Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Domestic Spying

President Bush thinks it’s okay to spy on people without obtaining a legal warrant to do so; his belief is that being allowed to use his executive powers to authorize such activities makes America safer. To me, an America where the President can bypass Constitutional checks and balances is way scarier than one where suspected terrorists have to be suspicious enough for a judge to issue a search warrant on them.

It’s hard for me to imagine a case in which the spying would have to be done in the absence of just cause for doing so. After all, if the FBI or CIA has a good reason to think that someone represents a danger to our national security, I’m relatively sure that they could obtain a search warrant to investigate them.

Now, it might be argued that unless the authorities could spy secretly, they wouldn’t be able to determine whether suspicious activities were taking place. The CIA and FBI need to be able to snoop surreptitiously so they can identify which emails and phone calls are indeed suspicious.

This attitude, though, seems a wee bit too nervous. The fear, I suppose, is that the terrorists could plan their nefarious attacks so quickly, that by the time the evidence warranted a search warrant, it would be too late. I dunno. Maybe the terrorists are a lot cleverer than me, but in my experience, it takes dozens of emails and phone calls just to schedule a night out with friends. The volume of chatter needed to put together a full-scale terrorist attack would be plenty loud and long to warrant a search—and in plenty of time to do something about it.

Maybe our spies just want to avoid the hassle of going before a judge; I can understand that, but it’s still not cool. I hate going to the DMV to renew my car registration, but I do it anyway because it’s the law. Right, Mr. Bush?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Yuck, Anyway

Today’s one of those days where I don’t quite know what to do with myself. There’s any number of things which I could do, and even more that I should do, but I remain at a loss for which of them, if any, I will do. Consequently, I feel a nagging sense that I’m missing out on something combined with an annoying perception that I’m getting in trouble for not holding up my end. It’s like I’m skipping a meeting that I didn’t want to go to anyway.

I have a fear that this is what retirement will be like. I dread having my days stretch out before me so open-ended and fraught with possibilities that I end up unable to do anything.

Clearly, there can be no more self-indulgent state than this. All I need do is get on my bike and ride a few blocks and I will surely discover needs to be filled all over the place. For that matter, if I’m serious about this, then I could go mop the floor. Maybe the house I retire in will be very clean, at the very least.

Back in the day, when I felt like this, I would write a poem. These days, even reading one seems to be more than I can stomach. Maybe I’ll go to the library. Maybe I’ll get stoned. Maybe I’ll shave. The possibilities are endless. And that’s just the problem.

My kid gets all thorny and pissed-off when she’s bored. I guess I do, too. Only instead of drawing on the furniture, I scribble on the screen. Either way, I’m just filling space until I feel like I’ve done enough to deserve some sort of break.

“Break from what?” you might ask. For that, I have no satisfying answer. A break from myself, I might say. But my ongoing attempts to escape from the person I am continue to fail. I’m still here, whether I like it or not.

Friday, December 16, 2005


We’ve had the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror; now at last, we’ve got one all reasonable people can get behind: the War on Birds.

Fears of avian flu being transferred to humans have led government officials to issue dire predictions about the likelihood of a widespread pandemic with the prospect of millions of deaths.

And it’s all about the birds. Those filthy, disgusting germ-carriers, sitting in their trees, singing their happy songs, all the while bombarding us with pestilence and disease, and I’m not just talking about the pigeon droppings.

Now, when I see the robin pulling his early bird from the ground, I know what he’s up to. When I spy the starling waddling across my lawn, I perceive his evil plan. The hummingbird drinking his floral nectar: I’m onto him, too.

I guess in some way, it’s payback for our role in extinctions of the past: the Dodo, the passenger pigeon, Foghorn Leghorn, are all laughing in their graves. If birds can kill millions of people, that’s poetic justice, a rebalancing of the moral scales, chickens coming home to roost. Literally.

I’m concerned about the way in which this war on birds is going to be prosecuted. Will we see battalions of soldiers attacking flocks of seagulls? Humvees running over crow’s nests? Smart bombs targeting swallows?

Of course Bush is all excited because in targeting birds, he’s found an adversary whose butt he thinks he can kick; still, I’d like to see him go mano a oiseau versus an eagle.

As for myself, I’m not afraid of bird flu. I make it a practice never to make out with birds and I insist that any around me cover their beaks when they cough.

Actually, I think this whole hysteria is an attempt on the part of the government to distract us from the avian act they been doing for the last six years: flipping all of us the bird.