Petitioner also suggests that it would be unfair to require a suspect unschooled in the particulars of legal doctrine to do anything more than remain silent in order to invoke his “right to remain silent.” But the Fifth Amendment guarantees that no one may be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” not an unqualified “right to remain silent.” In any event, it is settled that forfeiture of the privilege against self-incrimination need not be knowing.

Alito is saying the cops (trained in how to exploit peoples vulnerabilities to get them to talk; to get them to incriminate themselves) don’t have to worry about people’s rights: People de facto surrender them the moment the cops start to talk to them, and only get them back if they know what formula to say.  It looks as if they need to know two formulae: One to assert the 5th Amendment, and one that they are going to remain silent (I recommend knowing one about demanding a lawyer: if they say you are free to leave, then leave).

Scalia and Thomas go futher:  they don’t think there was a case to start with.  The Prosecution would have been allowed to use it against him even if he had pleaded the 5th Amendment.  They argue the 5th only prohibits a prosecution from using a refusal to testify against you.  Refusal to co-operate is fair game.

The only defense a citizen has is to refuse to speak to the police, without a lawyer in attendance; and to mention the 5th Amendment first.

Why do I say this?  Because cops aren’t “the good guys”.  They may do good work, but they are in the business of thinking ill of people.  They have a huge amount of power.  Juries tend to trust them. They have incentives to be less than forthright, even to lie. If a cop thinks you did it, the cop will start to look for evidence.  Confirmation bias will set it, evidence which doesn’t fit will be ignored.  The final reports will reflect those things which make you look bad.

You may even find out you have made a “confession”.  All of this was a risk before, but it’s a greater risk now.

Does the prosecution know about it?  Yes.


Probably the most stunning evidence of prosecutorial and judicial nonchalance toward police perjury is Myron Orfield’s study of the Chicago system. [FN39] His study is stunning because, unlike many of the comments on this issue, [FN40] Orfield’s findings are based on the views of prosecutors and judges as well as those of defense attorneys.  In his survey of these three groups (which together comprised twenty‑seven to forty‑one individuals, depending on the question), 52% believed that at least “half of the time” the prosecutor “knows or has reason to know” that police fabricate evidence at suppression hearings, and 93%, including 89% of the prosecutors, stated that prosecutors had such knowledge of perjury “at least some of the time.” [FN41]  Sixty‑one percent, including 50% of the state’s attorneys, believed that prosecutors know or have reason to know that police fabricate evidence in case reports, and 50% of the prosecutors believed the same with respect to warrants (despite the fact that many prosecutors refused to talk about this latter area). [FN42]  While close to half of all respondents believed that prosecutors “discourage” such perjury and fabrication, [FN43] a greater percentage believed that they “tolerate” *1047 it, [FN44] and 15% believed that prosecutors actually “encourage” it. [FN45]  One former prosecutor described what he called a “commonly used” technique of steering police testimony by telling officers “[i] f this happens, we win.  If this happens, we lose.” [FN46]  Most amazingly, 29% of the respondents did not equate lying at a suppression hearing with the crime of perjury. [FN47]  Although the respondents’ views on judicial, as opposed to prosecutorial, attitudes toward testilying were not as directly plumbed in this survey, when asked whether Chicago’s criminal justice system effectively controls policy perjury at suppression hearings, 69% of the respondents answered “no.” [FN48]

 That’s what the system admits to doing.

That’s what you are up against if you give the cops anything to work with.  Do I think the majority of cases are corrupt?  No.  I know lots of cops, and I trust most of the cops I know (not all).  But when you interact with a cop, that cop is not looking out for your interests; that cop is out to catch a perp: even if you are the victim, it’s not you the cop cares about; not at root (as a human being they might, but the case is what they are focused on; closing it is the aim.  Justice [if any] is a side effect).

You no longer possess a right against self-incrimination, the police are holding it for you.  Don’t let them have it, take it back.

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Congress shall make no law…

respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That’s the first Amendment to the Constitution. So where does Immigration get off telling a woman she has to join a church to become a citizen?   It’s actually worse than that sentence makes it appear.  It’s not that she’s an atheist.  Nope, it’s that she’s a pacifist.

