Sunday, February 29, 2004

A note to SOTW Jim (just to keep the troops posted and to save needless repetition) --

Jim --

I had dinner with my friend Tom Leete tonight. We made pigs of ourselves at Golden Corral since we were unfettered by our usual omnipresent female consciences... you know, those girls who are supposed to keep us in line but rarely succeed. Tom left his wife behind in South Carolina while he is here getting things cooking at his new shop and I'm pretending that the Redhead isn't expecting me to show up after midnight to see her safely back to her house.

My friend Tom was talking about his new lumber yard, the Contractor Yard in Kissimmee. Tom is all stoked because he is back running a yard, something he has done in the past before he went up to South Carolina and became a mega bigshot with Pelican Hardware... a sort of Home Depot joint... (he was one of the inventors of Home Depot before then and one of the main dudes in the Scotties organization before then.... bla bla bla). This Contractor Yard outfit has 26 stores and this particular one has had some serious problems in the last 6 months so he is here to turn it around.The place is gold mine with the right management, and he's just the guy to do the job. Anyhow, he said that what he was looking for was "outside sales guys"... you know better than me what that means. I heard you say that you were a sales guy in the past, and I think you said you worked in the building trades somehow... welllll... I said that you were looking and Tommy cheered up and asked for you to send him your resume with some contact info and he would plug you in. So....

His email address is

I don't know much about Galveston but here in Central Fla. they have a place called Sailorman's over in Daytona that has all kinds of used gear. Surely they have that kind of place out there in the wilds of Texas. What can it take? A heat exchange unit. What's it doing? Trying to sink your boat? Miserable pieces of shit.

As for myself... the blog thing is a fairly new phenom for me so I'm still learning. I know that the guys at BlogSpot seem to be very energetic in a sort of early 60s kind of way and they make lots and lots of code that is cheerful to an old hacker like yours truly, but the site mechanism itself is definitely a work in progress. I think that they started out as a sort of hacker afterthought and then got gobbled up by Google and haven't actually groked the fact that there are thousands and thousands of kids out there who want to blog. No comment code or backtrack. Heck, I can't even get my archive to work right. But I haven't really tried too hard to fix anything. They do give you direct access to the root code so there are all kinds of possibilities. It all reminds me of the good old days of shareware and Linux programming. I just haven't done anything about it. Getting lazy in my old age I guess.

Let's see: where to tie it up... I usually keep my boat in Sanford on the St. John's River. That has direct access to the Atlantic there at Jacksonville. If you want a guided tour you can go to the library section of my website and read my little travellog. It's at . I wrote those things for a rag called Liveaboard magazine a couple of years ago. Sanford is the last stop on the St. John's River for anything of any size. Beyond that point you need a canoe. They have a nice marina in downtown Sanford that I will probably be staying at when I move the tub back around from Titusville where it has been sitting up on stilts for the last couple of months at Nelsons (I've had an account there since I was a teenager and it is the only place I'll buy a can of bottom paint). There is also a very nice marina called Hidden Harbor out on the river outside of town which is right on I-4 and very easy to get to Orlando from. But... if you are working in Kissimmee that might be a hike for you. It might actually be easier for you to stay over on Merritt Island on the Cape. That would give you about a 30-45 minute commute up Hwy 192 to get to the Contractor Yard.If you're over there there are several very salty marinas right at the connector between the Indian River and the ocean, all fairly inexpensive and within shouting distance of the Gulf Stream. Most folks who live over there and commute to Orlando (and there are a shitload of them) go back and forth on the beeline, a toll road that bypasses all of the traffic and dumps you out in the heart of Mickey. Very tidy.

Needless to say, it would be great to get you over here in the sunshine and away from the frozen west. They tell me that when the wind stops blowing out there in Texas, that the chickens fall over in the yard. Is that true?


Thursday, February 26, 2004

In keeping with my current optimism in the face of a troubled present... my friend Elaine has returned to her old post as Queen Babe behind the bar at Otter's. The Redhead is back! The evil cretin was sent packing and the girl is back behind the bar with her wicked smile, and her irrepressible laugh, and her unquenchable cheerfulness. I should say that I, as well as all the rest of the river rats on the St. Johns, love her and welcome her back (quick... point out that she's extremely married and likely to stay that way). Damn, I'm glad to see her.

