A Cautious Man
December 27, 2005
 
There’s An Opera Out On The Turnpike
In addition to "Born to Run", there's another piece of musical history celebrating its 30th anniversary -
I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening me
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo Figaro - magnifico

But I'm just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity

Easy come easy go - will you let me go
Bismillah! No - we will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let me go
Will not let you go - let me go
Never let you go - let me go
Never let me go - ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no -

Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
for me
for me
I made a number of people feel old today (including the Cautious Wife) when I told them about this.

What is it about this song? You feel that you should be embarrassed to admit that you enjoyed it (or, still enjoy it). Yes, it's probably meaningless, but what the heck, it was (is) still a lot of fun.

And what's wrong with that?

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December 21, 2005
 
And A King Ain’t Satisfied
Till He Rules Everything

As you know (since you are reading a blog), the President has admitted that, despite what Federal law requires, he has issued orders for electronic surveillance of Americans in their communications with people outside of the country, with no warrant or other compliance with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). These are some of the ways he tried to explain himself at his Monday press conference -
As President and Commander-in-Chief, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article II of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it. And after September the 11th, the United States Congress also granted me additional authority to use military force against al Qaeda.

After September the 11th, one question my administration had to answer was how, using the authorities I have, how do we effectively detect enemies hiding in our midst and prevent them from striking us again? We know that a two-minute phone conversation between somebody linked to al Qaeda here and an operative overseas could lead directly to the loss of thousands of lives. To save American lives, we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks.

So, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, I authorized the interception of international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. This program is carefully reviewed approximately every 45 days to ensure it is being used properly. Leaders in the United States Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this program. And it has been effective in disrupting the enemy, while safeguarding our civil liberties.
...

THE PRESIDENT: I think I've got the authority to move forward, Kelly. I mean, this is what -- and the Attorney General was out briefing this morning about why it's legal to make the decisions I'm making. I can fully understand why members of Congress are expressing concerns about civil liberties. I know that. And it's -- I share the same concerns. I want to make sure the American people understand, however, that we have an obligation to protect you, and we're doing that and, at the same time, protecting your civil liberties.

Secondly, an open debate about law would say to the enemy, here is what we're going to do. And this is an enemy which adjusts. We monitor this program carefully. We have consulted with members of the Congress over a dozen times. We are constantly reviewing the program. Those of us who review the program have a duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and we take that duty very seriously.
...

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the domestic spying issue for a moment. According to FISA's own records, it's received nearly 19,000 requests for wiretaps or search warrants since 1979, rejected just five of them. It also operates in secret, so security shouldn't be a concern, and it can be applied retroactively. Given such a powerful tool of law enforcement is at your disposal, sir, why did you see fit to sidetrack that process?

THE PRESIDENT: We used the process to monitor. But also, this is a different -- a different era, a different war, Stretch. So what we're -- people are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this is a -- it requires quick action.

And without revealing the operating details of our program, I just want to assure the American people that, one, I've got the authority to do this; two, it is a necessary part of my job to protect you; and, three, we're guarding your civil liberties. And we're guarding the civil liberties by monitoring the program on a regular basis, by having the folks at NSA, the legal team, as well as the inspector general, monitor the program, and we're briefing Congress. This is a part of our effort to protect the American people. The American people expect us to protect them and protect their civil liberties. I'm going to do that. That's my job, and I'm going to continue doing my job.
...

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power."

Q Well --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second, please. There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times.

This is an awesome responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the American people, and I understand that, Peter. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor programs such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States. To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the President, which I strongly reject.

Q What limits do you --

THE PRESIDENT: I just described limits on this particular program, Peter. And that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country.
At no point is a judge mentioned, in this process. There's a reason for that - the Administration apparently decided that they did not need judges, or warrants, or any other procedures specifically called for in the law. FISA allows warrantless interceptions of communications, but only if they involve foreigners or foreign governments, and only if it is clear that people in America will not be the subject of the communication.

As Steven Hart has pointed out, this incident may be separating the "real" conservatives from those he calls the "royalists" (who apparently support everything and anything the current President decides to do). One of the "non-royalist" or "real" conservatives noted by Mr. Hart is Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration official, who wrote the following -
According to President George W. Bush, being president in wartime means never having to concede co-equal branches of government have a role when it comes to hidden encroachments on civil liberties.
...

Authorized after the September 11, 2001 abominations, the eavesdropping clashes with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), excludes judicial or legislative oversight, and circumvented public accountability for four years until disclosed by the New York Times last Friday. Mr. Bush's defense generally echoed previous outlandish assertions that the commander in chief enjoys inherent constitutional power to ignore customary congressional, judicial or public checks on executive tyranny under the banner of defeating international terrorism, for example, defying treaty or statutory prohibitions on torture or indefinitely detaining United States citizens as illegal combatants on the president's say-so.

President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms.
...

The NSA eavesdropping is further troublesome because it easily evades judicial review. Targeted citizens are never informed their international communications have been intercepted. Unless a criminal prosecution is forthcoming (which seems unlikely), the citizen has no forum to test the government's claim the interceptions were triggered by known links to a terrorist organization.

