A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Mind's Racking Cough

A few days back, I came stone cold awake at 3:30 in the morning. The timeclock of blog posting is far different than any ordinary worldly clock. There is a certain kind of procrastination that is part of blogging that is not really procrastination. It is, in fact, a rather rude pushing of the conscious mind out of the area, while the rest of the blogger does the real work. Sometimes it feels like you are shirking from the work of writing because of the difficulty or the emotional pain it engenders. It felt so to me in the Political Conversion post immediately below.

Retracing a three year odyssey of little but bleeding, naked mental pain, transformed into politics, is ample excuse to want to avoid Blogger Dashboard.

But the several day hiatus of work on that post wasn't true procrastination. The fever to start writing it seized me at 6:00 pm on the evening before my bout of insomnia, when the general shape of my attitude toward the material I was quoting so extensively finally coalesced and my conscious mind was summoned, given marching orders, and sent out to finish the job. By 10 pm I was exhausted with reading, cutting, and arranging quotations, and I went to fitful sleep along side the glub-glub, putt-putt of my companion's oxygen concentrator, and the sustained whoosh of my CPAP pushing 10 p.s.i. of air pressure through my nasal mask, to keep the adenoidal valve at the back of my throat open.

But, by 3:30 in the morning, the part of me that does the real work on this blog wasn't taking no for an answer, so I was back at the mouse and keyboard. After six hours, the quoting and cutting was largely done, but at my day job that morning I was beginning to really feel rocky, despite stoking myself with Starbuck's largest Cafe Americano.

Sleeping is the curse of my mind's racking cough. I have been on the CPAP and Sleep Apnea mask for five years. It has been a lifesaver, giving me some solid sleep after nearly a decade of undiagnosed apnea. But there are days when the mask still galls my face too greatly for sustained sleep. My thyroid condition is medicated as precisely as humanly possible but I still have hot flashes in the middle of the night and then wake up freezing because I have kicked off the one light fleece blanket that covers me. After 5 t0 6 hours being horizontal, my body's hunger, exacerbated by my Type II sugar problem, morphs into acid reflux. And my aging man's prostate is constantly elbowing my bladder.

Ain't life grand?

As it is a biochemical imbalance, my bipolar mental health condition may well have been latent from childhood. If it was, it would explain a great deal about my feelings and behaviors in those years.

So I often wonder if the general accumulation of nagging health problems, and the Sleep Apnea in particular, was a trigger that caused the latent bi-polarity to manifest.

My slip off a plateau of worry-free health was quite abrupt. It started with the discovery and laproscopic removal of a polyp from my colon at my first 50 year plus interior examination. From that point forward, there was a cascade down to a level where doctors and medications influence far too many life decisions for my taste.

I am very lucky. My Buddhist center in Columbus is one of the strongest in the country. I am able to make a very worthwhile contribution to it, and this in the area of the actual group meditation practices, which are things I feel strongest about.

If it were not for this, Mrs. Claus and I would feel like we were stranded on a desert island here. Sometimes I still do. Though I grew up in Columbus, both Mrs. Claus' manners and mine are far more forthright than is commonly comfortable for most Ohioans. Further, the land here is not quite as flat as a pool table, but it is certainly not very enthralling. Columbus has climate rather than weather [if you live in a place where there is weather, trust me, there's a real difference] and Midwestern life, architecture [outside of the oasis of Chicago], and institutions are pretty much out-of-the-box with no customization.

On bad days, the people here are pretty much out-of-the-box, too. Virtually everybody I see in Columbus vaguely reminds me of someone I've already met somewhere. I make an exception, of course for my mental health contacts. Mental health is a business where someone is very likely to tell you that they feel they have been wrongly diagnosed, and that all three of their personalities agree with this.

But, even then, people with delusions seldom have very creative ones. The same motifs emerge over and over again with depressing frequency. Microchips planted in the head by the FBI to monitor your thoughts; the correlation of newspaper reports of events separated by years into a vast, overarching conspiracy; constant nameless and faceless stalkers obsessed about following you everywhere you go; the devil-worshiping and magic making of the local county sheriff and his deputies; are all of a piece and obtained directly out of stock.

So I would not be adverse to moving somewhere more interesting, and Mrs. Claus is positively and irredeemably alienated by her sense of social, cultural, and political isolation here. But the medical issues keep us chained to the place.

I guess I got spoiled by a glorious and wandering youth, and we should both just count ourselves very lucky simply to be alive.

Okay, I'm very lucky simply to be alive.

Now what?


Blogger gcotharn said...

I will take up your challenge, issued at neo-neocon's blog. I would've emailed, but I did not see an email address. You wrote:

"Though most neocons are too willfully obtuse to acknowledge it, absolutely none of the spying which has been done by the NSA could not have been done legally, through the FISA process. None."

