August 16, 2006

The Sentimental Heretic

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June 23, 2006

Incompetence & Corporate Greed: Business As Usual

Government hit by rash of data breaches

Thu Jun 22, 8:07 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The government agency charged with fighting identity theft said Thursday it had lost two government laptops containing sensitive personal data, the latest in a series of breaches encompassing millions of people. The Federal Trade Commission said it would provide free credit monitoring for 110 people targeted for investigation whose names, addresses, Social Security numbers — and in some instances, financial account numbers — were taken from an FTC attorney's locked car.

Welcome to Hell. This is the place where those who forcibly invade your privacy on the premise of the promise to protect you fuck the job up so badly that you end up becoming ever more vulnerable than before. Please voters, next time the government offers to ‘help’ protect you (yes, even from terrorism), please decline their offer. Their remedies are often as ridiculous as the bungling incompetence that created the problem in the first place. What the fuck is ‘credit monitoring’ anyhow, and how is notifying me six months after the fact that someone has misused my identity and run up bills in my name going to help?

The only way to stop the government from cruising, using, and abusing our personal information is to hold those government agents personally accountable for any breach of secrecy on their part. As it stands, government employees and their supervisors can hide from responsibility behind the flag or the agency that employs them. This rule should apply for corporations that do the same. (See next story.)

AT&T rewrites rules: Your data isn't yours

- David Lazarus

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

AT&T has issued an updated privacy policy that takes effect Friday. The changes are significant because they appear to give the telecom giant more latitude when it comes to sharing customers' personal data with government officials. The company's policy overhaul follows recent reports that AT&T was one of several leading telecom providers that allowed the National Security Agency warrantless access to its voice and data networks as part of the Bush administration's war on terror. AT&T said in a statement last month that it "has a long history of vigorously protecting customer privacy" and that "our customers expect, deserve and receive nothing less than our fullest commitment to their privacy."

Yeah, right. I have a news flash for the assholes at AT&T. My data is my data. The only fucking reason I would ever share it with you greedy, lying mother fuckers is because I have to, and admittedly sometimes even want to, in order to freely obtain your services which, funny enough, I have to pay for as well. No one expects a contract for wireless services to rise to the legal level of ‘attorney-client privilege’, nor do I demand that commonly shared information be held by AT&T as some inviolable state secret. I did, however, take their promises of ‘protecting consumer privacy’ rather seriously, would not have secured their services otherwise, and AT&T has not kept, nor likely did they even intend to keep, their word. In fact, they volunteered themselves to go leagues beyond lying and deceiving their customers. Now that they are facing innumerable law suits, they have changed their contract to cover their already oversized arrogant fascist asses.

I believe AT&T did what they did to gain access to larger markets and perhaps evade government scrutiny of their financial dealings. This is a ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ kind of proposition, and it amounts to bribery and influence peddling at the expense and liberty of American consumers. AT&T is not a patriotic organization run by and for freedom loving American citizens. It is, first an always, a voracious money gathering machine and, for the sake of greater profit through using government, doesn’t give a flying fuck about what its consumers think.

It’s not a wild conspiracy theory; just business as usual.

U.S. Military Links Karzai Brother to Drugs

June 22, 2006 4:48 PM (Brian Ross and Gretchen Peters Report, ABC News)

U.S. military documents, obtained by ABC News, list the brother of Afghanistan president Karzai as a "problem maker" in the pay of drug lords. Wali Karzai is described in the documents as "receives money from drug lords as bribe to facilitate their work and movement." The documents, marked secret, appear to be part of a "U.S. military targeting assessment" produced in January 2005. The documents were downloaded from a computer flash disc sold at an Afghanistan street bazaar for $200. The Los Angeles Times reported on similar documents discovered in a street bazaar in April, but did not report the allegations about Karzai. U.S."I was never in the drug business, I never benefited, I never facilitated, I never helped anyone with the transportation of any kind," he said. Officials say they continue to investigate how sensitive documents ended up in the street bazaar.