Margaret Doughty has been in the US for 30 years.  She runs a non-profit working to increase adult literacy.  She applied to become a citizen.  One of the questions citizens are asked is if they will bear arms in the defense of the US.  This is what she said in reply:

“I am sure the law would never require a 64 year-old woman like myself to bear arms, but if I am required to answer this question, I cannot lie. I must be honest. The truth is that I would not be willing to bear arms. Since my youth I have had a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or in the bearing of arms.  I deeply and sincerely believe that it is not moral or ethical to take another person’s life, and my lifelong spiritual/religious beliefs impose on me a duty of conscience not to contribute to warfare by taking up arms…my beliefs are as strong and deeply held as those who possess traditional religious beliefs and who believe in God…I want to make clear, however, that I am willing to perform work of national importance under civilian direction or to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States if and when required by the law to do so.”

I’m cool with that.  She’s willing (at 64) to be drafted, and work in non-combatant roles, or to be put to work on civilian efforts the gov’t thinks are essential to the war effort.  That’s certainly in keeping with the thrust of the question.

Immigration told her that’s not acceptable.  The only justification they will accept is that a pacifist church vouches for her.

That’s what makes it worse. That is, in fact, a regulation regarding the establishment of a religion.  It’s not as obvious as, “you must be a Christian”, but what it says is that one cannot have a moral vision which values human life unless you can point to a deity which justifies it. In effect it assets the US Gov’t believes not only that all morality comes from a god, but that absent a god morality can’t exist.

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Obama is playing fast and loose with the truth

To be more blunt about it, he’s lying.  He gave an interview, and said the NSA programs (you know, the ones where they hoover up all our metadata, and all our browsing habits) were “transparent”.

Obama: So point number one, if you’re a U.S. person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it’s not targeting your emails unless it’s getting an individualized court order. That’s the existing rule. There are two programs that were revealed by Mr. Snowden, allegedly, since there’s a criminal investigation taking place, and they caused all the ruckus. Program number one, called the 2015 Program, what that does is it gets data from the service providers like a Verizon in bulk, and basically you have call pairs. You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. There are no names. There is no content in that database. All it is, is the number pairs, when those calls took place, how long they took place. So that database is sitting there. Now, if the NSA through some other sources, maybe through the FBI, maybe through a tip that went to the CIA, maybe through the NYPD. Get a number that where there’s a reasonable, articulable suspicion that this might involve foreign terrorist activity related to Al-Qaeda and some other international terrorist actors. Then, what the NSA can do is it can query that database to see did any of the — did this number pop up? Did they make any other calls? And if they did, those calls will be spit out. A report will be produced. It will be turned over to the FBI. At no point is any content revealed because there’s no content that —

Charlie Rose: So I hear you saying, I have no problem with what NSA has been doing.

Barack Obama: Well, let me — let me finish, because I don’t. So, what happens is that the FBI — if, in fact, it now wants to get content; if, in fact, it wants to start tapping that phone — it’s got to go to the FISA court with probable cause and ask for a warrant.

Charlie Rose: But has FISA court turned down any request?

Barack Obama: The — because — the — first of all, Charlie, the number of requests are surprisingly small… number one. Number two, folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.

Charlie Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?

Barack Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court….

Note that he didn’t answer Rose.  He dodged, told how the Court is supposed to work, but not if it’s actually denied a single request*

He’s also glossing the information in the Metadata.  If all it is is useless numbers, then it’s a pointless waste of time.  The only way the data can be used, if if at least one end of the number pair has a name.  So that’s one lie.

Two, “the number of requests are surprisingly small,”**.  That’s a response to requests to the FISC (the “FISA Court”).  There was a shift in that response, which (to me) seems telling.  The FISC gets a lot more than just, “can we unlock this single pair of numbers” requests.  Since Obama was bobbing and weaving, I don’t think he was actually focusing his attention on this narrow subset.  That’s one of the things you learn when doing interrogations; people who have things to hide, are thinking about them.  Art Linkletter used to have a show, “Kids say the darndest things”.  One of his stock questions (so stock you’d think it would have stopped working) was to ask at least one kid a week, “What did your parents tell you not to say”.  I think Obama is suffering from that.  He doesn’t want to talk about the scope of the NSA’s actually snooping into the lives of Americans; and it’s affecting his tone.  His language is defensive.