In the meanwhile, things are going the way of all human folly: Smokin Jim is looking, Dana is looking, the Blogfaddah himself seems to be back to his usual form (at least he's off the serious pharmaceuticals), I called Tommy's new office today and was told by his secretary that he was out playing golf with other big wigs... so things must be going well in the world of work.

What the hell... I suspect the sun may even come out tomorrow.

Monday, February 23, 2004

I've been on a roll of great blogs lately. The grumpy gutrumbler from the frozen north of Georgia is going through the changes... and I noticed that he was almost apololgizing for his bad behavior to his few friends. Hey... the woman will die alone in harpie hell man... you're way way ahead without her. Look at it this way... you got a terrific kid out of the deal, so look on the bright side. She was a lousy hump anyhow... a woman without a heart is just a form of self abuse. Who needs used goods?

My guy Smokin' Jim out in Galveston bit the bullet today and turned in his walking papers. But that has been coming for a while (at least that's what it seems like). Jim... one of the nice things about living on a boat is that you can always collect up your dock lines and move on over to Florida. Heck... that's what you really want to do anyhow. Liveaboard is by definition a transient lifestyle, so get moving guy.

My oldest friend Tom Leete just tossed out his job in South Carolina and took over a contractor's yard down in Kissimmee. Want to do some lumber peddling? He reads your blog and contributes to this one. Why don't you just go ahead and make the leap. Why not? Bring the cats too. If you go to St. Pete you're right across the estuary from Ybor City, home of all that real honest to god cuban leaf. Think about it. Dominican too.

Me? With all these guys in turmoil I'm a little afraid to go out of doors, but the sun was out with a vengeance today and all you guys above Palatka can kiss my balmy butt. My sweater is in storage for the duration.

But in the meanwhile, I keep falling across great blogs. Our liaison to the Jamaican/Georgia connection turned me on to THIS MAMA HERE. This Michelle girl is great! Try it out.

In the meanwhile... Stevie passed her professional teacher test. Go her scores back today. Beer for everybody. Good for you girl!


Sunday, February 22, 2004

I like this guy -- Various Orthodoxies. Try it ---->

Saturday, February 21, 2004

My guy Jim out in Galveston turned me on to a very bright young lady and I've taken the liberty of putting her blog The Origin of Soul on the Daily Read list to your right ---> Try it out. You'll like this lady.

For those of you who care... I just got a copy of Capt. Frank Papy's new book. I'll be out of touch till tomorrow. The doors are all locked. Leave me alone.

Friday, February 20, 2004

From Stevie (the Head Librarian) --

Is it just me or does anyone else find it
amazing that our government can track a cow born in
Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall
where she sleeps in the state of Washington. Also
they track her calves to their stalls. But they are
unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering
around our country.

Look for the ACLU (American Cow Liberty Union)
to change all that real soon. Cows have rights too.

Friday, February 13, 2004

With Valentine's Day leering at all of us through the crusty glass of tomorrow's Lewis Carroll nightmare I thought it might be wise to point this at you.

The good offices of the Black Table strike again.

Happy V-day guys.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I've been mulling it over in my head for the last couple of days and I've come to the conclusion that Wretchard has it exactly on point...

And it's scarey as hell.

Let's face it. The fact is that he's got it exactly right. All of the miserable crap we've danced through in the last year or so has been the preamble to a really... really... scarey future. Click... bang. Click... bang. It's just that easy. And the era of small, cheap, easily transportable, and easily multiplied nuclear wapons is upon us. We don't need to rant and rave about whether Saddam had nuclear weapons. Of course he did. And they've been disassembled back into component parts and shipped to Pakistan... back to the vendor for Christ's sake... Why should we be surprised by that? And there's no reason to think that they only had 1 or 2. The smart thing would be to have twenty or thirty of the damned things. That way they could pull a whole bunch of triggers at once, the same way they had a slew of jets all headed for targets on 9/11 at the same time.

These guys want to bring us down and they have lots and lots of money to buy their way into Valhalla . Most of the mud people in this wicked world would love to see us brought down, even if it meant that they would never have a chance to live as we do.

What we need to do is get busy killing the key players and make it very very difficult for them to push the buttons. It isn't like we don't know how. Escobar once bought himself a whole government and we made him dead with no problem. We need to get very busy killing these suckers. Time is short children.