What I have suspected all along is horribly true. It is easier to use FOIA in other nations around world than it is here in the US providing, however, that you want classified American information. Remind me next time to call ‘Ahmed’ in Kandahar next time I need a driver’s license or a copy of my birth certificate. It’s also true that you never know what kind of priceless treasures may turn up at flea markets or local garage sales.

You cannot continue to bullshit me and say that we are winning the war on anything when our military and intelligence agencies can’t even keep their ‘intelligence’ secure. The other and even bigger problem is who we, sans condom, jump into bed with in order to fight this ‘noble’ war. If this guy is deep into the drug trade then why aren’t we taking him out? This government can’t expect anyone to take their ‘war’ on drugs or terror seriously when Tommy Chong gets federal prison time for selling bongs on the internet while drug lords throughout the world get a pass because they are ‘useful’ assets. Please find better assets.

Now I know that some of you are going to say “In order to fight the war on terror, we have to ally ourselves with, and use the resources of some unsavory characters on the inside.” Here’s a little reminder of how that turns out. This war, whatever war we are in now (just pick one), is a direct result of that type of strategy, as we, once upon a time, used the unsavory Osama bin Laden and the equally barbaric Saddam Hussein as allies to oppose whatever boogeyman those times presented. Think about where we are and we got here. It's not rocket science really, though it must feel like it to some of you.

That shit always backfires on us and ends badly. So why do they keep trying it? The answer in this case is Hamid Karzai, former UNOCAL executive and now funny hat-and-cape-wearing puppet dictator of Afghanistan. Pipelines, baby. It’s always about the fucking pipelines. That’s why we stopped the Soviets and that’s why we hate the Taliban more than they even deserve to be hated. The profit margin for such undertakings is always worth the risk. America’s taxpaying working class foots the bill for covert operations, diplomacy, puppet regimes, and war. American men and women give their blood on battlefields with names we can’t pronounce so that the oil and gas executives can reap the profits of selling that gas and oil to the very same American people who already sacrificed themselves to secure the corporation’s growing economic opportunity. No matter how much money is spent on the ‘war’, the ones who stand to gain the most have lost nothing, win or lose. How do I get that job?

Just business as usual.

Wadi Karzai, in response to the allegations, has set up a website and adjoining telephone hotline to gather information leading to the arrest and capture of the real drug producers and traffickers in Afghanistan. Anyone with information (that means you AT&T, we know you’re listening) can call 1-800-DRG-LORD or visit Wadi at Wadi has also denied any involvement in the murder of Nicole Simpson and has no idea where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

June 21, 2006

Things Congress Didn't Do This Week

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan bill to extend the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a crown jewel of the U.S. civil rights era, was unexpectedly and indefinitely delayed on Wednesday amid objections from some southern Republican lawmakers.

(Who needs voting rights anyhow when you have Diebold and Republican Secretaries of State making that decision for you? Voting ‘Right’, not voting ‘rights’, I assume. Now why would Republicans oppose renewing the Voting Rights Acts, especially after having pushed through HAVA? Or is it because they pushed through HAVA?)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday defeated a proposal pushed by Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage in increments from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour by January 1, 2009.

(Didn’t they just give themselves a $3300 per year raise? What the fuck is wrong with these people? The minimum wage has been stagnant for 10 years, and even if there are few people actually working for that wage, why wouldn’t Republicans in Congress at least show some solidarity or compassion for hard working Americans. The answer is found in corporate opposition to anything that forces a better wage standard for anyone other than CEOs and shareholders. Greedy assholes!)

Senate conservatives OK contract corruption:

The Senate voted 44-52 today to kill legislation that would have created a special committee to “investigate the awarding and carrying out of contracts” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even conservative “straight shooters” like John McCain and Chuck Hagel voted against oversight.