Mr. Bush acclaimed the secret surveillance as "crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies." But if that were justified, why was Congress not asked for legislative authorization in light of the legal cloud created by FISA and the legislative branch's sympathies shown in the Patriot Act and joint resolution for war? FISA requires court approval for national security wiretaps, and makes it a crime for a person to intentionally engage "in electronic surveillance under color of law, except as authorized by statute."

Mr. Bush cited the disruptions of "terrorist" cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas and Ohio as evidence of a pronounced domestic threat that compelled unilateral and secret action. But he failed to demonstrate those cells could not have been equally penetrated with customary legislative and judicial checks on executive overreaching.

The president maintained that, "As a result [of the NSA disclosure], our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk." But if secrecy were pivotal to the NSA's surveillance, why is the president continuing the eavesdropping? And why is he so carefree about risking the liberties of both the living and those yet to be born by flouting the Constitution's separation of powers and conflating constructive criticism with treason?

And by the way, Mr. Fein is a man of strong opinions with respect to Presidential misconduct. This is what he had to say in 1997, regarding then-President Clinton's fundraising activities -
President Clinton's conceded shameless and calculated exploitation of the White House to extract, entice or reward partisan political contributions is an impeachable offense under Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois should commence an impeachment inquiry aimed toward indicting the president for the "high misdemeanor" of gross betrayal of the public trust by systematically employing the perquisites of office (and perhaps prerogatives over foreign policy toward China) for private financial advantage.

The architects of the Constitution were masters of human nature and history. They understood the propensity of the powerful, especially a chief executive, to circumvent the law or to wield official discretion in ways that dangerously subvert public confidence in the integrity and legitimacy of government.
...

In other words, impeachable offenses were envisioned as political crimes against the nation, which might or might not be indictable under the criminal code. The House Judiciary Committee voted articles of impeachment against President Nixon, but his unprecedented resignation ended any further proceedings. The vast scholarly and political debate that emerged from the Nixon impeachment proceedings yielded an overwhelming consensus that removal of a president from office would be proper for grave political misconduct (not mere foibles) that tears at the social tapestry of trust, honor and fairness.

So, to sum up. If one is of the view that circumventing a clear law, in order to engage in secret surveillance and searches of Americans, is a "grave ... misconduct ... that tears at the social tapestry of trust, honor and fairness", what's the next step?

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December 15, 2005
 
Merry Christmas, Baby
I have been reluctant to post about the so-called "War on Christmas". That's the phony controversy that Bill O'Reilly, John Gibson, and those other folks at the Fox Bigotry Channel (FBC) are thumping this year, with the help of some of the usual suspects.

It's depressing, actually. These folks want to make a buck, so they have found a way to make people angry, just because some innocent and friendly clerk in a store says "Happy Holidays". In so doing, they are just trying to suck a little joy out of the season - as if what happens at the mall is actually important.

Well, as Charlie Brown says in my favorite Christmas special of all time, "I'm not going to let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas!" And, to the rescue, comes Representative John Dingell, who provided the following today on the floor of the House of Representatives, in response to some resolution proposed in order to capitalize on the hatemongering from the aforementioned FBC -
Congressman John D. Dingell (MI-15) recited the following poem on the floor of the US House of Representatives concerning House Resolution 579, which expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected. “Preserving Christmas” has been a frequent topic for conservative talk show hosts, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly:

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House,
no bills were passed `bout which Fox News could grouse.
Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,
so vacations in St. Barts soon should be near.

Katrina kids were all nestled snug in motel beds,
while visions of school and home danced in their heads.
In Iraq, our soldiers need supplies and a plan,
and nuclear weapons are being built in Iran.

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell.
Americans feared we were in a fast track to ..... well.
Wait, we need a distraction, something divisive and wily,
a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly.

We will pretend Christmas is under attack,
hold a vote to save it, then pat ourselves on the back.
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger,
Wake up Congress, they're in no danger.

This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go,
From churches to homes to schools and, yes, even Costco.
What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy
when this is the season to unite us with joy.

At Christmastime, we're taught to unite.
We don't need a made-up reason to fight.
So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter and those right-wing blogs.
You should sit back and relax, have a few egg nogs.

'Tis the holiday season; enjoy it a pinch.
With all our real problems, do we really need another Grinch?
So to my friends and my colleagues, I say with delight,
a Merry Christmas to all, and to Bill O'Reilly, happy holidays
And yes, the last line is my favorite.

(Found on Demagogue via Atrios)

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December 11, 2005
 
"I Can't Seem To Find My Way Back To The Wood"
There's nothing like having an international mega-corporation do something that makes me sound like an old fart, but here goes anyway ...

"What the heck is the matter with you people?"
Maybe it's just the impossibly cozy nature of the 'hood, but for 80 years there has been no change in the resident line-up of the Hundred Acre Wood.

Guess who's coming for honey? As part of a barrel-full of Winnie the Pooh anniversary events, Disney is working on a new animated series that will replace Christopher Robin with a 6-year-old girl.