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Will Leitch has a series of Losers: the one numbered #193 (out of 200) is worth a second look. Try this.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

I got a letter from my friend David Eells yesterday. He's living in Kentucky these days... some God forsaken place called (I swear to God) Fried Jaybird, Kentucky. Yup... Fried Jaybird! David says that the hunting has been good. He's collected 3 fair sized white tailed deer this winter, more than he and his dog Deeowgee (yup, the dog's name is Dog) have been able to eat, so life is good. He does say that it's "been a trifle coolish" there at Casa de Singlewide. The thermometer has been holding steady at 0 degrees Farenheit... that was at 5 AM three days ago and there were 2 new inches of snow on the ground.

He's the kind of guy who complains about having to ruin a perfectly good pair of 99 cent cotton gloves by cutting off the fingers when he goes shooting because he needs to feel the trigger pull on his .308. Says it's one of the signs of old age. What a life! He once pulled down his pants in court to show a jury his leg brace when he got a DUI riding his motorcycle through Lake Mary, FL (a yuppy suburb of Orlando). The cop thought he was drunk but he was actually half crippled from his adventures in Viet Nam. The cop didn't believe him but the jury did. My lawyer (Mike SanFilippo) actually has a videotape of him bearing all to the jury. Ha! When I kidded him about showing off he said... Well, I won the case didn't I? Yup, he sure did.

I think that I'll stay here in sunny Florida and keep my little electric space heater running on the boat. I've killed nothing so far this winter any larger than a bass, but then... nothing has killed me yet either. I'll call it even.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Now this is my kind of girl! Kim du Toit must have a sister.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Posted by Dan Gilmartin:

This is good. Someone who drank the Dean Kool Aid, and what she learned. Interesting.


Losing my religion
A novice political volunteer explores what went wrong with Howard Dean's campaign and, with guarded optimism, looks to a future without him.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Katy Butler

Feb. 5, 2004 | One windy evening last May, when Howard Dean was an asterisk in the polls, I huddled with a couple dozen strangers around a truck outside a Borders bookstore, passing a clipboard from hand to hand. I had never been involved in electoral politics before. I didn't find Dean charismatic. I hadn't thought about whether he could win. The Internet didn't intrigue me. But I had two nephews flying helicopters in Iraq, I wanted them home, and I had given up on Democratic presidential candidates who had voted for the PATRIOT Act and made nice with Bush in the Rose Garden. Working for Dean was a way to get these things into the national conversation. He was a vehicle, not a destination.

Later in the summer, in the company of some of the people I'd met at the truck, I registered voters at an arts fair and handed out leaflets in front of a bookstore. In August (when 226,000 people contacted the Dean campaign) I ran Dean through LexisNexis, logged on to his Web site, and began to really like the guy. He hadn't just opposed the war early and signed a civil unions bill as the governor of Vermont. He'd balanced budgets, extended health coverage to almost all the state's children, and funded early intervention programs that had lowered child physical and sexual abuse rates by 40 percent and 70 percent, respectively. In Vermont, he'd been a political hybrid: a practical Yankee capitalist among Ben and Jerry's progressives, an incrementalist, and a centrist who, despite his bluntness, just might make a plausible national candidate.

By September, I was part of an American curiosity -- an Internet-driven political insurgency. I posted on Dean's blog, e-mailed strangers in Houston and Simi Valley, and got back home-burned Dean DVDs and advice on where best to hold Meetups. Near the end of the month, I wrote a $100 check and found myself in a crowd of a thousand people on U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren's lawn in San Jose. "There are more al-Qaida in Iraq now than there were before we started out, Mr. President!" Dean bellowed from a stone balustrade above us." How do you explain that?" He looked as if he was about to pop the collar buttons off his shirt. He reminded me of a short well-muscled kid who isn't afraid to get in the face of the class bully. Hundreds of people surged forward, reaching up their hands to touch him. This, I thought, is what it takes to win.

In late September I went to another party and listened to a woman testify about how well Vermont, under Dean, had taken care of her schizophrenic sister. I wrote another check and became the chair of a local grassroots committee. October came, and we succeeded beyond our wildest expectations. We won the money primary. Joe Trippi announced that we'd outraised every other Democratic candidate in history, taking in $14.8 million in three months, much of it in small Internet donations. More than 400,000 people had contacted the campaign and 223,000 had contributed. We were going to run campaigns in all 50 states. We were going to opt out of public financing. We were going to rival Bush's $200 million war chest by getting 2 million people to give us $100 each.

