Monthly Archives: September 2006

Something to wear


Since a couple people have suggested “Enemy Combatant” T-shirts, I fixed it so that you can get some. The above design and a simpler one are available here. I put a small markup on the shirts: any leftover money I’ll give to an appropriate organization. Suggestions welcome.


There was a request in comments yesterday for suggested actions. The always clear-minded BitchPhD has some:

[O]kay, so what are you going to do about it?

Here’s my list.

1.  Mail in my registration to vote at my new address today.
2.  This weekend, talk to Mr. B. about volunteering, money, and a strategy for what to do about the upcoming election.
3.  As I get to know the other parents at PK’s school, ask what they think about the upcoming election, the new law suspending habeas corpus, etc.
4.  Convince my dad, who lives in a reddish part of a blue state, that he has both the time and responsibility to call *his* local Democratic organization and volunteer to help register/get out the vote.
5.  Call *my* local Democratic organization and volunteer to help with whatever.
6.  Join the ACLU.  No, I don’t belong yet.  Yes, I am ashamed.  Find out who else to join/read/subscribe to, especially locally, to get the political lay of the land here.

That’s for starters.  You?  Suggestions?

And yeah, I know what some of you (including me) will think about that “getting involved with the Dems” thing. We’re not in a position to throw tools away, says this Green.

Oh, and let’s be clear about what happened yesterday

What happened yesterday is that the Republican-controlled Congress decided to make formal policy what has been de facto policy for years.


That’s a clip from Peter Davis’ devastating 1974 Viet Nam documentary, Hearts and Minds.

There is more information on this fine American tradition here. This is nothing new. Yesterday’s vote marks a shameful expansion of and acquiescence to this evil, but this is nothing new.

The difference between me and Eric Muller, UNC professor of law

… is that I knew some weeks ago about the existence of the alleged Michelle Malkin 1992 spring break photos Muller refers to in this post, and it was manifestly clear to me that it would be wrong to use them to the left’s political advantage. In fact, a friend and I briefly considered informing Malkin that they were there. And now it seems we should have.

Why was it wrong to use the photos? Because when you adopt Karl Rove’s tactics, the abyss will look into you.

Isn’t that right, Wonkettesters?

I am an enemy combatant

I have been thinking a lot these days of the story they tell about King Christian: when the occupying Nazis required Danish Jews wear the yellow Star of David armband, the king donned one for his daily rides through København as an expression of solidarity. This inspired the common Danes, who all started wearing armbands, making it impossible for the Nazis to tell Jew from Gentile.

The story is untrue: Danish Jews faced many dangers from the genocidal Nazis, but they were never ordered to wear the yellow badge. But the story resonates, with its “I Am Spartacus” moral of taking a firm, perhaps risky stand with those who are oppressed.

I have been thinking as well of the Free Speech Fights. Starting a century ago and lasting well into the Great War, municipalities across the western US banned sidewalk oration in response to a surge of union organizing. In Fresno, in Spokane and Seattle and Kansas City and about two dozen other places, union organizers were arrested for the crime of addressing passers-by. The Industrial Workers of the World responded: IWW activists — “Wobblies” — came into town, stood up on soapboxes, uttered the usual Wobbly salutation “Fellow Workers!” and were hauled off to jail. Soon the jails were full to bursting with Wobs, and towns realized they’d better rescind the free speech bans or go broke feeding prisoners. A simple idea behind a strategy that won every time: “They can’t take us all.” The Wobs faced more than arrests. They faced occasional mob violence from the equivalents of modern day Freepers. But they won, and today we assume their victories as our birthright. No Wobs, no blogs.

Forty years ago, one of my late neighbors involved in a very similar Free Speech fight stood on the steps of Sproul Hall, UC Berkeley’s administration building, and told an assembled crowd:

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

For all its manifold faults, for all its history steeped in racism and genocide, for all its wars of empire and Know-Nothing heritage, this country was manifestly founded on the notion that a just government bases its authority in the consent of the governed. Now the Bush administration has declared that the interests of this country are coincident with, and limited to, the short-term interests of the administration and its corporate backers, and the most basic, most essential Constitutional rights of the citizenry be damned, not by the odious exceptionalism of privilege that marred this country’s history, but across the board. All of us are three-fifths of a person now, granted the privilege of full protection only if we do nothing that requires protection, unless we are unlucky enough to be falsely accused. And I withdraw my consent.

I withdraw my consent. I am no one: a cog in the machine Mario Savio described. I am a man who would rather tell jokes than argue politics, would rather hike than march. But I have fought, over the course of my life, when the operation of the machine deprives me of the privilege of self-absorption. I have worked the past 14 years to educate, to inflame the public so that they might oppose environmental destruction done to enrich those who run the administration. I have worked the last three decades, if sporadically and without much consequence, to oppose the use of violence in the service of politics — any politics.

The Bush administration claims that all those who oppose it, though they think themselves loyal citizens sworn to defend the US Constitution, are enemies. I have opposed the Bush administration since before it began. The conclusion is a simple matter of logic. 

I am an enemy combatant.