There may or may not be illegal domestic spying going on. I don't know, and you don't know. The series of NYT, and then WaPo, articles which produced the FISA/NSA kerfluffle did not allege that illegal spying was or is going on. Myriad persons, in myriad venues, inferred that illegal spying was going on. But that's never been alleged by anyone who leaked to the NYT or WaPo.

You wrote:
"Circumventing the FISA process was simply a pure, naked power grab. Period. It was not necessary. It has not been particularly useful. And it has served no purpose other than to free the President from having to acknowledge and obey the law. None."

NSA has not circumvented the FISA process. Before 9/11, NSA intercepted international to domestic calls, then threw out the domestic info from those calls, so as to comply with the Gorelick Wall. After 9/11, NSA gave that domestic info to the FBI, and the FBI used some of it as evidence when they requested investigative warrants from the FISA court. The leaks to the NYT likely came from Senator Rockefeller, and from at least one FISA judge(Robertson?). The leakers were complaining about the circumvention of the Gorelick Wall - NOT about domestic, illegal spying. It's clear, from reading the NYT and WaPo articles, that the leakers WERE NOT complaining that the FISA process has been circumvented. The NYT did little hush speculation about circumvention of the FISA court - however, the NYT has a history of hurting conservatives/Republicans whenever they can. Nothing in their articles actually alleged FISA circumvention.

You wrote:
"These are the baseline facts from which any serious, intelligent, and significant discussion of "national security" in these matters must proceed."

These ARE NOT the baseline facts. There might be a future scandal about domestic spying. But THIS SCANDAL is not about domestic spying. It is about the FISA Court (illegally, imo) propping up the Gorelick Wall, and it's about some person(s) illegally leaking national security info to the NYT.

You wrote:
"I have seen none of my good conservative friends who are willing to do anything but evade those facts. None."

Now you have seen one conservative who is not evading, but engaging.

Before you reply with links to all the Congresspersons(incl. Repubs) and media bigshots(incl. conservatives) who have publicly stated that this is about going around FISA, know that I believe they were, and might still be, confused about the facts of this matter. The only way you could refute - in a fashion which would be convincing to me - would be to show where I have misinterpreted the NYT or WaPo articles about the FISA/NSA kerfluffle. But I have not misinterpreted those articles. I would be very surprised if you find evidence that I have. And I would be grateful - as I don't want to pass incorrect information through the blogosphere.

A caveat - various NYT and WaPo opinion journalists have commented about this matter. They are also confused. I'm talking about the NYT/WaPo articles which specifically deals with the kerfluffle, and especially the articles which specifically pass info from the leakers.

Finally, the study of this matter didn't originate with me. These bloggers contributed to my education about this matter:


11:25 AM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

This is a matter of logic, not knowledge. I sincerely hope domestic spying is going on and that the NSA resources are being applied to it. Contrary to the cartoon fantasy about liberals so dear to many conservative hearts, a great many of us are perfectly well aware that terrorist conspiracies have to be looked for and looked into.

The constitution bars unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause. The relevant principle of common law [“a man’s home is his castle”] clearly means that such searches are barred whether the result is criminal indictment or not, though offhand I do not know in exactly what decisions this has been put to explicit test in American case law. This means that the NSA is as subject to the constitutional principle of probable cause as the FBI. And the case law of Marbury vs. Madison makes clear that any agent of the Federal Government must uphold “the law of the land” we call the constitution, and that any use of the information gathered by the NSA inside the United States [incidental or not] is subject to those same constitutional standards.

To embody these constitutional and case law standards, and make them congruent to the need for speed and secrecy, we have the statute law of FISA. We have a secret court [and one very pliant in its adaptation of probable cause to the needs of “national security” if the published reports are to be believed] to evaluate probable cause and issue the warrants. We even have an explicit legal mechanism to accommodate the secret world’s equivalent of the warrantless car search, the 72 hour rule on ex post facto warrants.

The logic runs this way: If the NSA is subject to constitutional standards of probable cause, and the FISA court is the primary legal venue for the application of such constitutional standards, then all the relevant NSA activities fall under the powers of review by that court, even “failure to comply with the Gorelick Wall”. Thus any such failure is circumventing the FISA process.

Now I can possibly be faulted for foreshortening this logic in my comment, and I can possibly be faulted for the imprecise use of the word “fact” in my implied imputation of Presidential motives involved [though I would point out that the imputation was not explicit, even when I happen to think it correct]. But these seem to me to be perfectly pardonable flaws in a blog comment page, where circumstances do not admit of more careful rewriting.

But I do not see where I can be faulted for anything else.

And I’m very glad to now be able to say that I know a neo-con who is willing to address these matters and challenge my views on them. Thanks for stopping by Straight Shot and feel free to come back and engage me anytime.

8:18 AM  

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