(It is amazing to me how fast and loose the Congress is with our tax dollars. The administration of ‘fiscal conservatism’ votes to allow unregulated and unaccountable spending of billions of our hard-earned tax dollars. Dick Cheney is in charge folks and there is no way that Cheney or Rumsfeld want anyone snooping around their financial dealings. Greedy Assholes!

John McCain is NOT a “straight shooter”. He is an admitted adulterer who cheated on his wife several times and then dumped her after she had already raised his children as he languished in a North Vietnamese prison. One cannot even discern where McCain is politically, and I think he blows with the wind. This easily explains his sudden leap to the far right religious voting block when he formerly disavowed himself from them in 2004.)

June 20, 2006

Personal Creationism?

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This is what I really love to do in my spare time. Three weeks ago a new computer stand was built. Last week, a new bookcase was created to fill a small space in my office. This past Monday, I whipped up a large storage chest from scratch. I even managed to line up the hinges correctly on the first try which, considering the amount of alcohol consumed during the course of the day is definitely quite an accomplishment.

Now it’s no big deal to build a nice piece of furniture. I have been doing it, even professionally, for over 25 years. I learned carpentry and finish work from hanging around my father and doing odd jobs with him in his basement workshop, even though he consistently discouraged me from doing so. He didn’t want me to become a ‘worker’ as he had. He never knew how much I would enjoy the ‘work’. Working with my hands does not mean that I stop using my brain.

Being the thrifty sort, I avoid buying lumber and parts whenever possible. My father taught me how to be an efficient scavenger or, as we call them today, ‘garbage pickers’. If there is stack of discarded lumber alongside a garbage bin or a dumpster, I will stop to sift through the mess for the choicest pieces. Lumber costs money and for anyone who knows what to do with wood, it also becomes a challenge to turn waste into something beautiful and useful. That creative recycling is what brings me pleasure.

The storage chest pictured above is 99% from salvaged materials. Even the brass handles were taken from an old cabinet I found in the dumpster. The inside supports were cut from old pallets, and the used ¾ paneling came the back of a renovated warehouse. Most of the nails and both hinges were also remnants of other people’s projects left at the side of the curb. All these disparate materials needed was an over-active imagination with some free timeto bring them back together into one usable and visually satisfying entity.

Since rescued lumber is generally old, chipped, weathered, and has innumerable holes and gouges from other handlers, the biggest part of the job is sanding the wood thoroughly enough to remove or obscure the obvious blemishes. I do go through a lot of sandpaper and it is messy, but the sanding machine does provide the perfect ‘white noise’ to make the task more than bearable, in spite of the sawdust blowing all over. My neighbors are not quite so happy about the tumult early in the morning however. The type and color of stain or varnish used also depends upon the condition of the wood. If I have more blemishes to hide, I sometimes have to go with a finish darker than I would prefer. A stainable wood-filler is a lifesaver, too.

I have no idea what I will do with this, since my home is pretty much already filled up. I could give it away to someone. I might try to sell it. I do have room in my office at work for it and it is likely that it will end up there or in my storage unit until I move into someplace larger. I was thinking of sending it to one of my siblings, but their homes already have some of my uniquely crafted furniture in them and I don’t know if they want any more.

Any day that I create anything is a wonderful day. Janice is anxious for a new workspace, so another wonderful day is soon to happen. I better get moving. It's garbage day in the nicer part of town.

June 12, 2006

Something Moshe Forgot To Mention

Due to my being a kofer b’ikar, mechalel shabbos b’farhesya, and mumar lihachis, some have asked me to comment in on the growing concern over child molestation in the frumme veldt. They must assume that one disenchanted with Yiddishkeit as I must me would have some deep, dark reason for leaving the derech or would at least not be shy when it comes to exposing such problems in the various kehillos. Surely, I would have no reluctance to share some of the juiciest little secrets drawn up from the dark bowels of beis medrash or mikveh.