The money was the outward and visible sign of a deeper change: The virtual world was going to restore the sense of civic community that George W. Bush had helped kill. Thousands of people like me were going to relearn a political grammar forgotten since the 1970s, when television advertising first trumped retail politics, eclipsed traditional block-by-block precinct organizing, and locked almost everyone but campaign professionals out of what they called "the process." The Democratic Party had become a hollowed-out shell, dependent on big money from Hollywood and labor unions. Dean had brought life back in: a huge, savvy force of volunteers and small donors capable of challenging corporate money, the Christian right, and the cynical political image-making parodied in movies like "The Candidate." Dean wasn't just thinking outside the box. He was changing its shape.

I'm not sure exactly what day it happened, but sometime during that September and October, I forgot that I'd stood at that truck near a Borders bookstore on a windy May evening for something bigger than candidate Dean. I got fascinated by us -- the campaign, its explosive growth, the money, the story, and the growing likelihood, given the polls and the traffic on the blogsite, that our candidate might actually win.

The end of October came, and Dean registered 40 percent to Kerry's 17 percent in the Zogby New Hampshire poll. I wrote another check. At a Meetup, I wrote letters to two strangers in Iowa and to a woman in rural New Mexico. December came, and one of my military nephews came home on leave, returning to Iraq a week after his first child was born. Gore endorsed Dean, who drew neck and neck with Gephardt in Iowa polls. Some days I'd spend an hour on the blog before getting out of my nightgown. I exercised less. The man I live with started calling me Mrs. Dean. When you get religion, you stop hearing the everyday noises of life outside you -- even the alarm clock -- and hear only the story you're telling yourself.

January came. Dean made the cover of Newsweek, Time and Rolling Stone. Everyone called him the front-runner. But he dropped slightly in the Iowa polls, and even though the campaign continued to meet fundraising goals, we weren't attracting as many new volunteers. We were talking less and less to strangers and more and more to each other. No matter: I got an e-mail asking me to be part of an irresistible convergence of forces, a project nicknamed "The Perfect Storm" that would bring 3,500 volunteers into Iowa to canvas door to door. I signed up online, pulled out my long underwear, bought a ticket to Des Moines, and persuaded a friend to join me. Though I'd never knocked on a single California neighbor's door, I wasn't too shy to fly 2,000 miles to knock on the doors of strangers.

I'd assumed that Des Moines would be a cow town, but I found something more like Flint, Mich. -- acre after acre of bungalows once kept painted and proud by union jobs in factories that built John Deere tractors, Amana refrigerators and Maytag washers -- factories and jobs now long gone overseas. My computerized voter lists showed many a couple in their 70s with a 30- or 40-year-old son living at home.

One man peered out from a door in his underwear and said, "I've got two words for you: George Bush." Others tottered out on walkers as I stood at their open doors, asking them to drive to the caucuses that coming Monday night in 8-degree weather. One woman couldn't go because she took care of an autistic grandson while her daughter worked. Others said they'd be at a second job, or at night school. A man with long glossy hair and a thousand-mile stare told me he was a felon and couldn't vote. A Mexican-Apache-American man with a cross tattooed between his eyebrows preferred to talk about the prophetic dreams he'd had -- dreams he didn't want to have -- that had saved his life. In an apartment building filled with the refugees of every possible war -- Somalis, Boznians, Albanians -- two Liberian immigrants told us they would caucus for Dean. "He's not afraid," one said. "He's bold."

On my first night in Iowa, in a bunk in a winterized youth camp, I dreamed that Dean would lose, and lose badly. Something had gelled against him before I'd even gotten there. I picked up my orange volunteer cap the next morning and realized for the first time how its "Perfect Storm" logo would read to someone living through a long Iowa winter. I'd gotten involved in the Dean campaign because Washington, D.C., was an echo chamber, but I'd helped build one myself. I turned the logo to the back, and put the cap on. I needed it in the bitter cold.

The script we'd been given by interns in their 20s at the headquarters downtown had suggested that we tell Iowans how many miles we'd flown to talk to them, but credibility may be inversely proportional to the physical distance between two people's homes. Knocking on doors in Des Moines for six days cured me of the delusion that we could weave a community -- or even an efficient precinct organization -- out of e-mails and blog posts from virtual strangers, people whose hands I would never shake, whose faces I would never see. All politics, said the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, is local. Des Moines taught me that it is visceral as well. The virtual world can transmit a message in an instant, but only flesh-and-blood people -- neighbors talking to neighbors -- can rebuild civic life. When one of my co-canvassers told a Des Moines man that she'd taken a week off from her job in California, he said to her, "I wish I could afford to do that."