To quote one loquacious Rabbit: "Oh my, oh my, oh my goodness!"

Although the bear's party fare includes much Disney hoopla — anniversary-themed goods, Disney Channel marathons and a stage show that kicks off today in New York — the real bother is sure to be over tinkering with a classic.

Details are sketchy on the as-yet-nameless new arrival, who will make her debut in the 2007 computer-generated series My Friends Tigger and Pooh. Disney execs say the idea is to bring an older audience to an iconic franchise born when British author A.A. Milne began musing about the imaginary world of his son, Christopher Robin.

"We got raised eyebrows even in-house at first, but the feeling was these timeless characters really needed a breath of fresh air that only the introduction of someone new could provide," says Nancy Kanter of the Disney Channel.
This is from a news release from folks who (unlike others) are proud to say that they are from Mickey Mouse News.

I'm sorry, but I cannot fathom a mindset which reaches the conclusion that "timeless characters" are something which "needed a breath of fresh air".

Here's a little news for the folks at the Mouse Factory (who through cruel fate are the custodians of all that is Pooh) - the stories are constantly new. There are always new children to sit on someone's lap, and open a book, and begin to read -
HERE is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.

And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.

When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"
"So did I," said Christopher Robin.
"Then you can't call him Winnie?"
"I don't."
"But you said--"
"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.
Sometimes Winnie-the-Pooh likes a game of some sort when he comes downstairs, and sometimes he likes to sit quietly in front of the fire and listen to a story. This evening--
"What about a story?" said Christopher Robin.
"What about a story?" I said.
"Could you very sweetly tell Winnie-the-Pooh one?"
"I suppose I could," I said. "What sort of stories does he like?"
"About himself. Because he's that sort of Bear."
"Oh, I see."
"So could you very sweetly?"
"I'll try," I said.
So I tried.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.
...
Well, you get the idea.

And the point, in case you still don't realize it, is that these "timeless characters" are either (a) brand new to the kids who discover them (or, more likely, who their parents share them with) or (b) comforting and familiar memories for old farts. The folks at Disney have to realize that if they feel the need to make new animated features, they have to maintain some shred of a connection to the original. Not every kid is lucky enough to meet Winnie, Piglet, Owl, Eeyore, etc. for the first time in a book. And I don't know why anyone would do something to cause a child to look up at his parent, and say, "Who's that kid Christopher Robin in this book? Where's that little girl who was in the cartoon?"

I'd hate to think that Disney would embark on a plan to create a generation of kids who would not grow up to know the meaning of this song (Oh, click the link before reading further, and turn your sound up) -
Christopher Robin and I walked alone
Under branches lit up by the moon
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared far too soon
But I've wandered much further today than I should
And I can't seem to find my way back to the woods

So help me if you can, I've got to get
Back to the house at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised, there's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin
...And Pooh.

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December 08, 2005
 
"But Saviors Don't Last Long ..."
Twenty-five years ago tonight, I came back from studying, to my apartment on campus, where my roommates were watching "Monday Night Football." And, they told me.

This is the song that's been in my head all day -
Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass, they slip away Across the Universe.
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind,
Possessing and caressing me.

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
They call me on and on Across the Universe.
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box,
They tumble blindly as they make their way Across the Universe

Sounds of laughter, shades of earth are ringing
Through my open ears inciting and inviting me.
Limitless, undying love, which shines around me like a million suns,
And calls me on and on Across the Universe

Jai Guru Deva Om
Nothing's gonna change my world
I always thought "classic" recorded version was too too over-wrought, but the words still came through, and that’s why I think it stands out among the Beatles' songs.

Today, a lot of people are reflecting about something and someone lost - but what can you do? I don't think endless re-playings of "Imagine" are as applicable today, at least if you listen to the lyrics. For each of us, in different ways, people live on. Knowing that, our job is to figure out what to do with ourselves.

What's with the title of this post, you ask? It's from a song I heard performed for the first time just two weeks ago, at the last Springsteen solo show (oh, come on, it's okay to mention him in this post). It's an old lyric, last performed decades ago, that I previously knew only in written form. I thought of it today, also, in reflecting about how much, of ourselves, we invest in our performers -
The lost souls search for saviors
But saviours don't last long
Those aimless, questionless renegade brats
Who live their lives in songs
They run the length of a candle
In a goodnight whisper and a puff they're gone
We can let a performer (or any person) inspire us, but we can't let them be a replacement for us. If we just sit around remembering someone, who once sang "War is over, if you want it", and do nothing else, we're really not keeping him alive, are we?

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December 04, 2005
 
Really Random Thoughts
First off - what is the big deal with this Jennifer Anniston thing? Her husband apparently chose a "simpler" way to go - too bad for him. Among the choices we make in life, he chose poorly. The Cautious Man is spoken for, but I tip my hat to the dude who steps up.

Another random thought - I saw a Springsteen calendar today as I trudged through my Christmas shopping. Seriously, even I would not purchase this item, because while I have a deep respect and affinity for the man's music, I do not need multiple pictures of him on my wall as a result.

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