Well, you’re going to be very disappointed I’m afraid. Fact is, I never witnessed it, never heard about it, and most certainly never experienced it. Maybe I was too busy learning and I wasn’t either cute enough, vulnerable enough, or alone enough to ever be considered choice prey for these sick mamzerim. Maybe word got around the yeshivos that Shlomo Leib, adequately nick-named the ‘Volcano’, wasn’t going to go quietly or without putting up a good fight. Maybe I just had the terrific mazel not to ever be alone with any of those ‘mechanchim’. In retrospect, the mazel was all theirs.

If any of this sort of detestable behavior went on in the Alte Heime, neither my zeide o’h, my uncles o’h, or my father o’h ever mentioned it. They told me a good deal about the physical abuse the melamdim in the local cheder would impose on children, usually as threat to engender good midos on my part, but outside of making the usual excuses for that commonplace tortuous infliction of tzaar baalei chayim prevalent in Euro-Jewish chinuch, there was never a mention of sexual impropriety. Frankly, had you asked me 30 years ago, I would have denied the possibility. Then again, I also would have believed many things that I know now to be complete narishkeit.

Let me say this. If anyone is going to be mefarsim such a thing, he or she better have some serious proof. This is likely why many are reluctant to speak out and others deny it altogether. Think about the consequences of falsely accusing a person of any crime, let alone the unbelievably heinous act of child molestation. The accused man or woman can say goodbye to mishpocho, kehilla, parnoso, and their freedom. There is no Ir Miklat or Ek Veldt for them to hide in and no teshuva, no matter how hartzike, will ever be enough. For the guilty, this is no less than they deserve. However, for the falsely accused, and there have been many, their lives are utterly ruined forever.

I find it interesting that although the Torah lists many sexual prohibitions, some of them rather wacky i.e. sex with behaymos, yet child molestation isn’t mentioned at all. Perhaps Moshe Rabeinu could not imagine it occurring or, as we have seen in our own communities, such a thing was kept shtil-a-heit, either from fear of the perpetrator or the desire to appear as if everything is going just fine. After all, in the world of close-knit communal living, who is going to let his daughter marry a boy, or vice versa, who has been sexually abused and is likely, in a world without therapy and counseling, to have some lingering behavioral issues?

Many years ago I volunteered as a camp counselor in one of the lesser known overnight camps somewhere in the US. One of my co-counselors decided that he would not sleep in the same cabin with the campers, and he cited a passage in Shulchan Aruch (and don’t ask me the m’kor) which says that a single man should not sleep in the same room with younger boys not of his family because of sexual arousal and zera levatala. Upon hearing him quote this obscure halacha, our reaction was “Well, it’s obviously a problem for him.” We honestly never imagined that any of us were capable or even susceptible to becoming aroused by the little monkalben in our charge. Yet, the Ba’al Shulchan Aruch was worried enough to say something. What did he experience that led him to issue a warning?

Since I don’t have the halacha in front of me and I can’t remember where it is exactly, I’m not going to launch into a critique of what was missing from it or how it falls very short of solving the current dilemma that faces the frumme veldt and especially for the victims of sexual child abuse. Fortunately there is now a willingness to speak out and, equally fortunate, there is still the sense that we should proceed with great caution when making accusations or contacting law enforcement. We also have to consider the greater issue of chilul Hashem and the subsequent anti-Semitism that such publicity will no doubt engender.

The problem here is the same problem that the Catholic Church is facing. We do not have to repeat the Vatican’s mistakes in how it is handled. If we try to keep it shtil-a-heit or tzuvishin unz, then the molestors will never be prosecuted nor will they ever find reason to seek help. To shuttle the mamzer back and forth between Eretz Yisroel and Baltimore does nothing but provide new hunting grounds for his perversions. The victims both old and new will then, too, have to suffer in silence and live with the belief that no one cares about their pain and anguish. Making others believe that everything is alright, while not believing the victims enough to actually do something is a doubly destructive falsehood.

