Monday, August 08, 2005

A Break


I have a lot to say but neither the time nor the patience to say it right now.

Therefore, I'm taking a break for awhile.

Please check back periodically. I might get inspired.

Thanks a lot, guys.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Live Strong

Hard work, discipline, the will to survive. The will to win.

I don't care how cliche it is. It's true. Lance Armstrong is a hero. And I'm happy to count him as one of mine.

It was thrilling to watch the Tour again this year. Congratulations to Lance on victory number 7.

Lance Armstrong embodies the best of professional athletics, there is no doubt. But his example as a human being--whether chasing yellow or not--is what counts.

Live Strong.

And while you're at it, give some money to Lance's foundation,

Five Shots to the Head as Reminder

By now everyone knows that the Brits chased down and killed a 27-year-old Brazilian man--Jean Charles de Menezes--who emerged from the same apartment building a suspect in the second, July 21, bombings, lives. They followed him to a tube stop where they killed him, according to major media outlets, by forcing him to the floor and shooting him 5 times in head.

Yesterday, London police remorsefully admitted this man had nothing to do with the bombings.

Let this be a reminder that innocents are part of the War on Terror. While mistakes are inevitable--even horrible ones with extraordinary American Fourth Amendment implications--I hope that all who support the efforts of those opposing global terrorism support them carefully. With the courage to be thoughtfully critical, outspoken, and smart about this war and its effects, now and in the future.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Go to Alaska

I'm back from Alaska.

Go there if you haven't yet.

Thoughts for today:

1. They call Alaska America's Last Frontier. It's appropriate. In Anchorage, moose and black bear regularly walk through backyards and parks. In Homer and Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, the rough-and-ramshackle of small-town, chipped-house-paint, dirty-kids, edge-of-the-world life mixes with ultra-modern seaports and commerical fisheries, high-end coffee, art, and gift shops, tourists agogged by the scenery, and cash flowing in the millions for chances to see mile-wide, 900-foot-high glaciers calve, Northern Pacific humpback whales breach, or grizzlies ravage red salmon. Not to mention the fishing, hunting, and generally enthusiastic fish-and-ice-cream consumption. It was a great trip.

The Kenai is like the best of Colorado and Montana (towering mountains, extraordinarily steep slopes, glaciers) plus the ocean, plus a rain forest. Hard to beat. At least in the summer.

I shot 630 hi-res digital photos with my new Nikon D70 (which I've been craving and patiently eyeing for 3 years). My wife and daughter and our extended family folk enjoyed ourselves greatly. I have no regrets, although hooking but not catching 5 gigantic end-run sockeye salmon in the Kenai River was excruciating. One took 100 yards of line, all the way to the knot on the spool. I was hopelessly out-gunned as it used the current and at least 5 super-acrobatic flips to finally break free. What a blast. Alaska. It's like another country.

2. Rove. We all know he's a political genius. That's why I don't think he was dumb enough to explicitly leak Ploom's name. However, I have a sneaking suspicion he may have pushed his gamesmanship too far this time. Time will tell. I hope, for the sake of Rove and the White House, but mostly for the sake of this country, that neither Rove nor anyone else in the Administration threatened the life of a deep-cover CIA agent or her cohorts. That--if it were proven, and above all else Rove has done--would seal his fate.

3. Roberts. A conservative president picked a conservative. OK. He's hardly the worst candidate and might be the best the Left could have hoped for in these circumstances. The idea that Bush would replace O'Connor with an O'Connor-alike was silly from the get-go. In fact, I'm fine with the choice.

Roberts is clearly all the things Dems and Repubs have been saying about him: brilliant, sincere, honest, etc. He's a great legal mind. He did file an opinion in which he suggested the Endangered Species Act may in part be unconstitutional. While I hope that this isn't true, and believe the Act has played a pivotal role in what I consider this nation's responsibility for real conservation of species threatened by human activity, he might in the end be right. The Commerce Clause and its edict that Congress can only act under it if "a link to interstate commerce" exists simply might not be broad enough to embrace protection of endangered species on private land in some instances. But single decisions and single fact patterns should not matter during the confirmation process. Does Roberts respect the law, the Constitution? Yes. Is he imminently capable? Yes. The question, perhaps, is whether he views the Constitution as "a living Constitution," or a "1920s Constitution," or a "Framers' Constituion". Perhaps a blend of the three. Perhaps not. We'll find out. No matter what, the fact that he comes from the law firm for which I will begin working in the fall is pretty cool.

4. The federal law clerkship I just completed after three years was the highlight of my work life so far. My experience there, especially the inspiration I received from The Judge and my fellow clerks--all good friends, will guide my career. Fairness, earnestness, loyalty, intellectual honesty, integrity, smarts. Applying the facts to the law. Writing well. Living and working articulately. Knowing the value of the work and living up to it every day.

Above all, I'll miss the people. We laughed so much. We had such fantastic conversations. Thanks to you guys. You know who you are.

Friday, July 08, 2005

North and West

I'm heading to Alaska in a few hours to spend some much-anticipated time with my close extended family, including my brother-in-law who lives in Afghanistan and is making a rare U.S. visit.

I'll be gone 10 days. I hope my faithful readers will keep checking. I'll fill you in when I return.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Britain, Stand Fast

My thoughts are with Londoners today as they suffer another cowardly blow at the hands of terrorists. I've been on the top of a double-decker bus in London and am horrified by the twisted seats and red sardine-can metal I see on the news today. My thoughts are also with Tony Blair, who has been wading through massive public disapproval of his efforts to support the War on Terror and the United States.