That said, it wasn't talking to strangers in Des Moines for six days that made me lose my religion. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I felt privileged to be there, to take part in a democratic ritual, and to listen and talk with other Americans about the war in Iraq and the necessity of defeating Bush. Just as long as they voted, I didn't really care who they planned to vote for.

I lost my religion listening, twice, to my candidate.

I heard him first in a hall at the Des Moines fairgrounds four days before the caucuses. I was there to wave a sign, to be part of the breathing wallpaper for the TV cameras. Dean was introduced by longtime Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, whose speech was full of references to "Washington insiders" and "special interests." It contained none of the political complexity I'd inferred from Dean's record in Vermont, or even his earlier speeches. Dean looked tired. He spoke, as usual, at full throttle. He reached to the hands that reached up to him, but now it was obvious to me that he was touching the hands of the converted. He wasn't campaigning like someone wooing -- and given the response I'd gotten on the streets, that surprised me. On television, I'd seen John Edwards speaking conversationally, as though he were a guest in somebody else's living room, speaking as though to one person. Dean talked to multitudes and not to me.

The Monday night after the caucus returns came in, I stood in the Val-Air ballroom in West Des Moines with thousands of other Dean volunteers waiting for Dean to speak. There were no television monitors, and news of our stunning defeat traveled quietly from supporter to supporter through the crowd. Harkin once again introduced our candidate and talked about the special interest boys. Dean took the microphone. It wasn't his so-called scream that bothered me. I never heard it above the roar of the crowd. What disappointed me was that neither he nor Harkin really referred to what had happened. I had been drawn to Dean by his honesty and his realism. I wanted to hear him say, "I know you're disappointed. I am, too." I got another version of his stump speech.

I picked up one of the little American flags someone had handed out for us to wave, but I didn't want to be a piece of the scenery anymore. I wanted to be treated with the connection and respect that I had think the Iowans had wanted from me. I waved a little, and then crossed my arms and stood unmoving and silent in the roaring crowd, a stranger among strangers. I felt far more alone that night than I had in six days in southeast Des Moines, knocking on doors.

I got up before dawn the next morning and got on my plane. My two nephews are still alive, but while I was in Iowa, the 500th and the 501st and the 502nd and the 503rd U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq. As my plane took off, I didn't know how thoroughly Dean had been caught in the perfect storm far beyond his own making ---- that he would place a distant second in New Hampshire, be forced to pull resources out of South Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico, fire Joe Trippi, and reveal that his campaign had bet the farm on the first two states -- and lost.

I came home unsure of what to do. Dean is still my candidate. A few days ago, I logged on to, hit a few keys, and sent the campaign another $100. I am still moved by what Dean did in Vermont and I still prefer him to any candidate who voted for the Iraq War and is now trying to finesse it. But Dean has not found the words to describe an alternative American future. He doesn't seem to have another gear. As the primaries roll on, there may not be time to retool. I do not even know if he will last long enough for me to vote for him in the California primary in early March. For a while, I'd been part of a successful political insurgency that was rewriting the rules of campaigning. Now it looks as though I'm part of one more army going down.

But if I disconnect my sense of identity from Dean's winning and losing, I can win even if my candidate loses. I stood outside that truck last May to get some topics into the national conversation and to stop Democrats from acting like chameleons on plaid. In those terms, we in the Dean campaign have already succeeded beyond our wildest imagination.

Attendance at the Iowa caucuses doubled, and 55 percent of those who came were newcomers, even though most of them didn't vote for Dean. Among them might have been two men from Liberia, or the Denny's waitress whose caucus location I found, or a young African-American man of 18 who talked to us in outrage about children dying in Iraq. The day after the caucuses, the Iowa Poll announced that 75 percent opposed the war in Iraq -- a stunning figure given that 70 percent approved last May, when George Bush was prancing around in a borrowed flight suit. Other Democratic candidates have miraculously developed spines and stolen Dean's best lines. Kerry is looking astonishingly lifelike and even Christian radio predicts the general election will be close.

As for Internet organizing, we're clearly still beta-testing, learning what it can and can't do. The Dean campaign shows that Web sites can get a political campaign rolling by hooking up like-minded people through devices like It can efficiently raise millions of dollars from small donors like me. It can't, by itself, extrapolate those beginnings into an efficient traditional precinct organization. It can't help grassroots neophytes connect in a credible way with existing social and political networks in their own communities. It can't create human connections strong enough to survive more than 600 televised repetitions of a man yelling too loud. It took us somewhere, and it showed us how much further we have to go.