The secret is knowing 100% for sure that someone is guilty. If I could know that without involving law enforcement, forensic science, and social service professionals I would fix this mess in two weeks with a full tank of gas, two big shvartzas, and a baseball bat. I mean it, and maybe this is why Moshe Rabeinu never mentioned child molestation in Torah. Maybe, just maybe, this was the act so heinous that it required us to step outside the normal boundaries of civil and rational jurisprudence and deal with this particular form of pervert in such a way that no one should know or even mention. Perhaps Moshe Rabeinu’s silence on the matter is an implied approval of whatever means we, the community, take to rid ourselves of those who prey on our children. “I didn’t tell them to do it, but I didn’t tell them not to do it either.”

Sometimes, by saying nothing, we imply everything.

Kol Tuv

June 01, 2006

Flag Burning: A Hot Issue

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Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Once again, right-wing members of our Congress are attempting to push through a constitutional amendment prohibiting the burning and/or desecration of the American flag. Here are a few of my thoughts in the issue.

For starters, Republicans might have a much easier time selling their amendment proposal if they would add a restriction requiring the production of all American flags be performed exclusively by American citizens, within America’s borders, and made of American grown or manufactured materials. If one is going to make such a big deal over a dyed strip of cloth, it makes sense to require that symbol to be made, sold, and handled by those who live by its values and under its jurisdiction. It cheapens the symbolism of the flag to have it mass produced of cheap materials with the profits going to foreign nationals who do not share our core values.

If anyone wishes to whine about desecration of a national symbol, maybe we should be taking a serious look at the commercialization of the flag. Drive by any auto dealership or sports outfitter and you will see rows of large American flags flying out front, suggesting to passersby that this particular retailer is somehow so unbelievably uber-American that he deserves your business more than other establishments because buying from him is nothing less than patriotic heroism. It should likewise become illegal to make underwear, socks, a tea cozy, bathing suit, or any other item depicting the ‘stars and stripes’ in a mundane manner. If we are to attribute some holiness to the American flag, then it seems we should not treat it lightly or cheapen it by overuse and misuse as well.

Allegiance to symbolisms without genuine commitment to ideals is just a meaningless gesture. Why are we proposing to treat the banner representing our values with greater reverence than for those who live under or by the sentiment which it evokes? Three nations considered most hostile (at least as they are portrayed as hostile) to American values are China, Cuba, and Iran. All three of these nations ban the burning of their national symbol. As Americans we view these nations as human rights violators of the highest degree and if, in fact, they are as bad as we are told, what does that say about our nation when we begin to enact the exact same restrictions on free speech and expression?

In addition, if stopping the destruction of nationalistic symbols was so vital to our democracy, then why didn’t Adams, Jefferson, or Madison (not to mention a few dozen other presidents since) ever consider it a priority? I am sure that there were any number of Tories, Barbary pirates, Confederates, and Native Americans who, in the heat of battle or moral outrage, found various ways to desecrate that precious symbol of the American Union, yet no one in government (that I know of) ever proposed altering the Constitution to prevent it.

I understand why many aren’t worried about such a law. Most probably agree that flag burning (or the burning of effigies as well) appears a bit extreme when we consider what ‘burning’ itself implies i.e. the complete annihilation of the thing or idea under protest. One has to be pretty mad to set something ablaze. Yet, history also tells us that where we see burning flags we can also envision the burning of books and, soon enough, the burning of human beings, as all those images commingle in fertile and (I believe) rightfully suspicious imaginations. Personally, I have little faith in the ability of the masses to exercise restraint, and if there is a ‘slippery slope’ to avoid, it is the one that creates a mob mentality set to run amok. Maybe, some would argue, we need to ‘nip this in the bud’ before it gets out of control.