That makes me think this isn’t the worst of it.

But back to that statement about FISC:  What happens when a request comes to the FISC?

Director Keith Alexander was asked to explain the process that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts go through before approving a request to access the content of those communications. Alexander said that the courts work with the NSA to make sure that they are not violating American civil rights and those courts do not “rubber stamp” surveillance requests…

He said that he has been impressed with the FISA court’s diligence, “every time we make a mistake, how they work with us to make sure it is done correctly – to protect our civil liberties and privacy and go through the court process.”

Got that… if they fuck up the request, the Court tells them how to word it so they can do it.  Maybe I’m being too harsh,  maybe they tell them the warrant is overbroad, and they can’t have all the data they are asking for,  but 1: If that’s the case HOW MUCH WERE THEY AFTER BEFORE?, and 2: I can’t know because the proceedings of that court aren’t transparent.  They are classified.  The Judges all have Top Secret Clearances, and the people on whom the warrants are served are enjoined from discussing it.

This the the same law the FBI used to demand the names, and durations, of every person who checked into any hotel in Las Vegas, for a several month period.

Steve Doocey is being hypocrite, in a big way, in his horror at all of this.  “Doocey countered that the Obama administration has veered into “illegal” territory.” Never mind that the law Obama is using was written to deal with the fact that Bush straight up admitted he was breaking the law, and had no intention of stopping.

Obama’s defense of all this, “trust is, we won’t break the law”.  He’s not quite as bad as Cheney, who said:

WALLACE: So what right do you think the American people have to know what government is doing?

CHENEY: Well, they get to vote for senior officials, like the President of the United States, or like the senior officials in Congress. And you have to have some trust in them.

Sorry, but I don’t get to vote on who gets to chair what House Committee, I sure as hell don’t get to vote on who the head of the NSA is, so he’s being more than a tad deceptive with that.  Then again, this is the guy who sent me to war on the assurance that his intel folks (remember, he had a parallel track of “reliable” intel, not like the stuff the CIA was giving them about al Qaeda wanting to commit a mass-casualty attack on the US) that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Trust us, he says; this is the guy who was VP to Bush fils, the one who was actively breaking the law.  He also says that Snowden is a traitor, who “damaged Natinal Security.  This is the same fuckmuppet who outed Valerie Plame; and burned an entire network of people who would have been able to tell us about folks who were actually managing to get those WMD he was pretending to be so concerned about when he could start a war (and make a few hundred million dollars in personal profit on the deal: a lot easier than selling Cardboard Shoes to the Union Army).




*to the best of my knowledge, the answer is No, they have not denied a single request.

** Apple and Facebook each said it was between 9-10,000 requests last year.  What isn’t in that is the scope of those 18-20,000 requests they made of just those two companies.

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Recently it was my birthday.  So I’m a week older than I was a week ago.  🙂

But we like to mark things, and so there was some minor celebrating.  I burned 18 months of “loyalty” points at my local wine and spirits shop; which netted a tasty bottle of Scapa.  Right now the whisky which is available is a bit strange, in that the distillery was mothballed in 1994 (though a small bit of distilling took place every year).  Pernod/Chivas reopened in it 2004.  So my bottle of “16” year old whisky§ was distilled before the present owners bought the property (there are any number of “orphaned” stocks floating about.  They can be quite dear).  I have a wee dram in a snifter right now.  The snifter is a bit of celebratory stuff too.  I paid for it with a photo.
Regensburg Danau Contrasty

Ok, to be honest, I paid for about €80 worth of glass with a few Tiffs, but it was still the case that I paid for it with pictures.

I’m drinking with a “wee drap o’  burn water” This burn, to be specific.


It opens the flavors up some. It makes the whisky a bit less mellow, reduces the honey notes, and raises more of the heather, and gives it a more peppery aftertaste, but the middle is a bit “hotter” for it.