I am an enemy combatant, and I admit it freely and without reservation. You who reserve the right to climb up on that soapbox to say things unflattering to those in power: enemy combatants all. I am putting on that yellow armband. There are unlimited yellow armbands to be worn. One size fits all.

Daily dog report

More lab results in, and unsurprisingly, as Zeke is not a Lab, they’re negative. This means the vets have ruled out Addison’s Disease and Cushing’s Disease as reasons for Zeke’s odd suite of slightly-off blood-enzyme-and-hormone readings and the low blood sugar. “Could it be,” I asked her this afternoon, “that he was just hungry?” “Possibly,” she said. They still haven’t ruled out myelopathy to their satisfaction, though if that’s what it is it’s such a slow onset case as to be a wild outlier in the myelopathy bell curve.

We might treat his low thyroid levels, or we might not. They’re borderline. I did some digging on the web, and found out that some vets are using the anti-viral amantidine as a pain control drug for chronic pain in dogs, in conjunction with more traditional drugs such as Tramadol, first described in a novel by Kurt Vonnegut a synthetic opioid Zeke’s already taking. Amantidine works to numb the section of the brain responsible for “windup pain,” and thus the drug should work in positive synergy with the Tramadol. I suggested it to my vet, and despite the fact that I thus became the most annoying type of person in the medical world, namely “caretaker who looks things up on the web,” and our vet hadn’t used amantidine that way ever, she looked into it and is all for it.

Meanwhile, to combat his low blood sugar problem, we’ve been offering him tempting food three times a day. By “tempting food” I mean ground turkey, roast beef hash, chicken breast, mashed potatoes, etc. I saw ground bison at the store today, remembered how much Zeke liked sharing it with me, and thought “what the hell.” He’s lucky, I know, but we’re luckier.

This has been a scary week. He’s feeling better, and it seems he’s got a shot at reaching birthday number 16, five months from now, in some comfort. Nothing is certain, of course. Turkey and mashed potatoes: every day is Thanksgiving around here these days.

The last two letters in the acronym stand for “Brainless Idiots”

When the draft registration thing started back in 1981, I wrote a letter to the Selective Service System announcing my intention not to register for the draft. The letter included my name and current address. I sent a copy to the Office of the US Attorney in Buffalo.

A year later, I moved to Berkeley and I wrote another letter informing them of my change of address, and reiterating my intention to refuse to register for the draft. The Selective Service System referred my case to the US Attorney, who instructed the FBI to investigate to determine whether I had in fact committed the felony of refusing to register.

The FBI began to try to interview me.

Their first step: Obtain a copy of my birth certificate, go to the address listed for my parents on that birth certificate, and ask the tenants if they knew where I was. My parents had bought a house and moved from that apartment twenty years earlier.

I know this because — aside from reading it in my FBI file when I got it in 1994 or so — they told my father when they finally found him at his house outside Buffalo. They asked him where I was, and as I recall it, he told me he said something along the lines of “hmm. I don’t have his current address. Let me tell him you’re looking for him next time he calls.”

They left a business card, drove away, and he called me. I said “give them my address? They have my address, the dumb fucks.” I’d also recently been arrested for trespassing at the White House, during which process I gave the Secret Service my SSN and Buffalo address, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, when the Air Force got my SSN and Berkeley address. In other words: one hand didn’t know where the other thumb was wedged. I told him I didn’t mind if he told them where to find me.

He called them. They came back out to his house. He gave them my address, as I’d directed. He told the agents “my son was surprised you didn’t have his address already. He said you should have it from the letters he’d sent the Selective Service System and US Attorney. I told him that that made too much sense.” They agreed. “We don’t work that way.”

The rest of the story is anticlimactic. They stopped by my apartment in Berkeley, and I agreed to speak with them on the conditions that my attorney Carol Delton was present, that she could record the interview, and that it take place in a public place. (I had in mind The Old Mole, a lefty bookstore-café in Berkeley, whose owner was touched that I would think of his joint as a copacetic venue for such a thing.) They had to check with their superiors, who nixed the idea. Though they eventually prepared a rock-solid case against me despite the absence of espresso and Sylvia cartoon books at any point in their intelligence gathering. I was never indicted: the Justice Department ended prosecutions of registration resisters in 1985.

There are plenty of people arguing, these days, that intelligence gathering requires law enforcement people be allowed the use of physical coercion, pain and fear compliance techniques, indefinite imprisonment without recourse to writs of habeas corpus, torture. The ticking time bomb scenario gets brought up in such discussions. “What if traditional law enforcement techniques are insufficient?” some people ask. “What if the sheer scale of damage and close deadline make normal police work impossible?”

I might find this a more compelling question — probably not, but it’s barely possible — if my experience with the federal law enforcement agencies had persuaded me that they were capable of normal police work. If the FBI was that inept in the first year of the Reagan administration, what’s happened to it after five years of the Cheney Cronyocracy?

To you who shiver in your National Review Online Aeron Chairs at the thought of terrorists: I have a suggestion. Rather than tossing out both the Constitution and your last shred of human decency so that terrorist acts might be stopped, why not just get rid of the incompetent fucking nimrods in the FBI that couldn’t find their ass with both hands if they had night vision goggles and a copy of Gray’s Anatomy?

