Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hitting DeLay below the Beltway

Flying into Hobby Airport yesterday, I was too lazy to have thought ahead to arrange a ride back to Rice, and too cheap to buy a $15 airport shuttle ride to campus either. So I decided to take advantage of the U.Pass and take the 88 bus downtown, where I could transfer to the light rail and walk a block to campus, all for "free" (after $28,000 in tuition, fees, etc., paid for the year).

The trip was unremarkable and very typical of American public transit: terribly underutilized. (How many chumps were paying $30 or $50 for a cab into town when a $1 fare gets you there just as easily?)

Anyway, there were two guys on the bus who presumably sort of knew each other, and as I got on they were debating between themselves about football and each accusing the other of misremembering who was the Super Bowl champion in 2001 or 2003. They decided they would bet on it and after looking it up, they would see who was right and the loser would owe 1 cent to the winner. One of them said he would write a check for $0.01 if he had to pay, but that the other couldn't cash it because that account had been closed, and he might be punished for trafficking in bogus documents.

The other said he once had a discussion with someone from the power company about a delinquent bill, where they recommended he just write a check for the amount. He said he didn't want to, because the check would bounce. He added (and this is where the story starts to pay off) that if he did write a bad check and his electricity get cut off, it wouldn't be that bad. "To get it turned back on, I'd just pay a $100 bribe, to Tom DeLay!"

Tom DeLay! When I heard him say that, I got this big goofy grin on my face because, well, let's face it: Tom DeLay is really in trouble when not just political junkies like myself know about him and his exploits, but when Random Guy on the Bus knows that he is "ethically challenged". RGB went on to say that DeLay would take money left and right and that was all he cared about, and he also mentioned about DeLay having to step aside as Majority Leader based on the indictment against him for money laundering. RGB had quite a bit more than a passing familiarity with DeLay's troubles. Presumably his interlocutor (and/or the whole bus: he was speaking rather loudly) had a similar acquaintance with the issues, without which the joke wouldn't have made sense to tell. This is no longer simply an inside-the-Beltway issue.

Bravo, Random Guy on the Bus! You made my day. Now get out there and vote!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Going in, coming out

I don't know how long this business with the picture will last, but it seems to be fun for now.

I am into my final hours on winter break before I head back to Rice for my (gasp) last semester. I have been reflecting on the many ways that I am different than I was when I started my first semester, and a partial list follows.

Things I've learned about at Rice that I didn't then:
  • Latin grammar and structure
  • Architecture and urban planning
  • The South in general
  • Southern Politics in particular
  • Political philosophy
  • Economics
Some other things I have come to realize since I was a freshman:
  • YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly pays less than minimum wage to do some detestable jobs
  • NPR just keeps on getting better
  • Laundry can't be rushed
  • Packing can be rushed (and it will be today)
So no major insights for now, but in my strange obsession with parallelism, this seemed like an interesting exercise. Perhaps I'll be back with more later. Don't count on it.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

... preserve, protect, and defend ...

Over the Christmas-New Year's holiday break, I was in Washington, DC for a few days. I went around the Mall and enjoyed various collections at the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, and had a generally great time.

As I was leaving the National Museum of African Art in the late afternoon, I was looking for something to do in about an hour before everything closed at 5:30 p.m. Looking across the Mall, I saw the building of the National Archives, which is the home of the Constitution of the United States, Declaration of Independence, and other historic documents.

So I headed over and was very excited to look at the exact part of the Constitution that George Bush violated! It's in Article II, Section 3, reading in part that the President of the United States "shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed. In the picture, it starts about three lines above the "t" in "Article III."(Sorry it's a bit blurry--they understandably don't want people taking photos of it with flash.)

Wouldn't it have been easier to just follow the law in getting warrants for domestic spying? Oh, it's too urgent? How about getting warrants up to 72 hours retroactively? Think they might deny it? Think again. They only have denied four requests since 1979, out of thousands that have been requested. So no. It was not a good idea to start the program. To defend and continue it is not only stupid, it's probably criminal. But don't take my word for it: read what the members of the court which was specifically created to deal with this have to say. But isn't 50 USC 1801 et seq clear enough? The rule of law is our great strength, not some obstruction to be circumvented.