Thursday, October 18 2007
I've been watching the ongoing Congressional battle to renew FISA rules with interest. For those who haven't, here's the synopsis: since 2002 the Bush Administration, with complicity of telecommunications companies, illegally intercepted an analyzed vast amounts of telecommunications data in defiance of established FISA law. This past spring, those laws were gutted by the Democratically-controlled Congress in hopes of burnishing their tough-on-tairists credentials. Now that gutting is up for renewal, this time with a provision stating that the participating telecommunications companies receive retroactive immunity for any violations of the law that they might have committed. It's the sort of law one expects to see being passed under a truly evil lawless regime, and for there to be any precedent of such laws in this country sickens me. It's gotten to the point now that there is little left to defend of whatever it was the War on Terror was supposed to defend. 9Eleven changed everything and it made the United States of America a lot more like Guatemala than it used to be. Osama bin Laden, wherever he is, must be an insufferable braggart by now; never has jujitsu been so perfectly applied in the destruction of a powerful foe.
Today, though, there was a glimmer of hope when Senator (and presidential candidate) Chris Dodd announced he was going to the mat to halt the new FISA bill. While all the other Democratic Senators and presidential candidates talk talk talk about how bad Bush policy has been and continues to be, Dodd is actually using the powers of his office to do something about it. For Democrats, it's a refreshing (though dishearteningly rare) instance of political leadership. It's also a political masterstroke. Doing this, Dodd shows himself to finally be the kind of Democrat this country actually needs. And he also personalizes the conflict between Bush's totalitarian desires and the rule of law. Bush can't say that his beloved FISA gutting is tied up by an "obstructionist Democrat Congress" - he has to admit that one man - Chris Dodd - is standing in his way. At some point when this issue comes to a head, Dodd should make a major and well-crafted policy speech (it'll be on YouTube if nowhere else), to showcase how a principled and effective opposition actually works. But even before he's done that, he's showcased the emptiness of the rhetoric spouted by Hillary Clinton and (somewhat less fortunately) Barack Obama.
It was a beautiful unseasonably warm day and I spent most of it out on the solar deck annex putting in the few pieces that needed to be installed before the solar panel itself. As I worked, lady beetles kept landing on me. Ocassionally they would even bite me, but I'd sweep them away unharmed (because everybody knows lady beetles are "good" insects). There were also a number of paper wasps and even a green bug (a true bug) in among the lady beetles. At this time of year, such insects take advantage of warm days to scope out places to hibernate. A fair number find their way into homemade solar panel, and a good many more work their ways into the gaps around windows, the gaps in outside soffits, and into the walls, where they spend the winter swaddled in fiberglass insulation.
Sometimes I'll be at the sink washing dishes and I'll find myself singing a goofy little song that no one except me knows I sing. It is called "Did I Mention That Fart?" and it's sung to the tune of "Blue Collar Man" by Styx, an embarrassingly-common melodic basis for many of my worst dishwashing compositions.
The other day Gretchen and I watched Children of Men, about a dystopian future eighteen years after all humans on the planet mysteriously became infertile. It wasn't a great film, but it was entertaining enough to watch and we delighted in the many occasions where movie conventions were broken or subverted (particularly in chase and battle scenes). My favorite scene, though, was the one where King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King" starts playing in the background as exactly what it sounds like: bombastic film score music. But then our hero walks into an office and the song is still playing, though suddenly it's much tinnier and it's obviously being piped into that room as a kind of non-muzakified muzak.
Hearing "In the Court of the Crimson King" compelled me to download it and include it in my current mix of songs (mostly Midlake, My Bloody Valentine, and songs from Nirvana's Incesticide). The music is broadcast as an FM station that is picked up by various FM radios where I tend to do my work: the shop, the laboratory, and up on the solar deck. The tinniest of these radios is on the solar deck, but since it is so high, its tinny auditory broadcast can be heard from a great distance. If I'm in the laboratory I can hear the music in high fidelity, the bass notes perfectly reproduced on a subwoofer the size of my head. But the moment I step out onto the deck, the sound changes immediately and it's as if I'm in my favorite scene from Children of Men. Sometimes "In the Court of the Crimson King" is playing when I walk out into the tinny-soundtracked sunlight and it's an absolutely gorgeous experience.
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