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the dickhead chronicles

I told myself when I started these posts that they would contain only anti-Republican material. I was going to leave the Democrats alone until the election.

Their capitulation on the FISA bill strains my intentions, however. If we hadn't lived through eight years of the Worst President Ever, I'd be ready right now to throw my vote away in November.

There are a few Democrats out there who understand. One is my senator, Barbara Boxer:

[I]n late 2005, we learned that the U.S. government had again violated the trust of the American people when the New York Times published a story exposing a warrantless surveillance program authorized by President Bush shortly after 9/11.

Since that time, Congress and the American people have been grappling with the disclosure and working, with absolutely no help from the Bush Administration, to find out exactly what happened.

Unfortunately, what we have before us today is a bill that would not only deny the Court the ability to finally make a judicial determination as to the legality of the NSA program but would effectively guarantee immunity for the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Administration and violated the privacy of their customers....

The Bush Administration trampled on the Constitution, and we are not doing anything in this bill to provide accountability.

This bill goes along with the premise that we hold up the Constitution when it suits us, and we set it aside when it hinders what we want to do. 

Simply put, this bill is a fig leaf that attempts to hide the truth about the warrantless surveillance program at the expense of the rights of our citizens.

And if we vote for it today, we are perpetuating a cover-up....

I believe it is the responsibility of the Congress to provide all of the tools necessary to fight terrorism and protect the American people.

But we have another responsibility, I believe, of equal importance; and that is our responsibility to uphold the Constitution and the rights of our citizens....

[W]e should remember, as former Justice Thurgood Marshall said, “History teaches us that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.”

So our brave soldiers are fighting for freedom on one hand, while our government is covering up the erosion of our freedoms with the other....

We can and must do better, and therefore I oppose this bill.

My representative in the House, another Democrat, Barbara Lee, lays it out:

1968: june 24

On this date, 40 years ago, Resurrection City came down.

Time Magazine offered the mainstream view:

Churning through the trash-strewn gumbo that had once been a manicured meadow, a federal bulldozer last week interred the last traces of Resurrection City. Its few remaining inhabitants scattered or imprisoned, the shantytown capital and symbol of the Poor People's Campaign had long since become an ugly, anarchic embarrassment to their cause.

The encampment's six-week tenure afforded ample time to pressure a patently willing Administration to do what it could to help the poor. The Department of Agriculture reacted by beefing up its food-stamp program by $20 million and pressuring 256 counties to distribute more surplus food to the poor. The U.S. welfare bureaucracy guardedly promised to hedge restrictive eligibility requirements, even though Congress would not have stood for their outright repeal. The omnibus housing bill moved closer to eventual passage. From all quarters, Government and business moved to provide more jobs.

The campaign could have demanded such conciliatory measures, then taken credit for them when they came. But it did not, scorning Bayard Rustin's earlier list of reasonable, attainable goals. Instead, the Southern Christian Leadership Council's inner circle running the campaign demanded drastic change in America's economic system, including blanket income guarantees to the poor. No such metamorphosis in the welfare system could occur without long, acrimonious debate. To the end, S.C.L.C. leaders refused to demand anything the Government could give under present circumstances. Instead, they snapped at any outstretched Administration hand. By week's end, they had tried to sue the Agriculture Department.

Robert T. Chase quoted Michael Clark's journal entry for June 24, 1968, in his examination of the Poor People's Campaign:

Resurrection City was a small place and a very human one. No one seems to know for sure how many people lived there the past month and a half-It has also had problems all out of proportion with its size. Its citizens were poor people. They had few illusions about their past, or their future. Most were unaccustomed to governing themselves. They had been pushed around for years, and sometimes tempers exploded, sometimes they reacted with violence. They came from California, Chicago, Mississippi, Florida, New York, New Mexico, Kentucky-from all over the nation-and most came with a common feeling of frustration. But for many, these muddy sheets and plywood shanties were home. It was here that the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech five years ago.... But there was a marked difference between the march last week and the one five years ago. The first march in 1963 and also the Selma-Montgomery March in 1965 contained a strong current of hope and trust.... The marchers believed that the American Dream was only a step away from realization -- that once the evils of racial prejudice were exposed this country would respond to eliminate them.... All that is gone now. The evils were exposed and little was done. The march last week was born, not out of hope, but out of frustration and desperation. These were different demands -- for decent jobs, good schools, and a meaningful way of life. The marchers this time had a different purpose. They were ready to say they had been short-changed. They had not received their share of the American Dream.

the end of a few curses

I don't usually like my birthday, because I hate the thought of getting old, but the good people who surround me always bring me out of my funk. Having said that, this has been the worst post-birthday weekend I can remember, which I am sure makes at least one person very happy.