In all fairness, however, not all protestation via combustion leads to utter societal conflagration. Vietnam Era draftees burned their Selective Service cards without the entire nation going up in smoke or feeling threatened by their respective messages. Somehow I think that America can withstand a few well placed smolderings here and there without falling into utter chaos. We’ve been there before and survived. Some people don’t even remember it happening, let alone have their lives irrevocably altered for the worse by said events.

Certainly, we all imagine that these pyro-prone protestors can find more meaningful, productive, and peaceful ways to get their message across to others, but those methods aren’t always effective. We live in a media age where only the most outrageous acts receive any attention. If you wish to be seen or heard, you must rise above and beyond the norm or shatter the common paradigms of others just enough to piss them off. If you want to be on the evening news, set an American flag on fire in front of a military recruiting office. Unfortunately, your message probably won’t ever be heard since it would be completely obscured by the news of the fire itself and your subsequent arrest. Yet, you will get noticed, and in the mind of the guy holding the matches and gasoline, his mission is accomplished simply by making others angry.

One has to remember that the ‘slippery slope’ argument runs in both directions. As reluctant as I may be to endorse flag burning as a form of positive dissent, to outlaw such protest offers a new license for government to, in the spirit of protecting the ideal, prohibit other types of protest where fire may or may not be involved. I have to yet to see a government take back or even restrain itself when granted new powers. The 'slippery-slope' the angry mob tumbles onto ends as quickly as it comes, but when governments takes that plunge the effects are expanding and everlasting. Governments, unlike the unwashed rabble, also tend to be better organized and heavily armed. So in this case, in spite of my initial fears, I’ll take my chances with the raging masses and allow them start a campfire here and there.

That being said, I am equally reluctant to offer support for any law restricting our 1st Amendment right to Free Speech. Free Speech is not meant to only protect the speech and ideas that most citizens like or agree to. In fact, it is intended to allow a relatively unrestricted forum for ideas that most may find offensive or even treasonous. Just as we ignore, become repulsed, or even debate for or against various ideas, actions taken to promote those ideas can be argued or rejected like any other. If those who burn American flags to send a particular message are duly ignored, then they will no longer have any reason to keep doing it. Their right to speak out is the very same right I must preserve so that when I have something to say, the liberty to speak my conscience remains unabridged.

Let’s not make an issue out of something that doesn’t occur very often, doesn’t really garner much support, or would lead, should we begin to prohibit such acts, to greater restrictions on our ability to seek redress from government through peaceful protest. Exactly how many flags are burned across our nation in recent years? Is this a solution seeking a problem that doesn’t exist? My suggestion is to tread with deliberate and patient caution.

The magic of the 1st Amendment is the universality of its scope. The right of the people to speak out is not based upon the likes, dislikes, or sensitivities of a majority opinion. If you are part of that majority, then having once in a while to tolerate some free speech you don’t like is not a high price to pay and you shouldn’t feel put out having heard it. Let it go in one ear and out the other as you do most things you hear these days.

“Free speech is intended to protect the controversial and even outrageous word; and not just comforting platitudes too mundane to need protection.” (General Colin Powell)

May 31, 2006

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May 29, 2006

Deferential, Not Preferential

The ongoing FBI investigations spawned from the convictions and subsequent pre-sentencing cooperation plea-bargains of Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham are leading federal investigators into the offices and homes of many former and current public officials. Now, the leadership of this nation, with bipartisan support, thinks that the FBI should not be allowed to raid the Congressional offices in search of evidence, even with the proper warrants and court orders. High ranking officials in some departments are even threatening to resign should they not get their way.

(I will mention Rep. Jefferson here as well, since it is his case that brought about the wider debate on FBI searches. I’m not picking on just Republicans either. Mr. Jefferson needs to do some hard time for his crimes; least of all for being so incredibly stupid as to keep the cash in his freezer. I think he’s been watching too many drug movies on BET.)