A few other thoughts:

1. I completely disapprove of the manner in which the Bush Administration got us into Iraq. Unlike many of my friends, however, I believe withdrawal from the cause, despite losses of American and friendly Iraqi life, is premature. Much has been accomplished in Iraq. It's a country that was flattened, prone to the desert floor, under Saddam. Now, it is on its knees, attempting to find its feet. We cannot leave until the Iraqis can stand on their own. Whether we like it or not.

2. As evidenced by the recent loss of Navy Seals on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the war there is not over. We cannot forget this. Well-organized terrorists remain active. And Afghanistan struggles while warlords and scheming power-brokers play for control. We're still needed there. Military, NGOs, others.

3. I have a little dream: for all of the United States' shifting allegiances in the region during the Cold War, and the profilgation of political capital and weapons caches, perhaps the United States is responsible for putting things straight. This is tempered by another dream: that those citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan start realizing that while freedom takes a lot of work, it is worth every bead of sweat and every drop of blood. The U.S. and its allies--Britain foremost--can't give them freedom. They have to take it and own it for themselves.

4. I hope Britain stays on course despite the attacks. This War on Terror is a horrible thing: the enemy is elusive, living in shadows, evidenced only through street carnage, victims and victims' families, convoluted webs of cryptic intelligence, and internet postings. But to give up fighting is to give in. I'm convinced of it. As much as I am troubled by some of what George W. Bush has said and done since taking office, I respect his tenacity and hope that his boldness, courage, and vision bear fruit.

5. Can the War on Terror be won? I used to plague myself with this question. My answer was always, "No. As long as there are those willing to die for their beliefs and kill innocents to further them." Now, my answer is this: As long as those committed to freedom and democracy in this world are vigilant against Terror and are unified in their opposition to it on all fronts, the costs of doing business as a terrorist will begin to outweigh the benefits. Can it be won? Yes. If "winning" is measured by fewer and fewer attacks, and fewer and fewer young people joining the cause.

6. That brings me to my major concern. As much as we protect ourselves, terrorists will always find a seam in our armor. Once we plug one hole in the dike, another will form. Therefore, the only way to defeat Terror is to dry up its source. That means making terrorism--whether its foundation is radical Islam sold to the impoverished and dispossessed or something else--unattractive. And making peaceful and (financially and spiritually) lucrative options more available. That is the key. I'm concerned that not enough is being done on that front.

My hopes and prayers to all those working to combat the insanity of terrorism in this world.

Friday, July 01, 2005

35 New Frogs

I read a story the other day about a team of scientists who discovered and identified 35 species of Sri Lankan frog that were, before then, foreign to science. Now I don't know whether you like frogs or have been to Sri Lanka (I do and I haven't), but you should care about this. Why?

Because discovery continues.

We tend, here at our computer terminals (and they are terminals as well as they are rabbit holes and portals to dimensions not our own: sometimes they blind us), to think about this life. This work. This chair. Those co-workers, that sidewalk and lampost down below. That baseball stadium over there. Those clouds meandering. And we're in these thoughts, this zone of reality.

But there's so much more. Even so much more than we can envision for ourselves on future vacations. So much more than we see, hear, and feel when watching BBC news on cable, the only mainstream broadcast that dares spend significant time in Darfur and other lonely, hostile places where Americans won't tread. So much more, even, than we might be exposed to in National Geographic or on the Discovery Channel.

I care about the stuff beyond what I know and what I think I know because it literally gives me pause. As colorful, boundless, thriving, and joyous life is, we only have a small piece of it to ourselves. I hope I am humbled by my small piece of life, its value. My life. My family's. My friends'. But I know I'm humbled by the pieces that aren't mine, that I have nothing to do with, that exist without my knowing or doing anything.

It's one thing to discover and identify a new virus or bacterium or even a forest antelope species in Southeast Asia that the locals talk about but no Westerner has seen. But to discover 35 species of terrestrial vertebrate reptiles living in the jungles of a small island nation in 2005? Hard to comprehend. While we play politics with space probes and hope they get funded or don't crash. We scan the furthest horizons of our galaxy and thousands of others for planets belied by wobbles and for intelligent sounds. We sink to ocean trenches in metal bubbles designed to withstand intolerable atmospheric pressures looking for that which feeds near thermal vents.

Yet, here, in a jungle limited by oceans on all sides, clearcutting for rubber and tea plantations within, and thousands of people living hand-to-mouth off the land, we find new frogs. In 2005.

We have come so far only to find that we have so far to go.

Life begets life. Yet, for rubber or tea or simple lack of either conscience or consciousness, humans hands could divest Sri Lanka of all 35 of its new frog species. That is humbling.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Capture the Flag

By way of the Republican Right's own supposed poster boy Justice Scalia and his learned friends at the United States Supreme Court, a friendly reminder to the 286 members of the United States House of Representatives who--wearing their hearts on their sleeves and their heads in a hole--yesterday approved a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to ban desecration of the American flag:

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. Punishing desecration of the flag dilutes the very freedom that makes this emblem so revered, and worth revering.

U.S. v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310, 319 (1990).

The way to preserve the flag's special role is not to punish those who feel differently about these matters. It is to persuade them that they are wrong. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

And, precisely because it is our flag that is involved, one's response to the flag burner may exploit the uniquely persuasive power of the flag itself. We can imagine no more appropriate response to burning a flag than waving one's own, no better way to counter a flag burner's message than by saluting the flag that burns, no surer means of preserving the dignity even of the flag that burned than by--as one witness here did--according its remains a respectful burial. We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.

Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 419 (1989).

It never ceases to amaze me how easily the loftiest and most important constitutional principles in this country are sacrificied by the very people we elect to uphold them for the greater good.

Sadly, as George Will once said, "American politics as you know . . . is very often a matter of capture the flag."