It's time I got off the keyboard and walked next door.

Sunday, February 01, 2004


My friend Tom is the most agreeable of men and I’ve known him since we were children. Of course, we have gone down different paths as we’ve acquired antique status... he got a job in industry and went about his business. Now days he is the quintessential “Captain of Industry” and gets invitations to sit on panels at Harvard University while he considers offers to conduct seminars on how to build new cities out of scrap lumber funded by anonymous federal agencies and chartiable trusts. I got a job teaching school and went where ever it is that I went.... academic poverty mixed with the quiet fear that whatever I do will mean less than nothing in the final tally. But when you get right down to it we are more than just friends.. as Anne of Green Gables would say, we are bosom friends... pals. He’s the only man in the world who could induce me to cross state lines to witness the marriage of his daughter. She was lovely. And he’s the only man who could be trapped with rhetorical devices by entities which he has every right to presume to be trustworthy... and shouldn’t treat him with contempt but do... without enjoying my contempt, or at least amazement at his naivete. They’re playing you for a sucker, Tom. Shame on them.

But now here comes the damned Patriot’s Act. In itself, not such a terrible thing. We naturally have to protect ourselves from the wickedness of this increasingly psychotic world. If the retards that make up 75% of the world population are determined to hate us there really isn’t too much we can do about it, except go on with our lives and try to protect our children. And we have, and we will. Rest assured... this is not a nation of softies. All too often our enemies forget that America is the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons on civilians. At the time it seemed like the logical thing to do. Heck, after Dresden and London’s blitz and the Russian expulsion of the Nazis, our little firecrackers seemed like the next logical step. But it sure as hell ended the war with a bang, didn’t it? Mess with us at your peril. That’s the lesson that the mud people keep forgetting, so they have to relearn to fear us over and over... that we are a nation that shouldn’t be trifled with. America is the sleeping giant... the gorilla of geopolitics. We WILL burn down your hooch and shoot your water buffalo and exterminate your tribe if you piss us off. And we will exterminate you with the highest of moral anger... outrage even. We will be certain in our own hearts that we are “doing the right thing” and that we are only doing what is “best for you”. Yada yada yada ... yeah. Mess with us and we will make you and all of yours a footnote in an unread history book. The reason the Indians don’t remember that lesson is because we killed just about all of them. The reason the Nazis don’t remember is the same. Japs? Same deal. Believe me... we are not a people to be trifled with. Ask the Arawaks, if you can find one. Or the Seminoles. Or the Ottomans. Of course, we always want to be seen as the “good guys”. You beginning to see a pattern in our mythology?

So what keeps us from becoming monsters? What keeps us from just being another in the long list of Attillas and Sulemans and Stalins and Vlad the Impalers? Well, for one thing, we are a nation of men who actually believe our own bullshit. We really are the good guys. Our ethos says that we all want to be like John Wayne. We are all acting out our own version of True Grit: tough guys with hearts of gold. Now, Pilgrim... you shouldn’t be messin’ with them weapons of mass destruction. I’m gonna have to take your country away from you till you learn how to do the right thing. Now let’s get them cattle back to the homestead. Is that the real world? Only to us. The rest of the world thinks that a full cup of goat piss is the only drinking water allowed by Allah, and they are probably right. But that’s not my idea of Nirvana.

The other thing that we have going for us is a governmental system that is based on fundamental principles of fairness and balance. By the people, for the people, and of the people. Our founding fathers thought that they’d try a system where no single governmental entity would have total control over the home boys. That there would be an executive branch, and a judicial branch, and a legislative branch. That each would have their own unique job to do. That each of them was a vital and necessary element of governing this nation of romantic idealists, but that none of them would have ... total control. No king like they tried in Europe. No tyrant like they had in ancient Greece. No politbureau. No Gang of Five. Just a system where we could freely change governments every four years if we wanted to and no one man could ever wind up with the whole enchilada. Get it?