I was also given (as opposed to obtained for myself; using my birthday as an excuse to indulgence) a Schacht Bulky Plyer Flyer Head (say that five times fast).  It’s a bit more work than I was thinking because (perforce) it’s meant to do “bulky” yarns, so the orifice is large enough to allow fat bundles of singles/plies in that they may become fat plies/cables (that link is part of a pretty interesting blog entry on spinning flax; on two flyers at the same time).  The “hooks” are also different to the one’s I am used to, being loops of plastic, which slide between preset locales on the flyer.  The manual (yes, I read it) says one needs to keep them in the same relative postions, as a matter of balance.  Since they are closed loops the yarns can’t be moved from one side to the other.  It’s not as big a deal when plying it, but it’s not what I think ideal for spinning singles.  On  the upside, the plies can’t come off the hooks if the spin gets reversed (which I seem to be more prone to when plying then when spinning).

So it’s time to take advantage of it, which means picking up a latent project.  I have six oz. of lavender merino, of which I’ve spun one ounce, worsted.  Spun up it ought to make a heavy sock-weight yarn.  With the new flyer I can do two-ounces per bobbin, and get a skein with a really nice length, somewhere between 200-300 yards.


§ For those who don’t know the “age” of a Scotch is the age of the youngest whisky in the blend.  There are three types of scotch, Blended, Vatted, and Single Malt.  Blended has Grain Whisky added (basically locally made Everclear; it took a lawsuit to resolve the issue).  Vatted is a blending of the whiskies of several distilleries (e.g. The Lismore), and Single Malt is the result of blends of a single distillery.  Inside Single Malt one also finds Single Barrel; which is usually the product of a single year, and Cask Strength is which is bottled with the alcoholic content the Distiller (i.e. the person actually running the still) decided was the proof at which the whisky would age best in the cask.  It’s usually between 94°-110°.  A good Blended (they exist), or Vatted, whisky is harder to make then a decent Single Malt, since the idea is that from year to year there will be little variation in the profile.  This means having a large battery of secondary whiskies to balance the primary (e.g. Grant’s is built on The Glenfiddich,  and Pinch uses Cardhu).  Even in a Single Malt distillery there is some blending, as the variance from year to year (what with the vagaries of weather, how strongly the malt took the peat, what the barrels were like, etc., affects the resting spirits).  So there may be some portion of the bottle which is older than 16, but none of it can be younger).  That’s why, when a distillery goes under, all sort of interesting things show up.

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Just some personal news/journaling

I was hit by a biyclist on Sat.  I’m all right, all in all.  I was crossing a street (W. Houston, at 6th Ave).  It’s a complicated intersection.  Houston splits into two one way streets; both eastbound.  6th both merges; with a triangular divider,  and offers the opportunity for a direct left turn (which is probably not a legal turn, but it gets made, every so often).  Since 6th is a four-lane street, all one way, and Houston is a divided street of four lanes in each direction there is a complicated visual sightline when looking upstream for traffic.

The Cyclist was going the wrong way.  He was nice, if a bit self-exculpatory/victim blaming (he said, “I tried to warn you, but you had your headphones on).  Me, I was stepping off the curb when the street hit me in the left side.  Then I became aware of having being hit on the left side; and got up.  I thought my right ankle was a bit sprained.  My right knee was a bit scraped.  Everything else seemed ok.  I probably should have asked for cabfare to the train; since it was another 3/5ths of a mile, or so, to the house, but I wasn’t really thinking at that point.  Adrenaline, the sense of dislocated shock (one of the things which one forgets, until it happens again, is the way the suddeness of it all makes such events seem to have happened out of time.  I am sure the guy who hits me has a much clearer memory of it, and probably a more horrific one; he was braking; though he should have been swerving, and I just kept moving into his path).

My ankle wasn’t sprained, though I did make use of my removable cast from breaking my ankle 2 1/2 years ago, on Sunday when we went to see “My Name is Asher Lev”.  Yesterday I spent in bed.  Recovering is hard on the body, even when one thinks one isn’t that badly hurt.  My right leg is strained, from hip to calf on the medial side.  The distal side is strained from the knee to the ankle, there is some strain on the medial portion of my right foot.  I also seem to be contused on my hip.