I have mentioned more than once that I never feel my Spanish heritage quite so strongly as when watching their national soccer team. I speak as someone who, as far back as fifth grade, was a well-known champion underachiever. In soccer, where every nation has an identity, the Spaniards are considered the greatest of underachievers. A great league and great players, but little success at the national level. They have never finished higher than 4th at the World Cup, and haven't gotten past the quarter-finals other than that one fourth-place finish in 1950. After winning the European championship in 1964, they repeated their World Cup miseries. It took them sixteen years to merely qualify for another Euro final, and they had never gotten beyond the quarter-finals in that tourney, again outside of their one championship. This is not because they don't have the players ... some of the greatest players of all time wore the Spanish jersey, including Alfredo di Stéfano, arguably the greatest player to ever play for a European nation. No, the explanation for Spanish shortcomings lies in the murky talk of curses and national character (or the lack of same, Spain being one of those countries that could just as easily be multiple countries, thus making talk of a national character even more problematic than usual).

Among the "curses" the Spanish have faced, they have fought many losing battles with Italy over the years. As the announcers for today's Spain-Italy match noted, the Spanish hadn't beaten Italy in a major championship for 88 years. Then there was the oddball "Curse of June 22." It seems that three times in recent years, Spain has played an important international match on June 22. Each time, it was a quarter-final match ... each time it went to penalties ... each time, Spain lost.

And so it is no surprise that today's Euro 2008 quarter-final match went to penalties. But this time, Spain won.

And made my post-birthday weekend a little brighter.

running account of my birthday, part last

It turned out to be a good day, for the best and most obvious reason: family and friends. We had a nice dinner at Juan's, with Neal (Sonia was still working), Jillian and Doug, Cynthia and Jane. Came home and watched an episode of The Tudors. Relaxed. Sara checked in with me several times throughout the day. Folks were sending email greetings. Many of my online friends were in their various places, also with best wishes ... a shout out to you all, there are more of you than I could imagine. Thank you. And thanks to Robin, who makes it happen every day of the year.

running account of my birthday, part 5

I don't talk much about the cats ... everyone thinks their cats are cute and odd and lovable, there are only so many stories to tell.

But at least two of our three cats really do have some odd habits. Six likes to bring me presents. All day long, she brings sox, underwear, yarn, toys, whatever she can find. She growls, she comes into the room, she drops it on the floor like she'd caught a mouse.

Well, today she's uncovered what looks to me like a bra. Which wouldn't be that weird, except as far as I know, no one in this house actually wears a bra.

Maybe it was Boomer's ...

running account of my birthday, part 4 (more euro spoilers)

I guess I need to actually do something with the rest of my day. But first, a few words about today's match and Euro 2008 in general.

Go away if you don't want to be spoiled about today's match.



Croatia-Turkey. The Turks are far from the best team in this tournament, and their matches are not end-to-end excitement. But they have one part of the game down: the thrilling finish.

After losing their first match to Portugal, the Turks found themselves down a goal at halftime to the Swiss. They equalized early in the second half, and as the teams went into extra time, it looked for all the world like a draw was in the books.

So Arda scored in the 92nd minute, and Turkey won.

This set up a match with the Czechs, winner to advance, loser to go home. The two nations were so close after two matches that in the event of a draw, an obscure rule would have to be invoked to decide the winner. After an hour, the Czechs were up 2-0, and they had one of the world's best keepers in Petr Čech. With fifteen minutes to go, Arda scored to make it 2-1. Then, with three minutes to go, an improbable blunder by Čech allowed Nihat to score an equalizer. Penalties were on the horizon. Until, with a minute remaining, Nihat scored another. Turkey won, 3-2, and advanced to face Croatia.

And it wasn't much of a match, truth be told. Scoreless at the half ... scoreless after ninety minutes ... scoreless after the first fifteen minutes of extra time. With only a minute left, penalties once again loomed large. The two teams hadn't managed to score for 118 minutes, and they were all dragging ass by that point. Surely, no one would score.

Well, don't call me Shirley. In the 119th minute, Croatia scored to go up 1-0 and book their place in the semi-finals. The Turks and their supporters were crestfallen, while the Czechs, their fans, their coach, all were celebrating like mad men. The celebration on the field led to the referee adding a little extra time to the extra time.

And ... you know this is coming ... in the 122nd minute, the Turks scored an equalizer. And then won the penalty shootout.

Three straight matches ... three straight times they fell behind ... three straight times they came from behind to win, scoring goals in the 92nd, 87th/89th, and 122nd minutes.

It's a tournament of late heroics. Host country Austria trailed Poland 1-0 in extra time ... they were awarded a penalty and escaped with a draw. Spain and Sweden were tied 1-1 in extra time ... Spain scored to win, 2-1. Spain later trailed defending champions Greece at halftime ... they equalized at the hour mark, and won in the 88th minute.

Now Turkey will have to face Germany. They would seem to have no chance. But at this point, who would bet against them?