Of course, it’s a little untidy. Guys who are part of the legislature are constantly yammering about how those damned guys in the White House are over reaching their authority, and those guys in the Supreme Court are constantly telling the guys in the Senate that their ideas are unconstitutional and have to be re-written, and here comes the loonies in California’s courts making law out of thin air, and so on and so on. Is that a bad thing? Well, I’ll admit that it’s untidy. But, do we really want the trains to run on time? Do we want one side to absolutely win? That would mean that the other two sides would absolutely lose. Is that what we want? Well, hell no.

At the end of the day what we are all hoping for is that things will balance out and we can move on. Now... is there any reason why this system has a prayer? Well, yes. Some people, mostly guys like Hegel and Darwin and their scientific ilk, assert that there is a dynamic process in such dissent and that change through growth is the result. I agree. But I’ll freely admit that the process is messy... and to a certain extent, it is dangerous, because it requires that as citizens we hold to Jefferson’s requirement of an educated citizenry and that we hold that as an absolute fact and that it is an absolute minimum. We... all of us... have an obligation as citizens of this country and as members of this society which has undertaken this unprecidented experiment in self government... an obligation to absolutely “get it” when we are about to be suckered. And then to act accordingly. To ACT.

So here we are back at the Patriot Act. Is it bad law? Not particularly. It doesn’t really break any new ground. There are things about it that are a bit over the top... the shift from law enforcement to terrorist whacking at the FBI may be a bit much. But the SAFE Act can probably deal with the potential excesses that are manifest in that bit of boondoggelery. Of course, the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004 grants the FBI a lot of very expanded authorities that have nothing to do with Al Quida. They can go snooping into data from car dealers, pawn brokers, travel agents, casinos, and... libraries and doctors offices and so on under the guise of fighting terrorism. The question that arises is, Do you trust the government to do the right thing? Well.... yeah. I’m pretty sure that they have their hearts in the right places. The trouble is... the details. Those crankey details. What does unlimited power to snoop give the government? Well, the answer is that it gives them the opportunity to ignore the other two branches of government. Traditionally, there has always been a judicial oversight process to make sure that the FBI and the INS and the NSA can’t just ignore the constitutional process.

Ignore? Well, that’s an accusation that we’ve heard tossed about in the Patriot Act opposition since it’s inception. The worry warts at the ACLU have whined from day one that the Act was railroaded through in a big hurry and that it was a blank check for the zelots at the Department of Justice to do an end run around constitutional issues. Is that true? Well, if you look at ONLY the Patriot Act the simple answer is no. Nothing in the Act says that they are suspending habias corpus,or denying people due process, or compromising the attorney/client provilege. So where does that crap come from?

Well, since that fell day in New York and the Twin Towers debacle the executive branch, the USDOJ, and the US Congress, has... in addition to the Patriot Act, promulgated a series of executive orders and interim agency regulations ostensibly to regulate the implementation of the Act that goes a very long way in upsetting the balance among the three branches in government. The “checks and balances” approach has been one of the most important parts of our form of governement.

Actions of our government since the implementation of these executive orders have established what the Center for Constitutional Rights calls a “cloak of secrecy”. Now that doesn’t sound like open and free government to me. The thing that is of most concern to me is that while the particular elements within the legislation may be excessive, they are amenable. The SAFE Act introduced in the Senate in 2004 can probably drag the FBI and so on back from the brink, although the fact that they are there at all is proof of the fact that the FBI and the NSA are not playing well together like good children should. There is way too much “turf war” infighting going on for there to be any meaningful police work.

Unfortunately, since 2000 hundreds of people, citizens and non-citizens, no one is sure which, have been put into preventive detention in conjunction with the terrorist investigations. Some folks (Amnesty International) estimate that as many as 1200 people have been detained with no charges ever being brought against them, being denied access to counsel, and without any basis of violation of any immigration law. They just look like rag heads. Scarey. Sounds like a chapter out of Kafka's "Trial" , doesn't it?

Further, the ability of the executive branch to issue “executive orders” has created a whole new tier of “courts”, the military tribunals that are whispered about at Camp Zero where there is no such thing as due process or habias corpus; and the new modified role of the immigration courts in determining what rights the un-warranted and un-indicted accused bad guys have. Who knows... they’re not allowed to go get lawyers so there’s no one to speak on their behalf. Suddenly, it seems that all of us good guys are being fitted with brown shirts. That’s not my idea of a good thing.