My left knee is coloring nicely, and typing this is telling me there is some contusing of my left forearm (I’m guessing it’s from the handlebar).

I don’t recall the transition from vertical to horizontal.  There was a world-filling BANG, and then I was looking up.  From the lack of, detectable, injury to my neck/shoulder/ribs/head I assume I put my right arm out on the way down, and so broke some of my fall, but I don’t know.  I rolled to my feet to get up; so that I’d not be using my right foot to rise (it was tender immediately, though no coloring, nor evident swelling was apparent).

The play (My Name is Asher Lev), was great.  It caught the kernel of the book, and avoided a lot of possible pitfalls.  It took a basic understanding of Hasidism/Judaism for granted; so there wasn’t much in the way of, “as you know Bob”, apart from a little; in the way of trying to explain the way in which some Rebbes are like tribal/feudal leaders.  There were some cultural in-jokes.  A spare, but not bare, set.  A cast of three; playing ten roles (The lead solos, there are three female roles, and four other male roles).  The presentation of the major supporting male characters was clean; they were different, in all the ways they needed to be, and had the similarities their role in the life of the narrator would imply.

It was stunning.  It’s one of a handful of performances I was straining to stand for at the end, as opposed to joining to the crowds standing ovation (I, don’t quite, rise pro-forma.  If I think the show was less than adequate I’ll sit while everyone else stands).  The story is intense, and the emotional impact of the inner struggles, and the sense of awareness Asher Lev develops, and the pain of being something of a stranger in a strange land when he is away from home; and (in a different way) a stranger in his own land when he is home was rendered well.  The pain of having a great talent (the kind which burns to be let out; something I’ve only had glimpses of; and for that I am, largely, grateful) is there.

It is probably more effective (and affective) if one has read the book.  I’d say it may be better if one has read it more than once, and not so recently that it’s fresh and clean.  I wasn’t burdened by my sense of, “but it was this way).

If you get the chance, see it.

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Carl Levin is a Jackass

No one can say rape, and sexual assault, and sexual harassment aren’t problems in the military.  One of the greatest hurdles to reducing it to levels no worse than those in society in general is that the enforcement of the laws, and regulations, is in the hands of people who have an interest in hiding it.

Even if we assume the commanders who get reports of assaults are opposed to them, and want to prevent them, those assaults show up if someone looks for them.  They reflect on the “unit environment”, which means they reflect on the unit’s commander.  That commander is the first person to review a claim of assault.  If the commander isn’t implicated; then the victim has the additional hurdle that they can be denied the right to appeal to an outside investigator.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, which would remove this sort of conflict of interest (one which conflicts with the interest of actually providing justice, and something more akin to a rape-free environment for soldiers), by taking these cases out of the chain of command, and moving it to a special prosecutor in the military.

Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, offered a measure that would give military prosecutors rather than commanders the power to decide which sexual assault crimes to try, with the goal of increasing the number of people who report crimes without fear of retaliation. Mr. Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said he would replace Ms. Gillibrand’s measure — which has 27 co-sponsors, including four Republicans — with one that would require a senior military officer to review decisions by commanders who decline to prosecute sexual assault cases. Although Mr. Levin’s measure would change the current system, it would keep prosecution of sexual assault cases within the chain of command, as the military wants.

Carl Levin, (D-MI) is stripping it from the bill.

This is bullshit.  It’s also counterproductive.  Soldiers actually do have a  recourse to a chain of command which isn’t being responsive in this sort of situation.  They can ignore it, and take the case out of the military’s hands altogether.  They can go to the local police and file a complaint.  That’ s going to look a lot worse, because it won’t be a line in an evaluation of the unit, but a piece in the local paper, where it’s a lot harder to hide.

The Pentagon admits to 26,000 assaults last year.  How is that going to look if it’s not 26,000 in-house cases, but say… 10,000 investigations by the local police?

Levin needs to stop sucking up to the brass, and start thinking about justice.  There are a lot more Privates then there are Generals.  Then again, he’s retiring, so he doesn’t care.  It’s even possible (if I were the cynical sort) that he’s looking to his personal future, and where the high-paying, “consultancy” and board positions are.

But you can still tell him what you think.