We are witnessing the growth of a police state that insists upon monitoring the day to day communications of its citizens without legal precedent in direct violation of both the 4th and 9th amendments of the Constitution, now turn and demand that they be immune from the very same ‘justice’ they have been so eagerly willing to impose upon the American people. Should you or I become suspects in a criminal enterprise, there would be no stopping the local sheriff, the CIA, the FBI, or even the local building inspector from kicking in the front door and entering our homes and offices at will.

Why are the politicians demanding an exemption, due to their chosen profession, from the rules we must follow, and why is the President, one who campaigned on being a ‘straight shooter’, now backing away from enforcement of the law and calling for a ‘cooling off period’? (He never gave Saddam Hussein that option.) We already know the answers to these questions, but do we really know the core problem, or what to do about it? Without the force of law, how can government ever be held accountable?

The core principle of American jurisprudence is “Equality under the Law”; a credo that extends the rights, freedoms, liberties, protections, and responsibilities equally to each and every American, and even non-citizens within American borders. It is how we, as a nation, express our desire to treat each and every human being with dignity and courteous respect. Being ‘under’ this rule of law implies a bond between all those under its jurisdiction; a connection making each person as accountable as the next to ensure that the balance required for an orderly civilization and a free society are maintained. Those who deem themselves ‘above’ or ‘beyond’ the law destroy that national unity this principle was intended to preserve.

Now I know and you know that this principle has been corrupted long ago. Men of riches are tried under different circumstances than men of limited means. We have seen pretty women escape the harsh penalties applied to ugly men for the same crimes, as they invoke the sympathy of judges and prosecutors. A black man can hardly enter an American courtroom and ever expect to win an acquittal. That principle, no matter how perverted, is still worth reverently working to achieve. Yet, this administration, along with many influential members of Congress, now decides to debauch this core principle even further.

I cannot begin to express the shame I feel for being an American right now. While we are asked to forego the liberties and protections for ‘special circumstances’, those who impose those restrictions continue to find new ways to exempt themselves from compliance. The American system is meant to be one of deferential treatment of all, and not preferential exemptions for the few wishing to escape accountability.

“Civilization is built on a number of ultimate principles...respect for human life, the punishment of crimes against property and persons, the equality of all good citizens before the law...or, in a word justice.” (Max Nordau, 1849 - 1923)

May 28, 2006

An Identity You Shouldn't Steal

While at the gym last Friday night, an attractive middle-aged woman climbed up onto the treadmill to me and as she began her workout she stared rather intently in my direction. It’s routine for gym members and staff to ‘check each other out’ so I thought nothing of it until she made serious, lasting eye-contact with me. Not one to imagine myself the object of any woman’s deepest sexual desires, I was forced at that point to ask “Excuse me, but is something wrong?”

She answered “No. Not at all! I was just wondering. Is your name, by chance, Gary?”

“Well, if you have money for Gary or something else pleasurable in mind, then yes, my name could be Gary.” I replied jokingly.

She understood right away that I wasn’t Gary and she smiled, laughed a little and then said “No. No. Nothing like that. Gary was an old friend of our family and we haven’t seen him for ages. You look just like him.”

“Really?” I asked. “Is this Gary a nice fellow?”

“Yes. Why yes he is! Nicest guy in the world.”

“Then I am honored to be mistaken for him! But let’s hope and pray he is never confused for me! That wouldn’t be fair to poor Gary!” I certainly wouldn’t wish my sullied and noxious reputation bestowed upon such a fine and beloved soul.

If this woman was handing me a pick-up line, I missed it completely. If she wasn’t, it is likely that I posed the sort of self-deprecating witticism she could not grasp having not grown up in environs where false humility is a roundabout way of showing conceit.. That would easily explain the ensuing twenty minutes of perfect silence between us for the course of our exercising. Either way, I can only hope that people will utter similar praises regarding my character, when I remain away, that they do about the adored and very much sought after Gary in his own absence.

It’s doubtful though.

Kol Tuv

May 25, 2006

Res Ipsa Loquitur