There are two major areas to be addressed. First, the notion of governing by decree. If the executive branch can act without judicial or legislative oversight then the three party system of checks and balances will be a thing of the past. Do we want that? These “interim regulations” that have created Camp Zero and suspending habias courpus for god knows who all do precisely that. Is that what we want? The interim regulation expanded the power of the INS (that’s Immigration and Naturalization Service) to arrest and hold anyone for “a reasonable period of time” without bond, warrant, or charge. Reasonable? What about due process? Zadvydas v. Davis held that the due process clause of the constitution applies TO ALL (my emphasis) persons physically located within the borders of the United States. The court is not saying that the guys are not deportable... they may very well be on their way out of here... but there has to be a judicial action undertaken. No star chambers here, please. But so far the government has merely ignored the court rulings that order such procedures.

The same kind of foolery underlies the interim regulations issued in October of 2001 when federal agents were given the privilege of monitoring attorney-client communications. In very limited circumstances such sureveillance has been done in the past so long as there is judicial oversight. The new rules sidestep such oversight. The Justice Department does not want the courts to be telling them what to do. Well, of course they don’t. But at what cost to our precious balance of power in the checks and balances system of government that our forefathers set up for us?

Perhaps the most disturbing of this parade of hankey pankey has been the November 13th interim regulation creating the military tribunals to try accused terrorists. Recent years have shown that our existing courts are very adept at trying terrorism cases. The successes of prosecutors in the Tanzania and Kenya cases as well as the 1993 attack on the WTO in New York are proof of that. But the administration has taken the most fundamental role of the judicial branch, the hearing of charges before the bar, and transferred that right to the executive branch of government. Interestingly enough, they also are encroaching on the legislative branch’s historical perogative to create such tribunals, which is constitutionally granted sole authority to create “tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court”. The fact that the executive branch can have its own courts answerable to no one but the executive branch, giving the president exclusive power to decide who will be tried under their system, and to create rules by which trial will proceed, to appoint who will judge and who will be prosecutor, and defense attorney, and to set penalties without recourse to appeal... just scares the hell out of me.

Am I the only one who finds this Kafkaesque? I’ve got a feeling that if my friend Tom had all the facts, we would... once again... be in agreement that there is something not quite kosher in Denmark. All this other stuff, government in secret, the attack on the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th Amendments... can only exist if good men don’t stand up against it. Are the perpetrators of this foolery bad men? No... they all have the best of intentions. They just want to win for their team. The guys at Justice want to slap down the guys in the Supreme Court. The President wants to act presidential without a bunch of whining jerkoffs from the Congress meddling in his well intentioned agenda. But... for God’s sake guys. Do we really have to throw out the baby with the bath water?

Tommy... do you trust your government? Which branch should we sacrifice all of our apples to? Should the executive have the right to side step the judiciary? Has the congress done a good thing when it has given DOJ a green light to just blow off the judicial process? My vote is no. Is anyone counting votes?

In my own simple minded way I see this process the same way that I see the balancing act that is necessary for good mental health in people and groups. Here comes Alfred Alder again. And Hegel. And Darwin. In order to have a healthy group, such as the group made up of a parent, a teacher, and a student... all members of the group have to have a stake in meeting their individual as well as their group needs. A teacher will sit down with a parent and a kid and talk about what they need for a successful school experience. The kid will be there to explain what he needs to achieve in a class. The parent will be there to define what is the vision in their mind of the student’s future. The teacher is there to make sure that the parent and student know what he has to have in order to succeed in meeting their collective goals and to satisfy the school board’s dictates. Each one of them has power and each one of them has the ability to work together towards success and each one of them has the power to totally subvert the process and stop any hope of progress. They cooperate, they win, they don’t cooperate, they lose. Healthy -- unhealthy. It’s not complicated. That’s Adler. Hegel said that when a thesis and an antithesis collide the result is a synthesis, which becomes a new thesis... and so on and so on. Darwin said that evolution will sort out the weak from the strong. He was right.

Isn’t that the genius of our system of government, that we have an arena where the three branches can work to meet their individual needs while they are all working towards collective good government? I know that in psychology when one of these sources of power... like the triad I was just using as an example... unbalances the power equation of the group, what Adler called the “locus of control”, then the whole group dynamic becomes unstable... unhealthy. Is our government any different? I think not.

Tom, when you say that there is no mention of no due process and no habias corpus in the Patriot Act, you’re telling the truth. But isn’t that just a straw dog to divert the argument away from the ugly fact that we are killing the dream of John Wayne’s legacy? Do you really want to be an agent of this new rebirth of Fascism? Scares the shit out of me, boy.