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How I spend my mornings

I said I try to spend a little time with the plants every day.  These are a couple of photos from the “garden”.

The first is from the, “Cutting Grape” (so called because I grew it from a cutting a took from a vine, and stuck in a pot, about 12 years ago).  It’s a small mushroom.  I’ve had various fungus pop-up in the base of the grape, so I don’t know if this is one I brought from Calif., or one I acquired here.  I didn’t get any musrhroom growth last year, so I’m pleased.

New Shroom

The other is a something I’ve never done before. I planted some asparagus. This pipped yesterday, and today it was about four inches high. The small plants are za’atar seedlings.

Baby Asparagus


I took both those photos with my iPhone, though I did some post in LightZone.

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The days go slowly by, the years go flying past

Today is, in a lot of ways like a birthday. It was ten years ago* I left the ranks of the able bodied, and became one of the disabled. I didn’t know it at the time. When Col. Modnragon tapped me on the shoulders, and looked me over it was more like someone grading a side of beef. The diagnosis was impersonal, “you have Reiter’s Syndrome. The treatment you have is inadequate. I’m going to increase your indocin to 50mg, three times a day, and you need to come back in two weeks”.

It was said the same way he’d have told someone they had the flu, or a case of the clap. No big deal.

I can remember the date not because it was obviously life-changing, but because I got a shower*.

It was life changing, but fat lot I knew it at the time.

These days, I ache. Mostly in little ways. I am pretty good about knowing when I need to take what drugs. Things like sprains heal more slowly. Repetitive motions lead to pain more easily. Some of this might be plain old age, but some of it (as the check I get from the VA every month reminds me) is because I am disabled. I’ve become used to it (if far from resigned). In a few years it will be a quarter of my life I’ve been disabled.

I recall, in college (a couple of lifetimes ago), a slogan to the effect, “Disabled, the only minority everyone can join.” I’m lucky (in some ways), that my disability is (so far) invisible. I know what I can’t do, but to look at me you’d think I was still at least as hale and fit as anyone.

I’m rambling. This is a bit of maundering reflection. When disability activists refer to the, “temporarily able bodied”, I hide a wry grin. I was a soldier. Being disabled was something we thought about a lot. I know a lot of soldiers who are disabled; training accidents, combat injuries, etc. I can’t think of a single PT test I took where someone wasn’t sidelined for one event or another because of disability (both temporary, and permanent).

But an arthritis? Never crossed my mind.

Things like the ache in my ankle… how much of that is because of the break 2 ½ years ago (I still have the bruises), and how much is because my joints don’t heal as well as they used to?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to die sooner either (heart troubles are one of the less common side effects. Yes, I see a cardiologist. I’m told my tricuspids are “like an anatomy textbook”)

What do I want to say? I don’t know. I enjoy what I can do. I regret the things I’ve lost. That’s part of life. I guess I’ve lost some things sooner than most, but thems the the breaks.

All in all, I guess it’s just that we take some passages of time as being more important than others. This birthday, this year, matters no more, nor less, than my calendric one, though it’s a more “milestone” year than turning 46 feels to be.

This is what I looked like.

SP, before Mosul


Reading II

*12 June, 2003 was the first honest to goodness shower I’d had since 28 Mar. It was memorable. I also recall taking a nap in a ditch at the side of the road while a platoon of tanks moved out to their part of the perimeter for a stand of guard duty, and the 101st band doing a show; probably related to the Army B-day which is 14 June, 1775; making it the Senior Service in the US.

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The NSA, and a State Run by Fear

This is a reprint (with some edits; a dead link to fix, and some clarifications in light of time providing more information) of a piece written when the NSA Scandal first broke, back in May… 2006.  This has been known to be going on for 7 years (and the evidence is it’s been going on, in some form, since at least 2001)

The NSA. They say they aren’t tapping our phones, merely seeing whom we call, so they can decide if they need to tap our phones.

Gee, I feel so much better now that they’ve explained that.

First off they admitted to Qwest that they weren’t going to provide a warrant because they didn’t think the Court set up to deal with such matters would give them one. Since the FISA Court has been one of the most accommodating courts it the nation (and since the proceedings of that court are generally under seal we don’t really have a good baseline to know how rigorous their demands for support of the allegation of probable cause are).