If your G-men don’t have the research and deduction skills that Terri Schiavo had in 2003, then any talk of last resorts is a little premature. Thank you.

Auguste was right

Auguste suggested to me in email last week that the reason some rightists didn’t grasp the ironic nature of my silly fun-poking at Bérubé‘s book was that the right honestly does not believe self-deprecation is possible.

Count Phi Beta Cons as evidence for his contention.

Michael Berube’s What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts, which downplays conservative criticisms of Liberal academic bias (What bias?), has attracted predictable plaudits—and translations—from the left.
Concerned citizen Chris Clark [sic] reported reading something in Scientific American concerning declining literacy:
[snip quote of my original post]
So he produced a sort of Maoist graphic-novel version, which certainly reassured me about my literacy.
Dialogue excerpts:
“If I might offer some constructive criticism” said Chanterelle, “I heard you blame Bush only twice in today’s class.” 
“Tomorrow we’ll blame Bush more intensely,” said Mei-Ling.

Oh yes: Exactly as we suspected.

Anthony, the state of your ability to comprehend written material is no longer in doubt.

This is just weapons-grade stupid. Do they have any kind of screening process before handing people the keys to the National Review web site? Forget I asked that.

Some revision needed

Becky asked her fourth grade students to write a personal narrative story about an experience they’ve had. She’s returning this one for fleshing out, but I kinda like it as-is. In its entirety, then:

Me: Where are we going?
Aunt Robyn: Garden of the Gods.
Me: Yay! Woo Hoo!
Dan: I sort of remember the way.
car: vvrrooooom vrmmmm.

16 minutes later…
Grandpa: Well, here we are. Garden of the Gods. Oh, look! Our little climbing rock.
Me: Yoo-hoo. Yay.

21 seconds later…
Me: Top of the world!
Dan: Come with me.
Me: Wow! What a place!!!
Dan: I’ll show you my rock

20 minutes later…
Me: Wow!!! Cool!!!
Echo: Cool! Cool! Cool!
Me: Now that’s cool!
Dan: I know what’s cooler!

1 more hour later…
Me: Wow!
Dan: Ya Wow.
Me: So cooooool!!
Dan: Awesome! Yeaaa!

2 hours later…
Me: Finally all packed up!
Dan: Now that’s awfully long.

3 Hours later…
Me: Tohf! I’m sooooo tired!
Dan: Now the stove!

1 more hour later…
Me: Good! Toof! Let’s go inside and move stuff like sleeping bags, candles, food, and coal!

2 more hours later…
Me: Wow! That was long, Dan!
Dan: Yeah! Hey, let’s go inside.

The End.

Life tries not to imitate art

My brother arrived safely tonight to visit Zeke, who had another good day today. I got to the Oakland Airport a few minutes early, was poking around as the TSA agents were quizzing people as regarded their possession of lip gloss and toothpaste, and espied a display of common consumer items which are not allowed aboard commercial passenger flights.

Some of the stuff made sense. The bottle rockets, for instance. Hard to imagine a scenario where those would be necessary. The mildew killer might give some people a little feeling of security using the onboard bathroom, but it’s probably not worth the risk. WD-40? Those squeaky wheels on the drink carts are annoying as hell. I suppose you could turn a can of WD-40 into a flamethrower if you had a lighter, which was also on the unallowed list.

And then there was this. Finally a banned item that, as we have all recently learned, makes sense. I don’t want to see any of those motherfucking things on my motherfucking plane.

[Please note: this post brings this blog into compliance with the Snakes On A Plane Blog Mentioning Act of 2006. We now return you to your regular Zeke post, already in progress.]

Another good day, as I mentioned, with no recourse to the butt leash. We went for a second walk tonight, he and Becky and I. For the first time in many months he tackled the steep wooded hillside behind our house. The hillside is on Methodist Church property. Zeke is welcome there, but the pastor adopted a sweet but barky dog the same week Zeke got attacked by the neighbor’s dog last year, and the barking as we headed onto the church’s land unnerved him. We have not been that way in some months. Every morning for the first six months of this year he’d halt at the turn up into the church lot, wait as if considering whether this was the day he’d brave Bodie’s barking, and decide against it. He’d stare up at the hill for two minutes, or three, and if I walked that way he would follow for two steps and stop, and then he’d turn back gladly when I returned to him, chuckling and we’d walk the other way. But tonight he went up there, walked along the top of the hill, the one that always made him grin big. It was dark and his vision is shot, so I stuck close. In my light gray sweatpants I was the star he steered by.

The hill runs level for fifty feet or so and then descends steeply. He could not have climbed down in the dark even last year. He stood at the brink, unsure. I scooped him up, carried him to the bottom, then helped him through the fence hole our neighbor Naomi made sure her gardeners left for him. I had not thought we would walk that way again, especially after this last weekend. We met him in front of Naomi’s house, peering through the dark for a glimpse of us, a smile on his tired face.