Why might the NSA think the FISA Court would balk at such a warrant?

How about that pesky little Fourth Amendment.

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 warrants 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.

Just in case that wasn’t enough to make the case there is a significant history of the abuse of such, “general warrants” ( like the Writs of Assistance used by the Crown in the run up to the US Revolution) were no small part of the abuses mentioned in our lists of grievances when we revolted against Britain.

But why, people ask, should those of us who have nothing to hide be afraid of those who poke about in our private affairs?

Because power tends to corrupt. The fact of the matter is the present system has no oversight, and lacking oversight it has no restraint.

Lets take a hypothetical.

Someone decides, in the course of programming the computer which is mining the data to set up an algorithm which causes a phone to be tapped, and the government decides that what it hears it doesn’t like.

What can it do?

These days it can do anything it likes. It can knock down your door in the middle of the night, spirit you away to a Navy Brig and declare you an enemy combatant, hold you incommunicado for three years and not actually charge you in all that time.

If that sounds farfetched, one has only to think of Jose Padilla.

Or, should it decide you are a “terrorist” on some more solid ground it might just abduct you when you hail a cab, spirit you away to some foreign locale, have you questioned (vigorously, but not tortured, all your bones and organs will still be intact and working when they let you go, or if they aren’t it won’t have been painful when they failed; because that’s how the Justice Dept. now defines torture). After awhile they may decide you are actually innocent. If you are lucky they will then leave you on a hillside in a different foreign country, to make your way home. If you’ve been particularly co-operative you might even get cabfare to someplace. If that seems farfetched, Khaled  el-Masri is probably willing to tell you all about it.

If they aren’t feeling so magnanimous they might just decide that even though you are innocent of the charge for which they abducted you the situation now (what with you being pissed off at being so pissed on) that you are now a threat, and so they keep you in detention… until such time as they feel you have come to see the light (and understand how kind and gentle the treatment has been, after all you could have been tortured, if they were feeling peevish, but they didn’t, they stopped short of pain equivalent to organ failure or death. You weren’t really going to die when they were waterboarding you, it just seemed that way; so it was all in good fun). You don’t really need a trial, and things like Habeas Corpus won’t apply to you because they can keep you in Gitmo, where Justice Scalia says you have no rights at all [<b>this is the flip side of his argument about DNA… he doesn’t really think the Constitution applies to everyone the Gov’t might want to imprison.  It’s not clear what he would say if a citizen were to end up in Gitmo</b>].

I wish this was all as farfetched as it sounds. I wish the absolute incredulity with which most Americans would have reacted to such ideas six years ago was still the case, instead of hearing pundits on both sides debating whether torture is actually warranted, and defending things like shooting to kill, and random searches of peoples’ bags when they enter the subway, and the idea that we ought to round up Arab Muslims and hold them in camps; all as if these were policy issues of real merit, instead of the insane thoughts of deranged whackos.

Because there is nothing, at present, which leads me to believe that this administration  (nor any… how would this feel if it were President Delay, or Sharpton, or Clinton(H), or Feinstein, Dole, Frist, Harris, Pataki, Romney, Schweitzer, etc. (insert the bête noire of your darkest fears here). [I wrote this when Bush II was in office, as time goes on only the names will change]

This shit matters because the slope to which it leads is serious, and steep. The laws we have are what protect us from each other, and from the basest aspects of our darker natures. Few of us would refrain from doing what we have to do to protect ourselves, and fear of those things against which there is no protection is a powerful appeal to the base natures of our little lizard brain.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, not because being afraid is bad, but because it bansishes reason and causes us to act on mere impulse. I would rather live in a world where I was afraid of some random act of terrorism (much as I am afraid of earthquakes, fires and tornadoes) which is beyond my ability to prevent, but with which I can plan to deal with should it arise, than I would live in a world where I am afraid of my shadow, from which I cannot escape; and have to watch my every word, act and even thought, lest I be seen as an enemy of the state and denounced, leading to my arrest (or disappearance) because of something, someone, somewhere, thought I might be thinking of doing.

That way lies madness.