Friday, June 29, 2007

Under attack

Kids learn about crime as we are subject of attempted robbery at the house: 7 men zoomed off when we confronted the one closest to the house. One child who clearly has no fear/sense pursued them and got the license plate. Police made a match and we hope to break up a ring.

This might not be the smartest neighborhood to rob. We don't live very far away from the former Plame Wilson home, and a nice young housewife type could turn out to be someone like her, or like me, with weapons training and karate.

Another child wants to know why I don’t seem very afraid after the initial shock. [Those of you who talked me off -that- cliff: thank you.]

Working in Russia and being kidnap potential as known American of means tends to build a reserve of strength against fear. Once you have accepted the risk you need not be afraid any more. Interesting that among bloggers there are so many who have looked death in the face one way or another.

And here is my favorite passage of all times about fear, from Kung Fu Monkey:


FDR: Oh, I’m sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we’re coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How’s that going to feel?

CHURCHILL: Yeah, you keep bombing us. We’ll be in the pub, flipping you off. I’m slapping Rolls-Royce engines into untested flying coffins to knock you out of the skies, and then I’m sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.

US. NOW: BE AFRAID!! Oh God, the Brown Bad people could strike any moment! They could strike … NOW!! AHHHH. Okay, how about .. NOW!! AAGAGAHAHAHHAG! Quick, do whatever we tell you, and believe whatever we tell you, or YOU WILL BE KILLED BY BROWN PEOPLE!! PUT DOWN THAT SIPPY CUP!!

[end quote]

I'm descended from angry Welshmen. I tend not to scare easily.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007


For people angry at those in Congress who are now coming over to the Light:

Let's welcome them with open arms. Others are watching to see what happens. Certainly they will be vilified by their own side.

These are people who are crossing the battle line and surrendering. Will you shoot them? Please, accept their new positions with gratitude.

Yes of course it's "too late" but we have them now and must work with the resources and people available to us now, not in some If Only world.


Monday, June 18, 2007

It's hot today: tempers

The drip, drip of revelations about the Bush/Cheney nightmare can become water torture at times.

I've watched a number of my blogmates at firedoglake become outraged today, as more is revealed about our abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Regulars making hot comments, people dredging up old spats and trying to gain points at the expense of others. The temptation, as with family violence, is to strike out at the nearest available target, someone nearby who has made you angry.

Unfortunately, that has us sniping at each other instead of focusing on the real problems.

There are guaranteed to be more revelations of scandal, corruption, incompetence, and deceit at the highest levels of government. It is our challenge to bring the temperature down and remain calm as these situations develop.

Let's stop the friendly fire. Hold your tempers. Cool it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I still don't know what I'm doing, but at a much higher level

Like an icebert calving, the political blog MyDD watching an important part of itself break away. Stoller and Bowers are leaving to start another progressive blog endeavor, and we wish them the best of luck.

They do have some ideas about where they are going, but I wonder if the more interesting part of their future is what is possible but unknown. The new group has some serious brainpower and experience, we are all just waiting to see what they are going to do. Perhaps they are wondering themselves.

When people ask me what I am going to do next in Russian medicine, I have a respectable answer. Train the next generation of congenital surgeons, bring the teaching and practice of cardiology and cardiac surgery into the correct century etc. But in fact, I don't really know yet.

A year ago on the occasion of our tenth anniversary at St. Petersburg Children's, they asked me to speak about the future. After the respectable answer came the real one:

[egregious:] When I first started, I didn't know what I was doing. Now I still don't know what I'm doing, but at a much higher level.

A toast to our future! Whatever it may be.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I've met Libby. Do I hate him?

It might not surprise you to learn that I have highs and lows. Summer, and June in particular, is the season for frequent highs. When things are working well, this is euphoria, thank you God. Sometimes it is high anxiety but in any case is high energy. I try to focus this energy, of whatever form, into my work and my life.

On the occasion of Scooter Libby being remanded to prison, I find myself with mixed emotions. A human being is going to prison. A human being that I have seen in person at the trial, he passed by me several times, and looked at me in the courtroom several times, probably wondering which newspaper I write for. That would be firedoglake for the record. I believe we are the first bloggers to have official journalist credentials in a federal trial. It was my great privilege to be the emergency backup blogger in the courtroom and in the media room three times.

So do I hate this man? As a person, no. I tried to perceive whether there was something evil emanating from him. Answer: no. I don't think at heart he is an evil person. Yet, just as with John Hannah, I must keep in mind that their actions helped send our nation into a war of aggression based on lies, which they helped spread, a war which has killed 3,500 young Americans and blown off arms and legs of 20,000 more and created tens of thousands of post traumatic stress disorder patients who, along with their families, will likely suffer for decades. Hard to see this when looking at him.

For the record, there are people I perceive as being fundamentally evil [not entirely, thank you Quaker ancestors] and there are a small number of people that I hate. What does it mean to hate? That you wish hell upon them. I think I hate the man who carjacked and killed musician Dale Fredericks, Marine Band trombone player, because my own brother played trombone in another service band and it could just as easily have been him. Hate is bad for the soul. I try to move beyond it.

So this human Scooter Libby, that I do not hate, has been told he will be sent to prison, unless his desperate appeals work. Legally he has scant grounds for an appeal. Politically, it may be that people at a high enough level of power will never be sent to prison. But for now, it does seem that there will be justice. My father used to say, as he went off to work at his law office, "Do justice, love mercy. Well, one out of two." It is always harsh to send a human being to confinement. But so many people have worked to bring this case forward, to ensure that justice be done in spite of the power and privilege of the defendant. We rejoice today that our legal system while fragile is still working.

I also had the pleasure of meeting two people today, one at work and one at home. We tend to go in circles thinking that what we have is what will always be, instead of considering that something new and wonderful might come our way. My younger daughter is fond of advocating that we need to look up more often. She means literally up, as in trees and birds and sky and stars, but I think it works metaphorically as well. Let us look up for what is good, what is new, what is next.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

mcEgregious learns the Mac

It might not surprise you to learn, after hearing me rave about all things Scottish with the possible exception of haggis [sorry Marcy], that I am a Mc. This weekend I had the opportunity to learn about another kind of mac.

Learning to use a new computer, a new operating system, and new software during a work emergency should be a breeze right? It worked out in an unexpected way. Story of my life.

I started work as usual at 7 in the morning. That alone should be enough to alarm family and friends, since historically and until very recently I was quite the night owl, working til 2am not uncommon.

At a critical moment I couldn't access my files. Good old microsoft IE at its best. Yes, I was going to have to get up to speed immediately on the new mac, which had been slowly assembled and tested over a couple of weeks. I'm not against technology, I just want to understand things in depth before allowing them into my life. Is that so unreasonable?

The good news is that both my working partner and my best friend are mac people. They have been beating on me encouraging me for months to come over to the Light. I finally purchased one when my 5 year old thinkpad developed vertical lines so wide I couldn't always read what was on the screen. These two people saved me and my work from chaos.

After four hours of tutorial, I was ready to fly solo. Good thing, because the work situation was imploding. Don't know what I would have done without the mac. It ended up being a 15 hour work day, if you count the morning lessons, but that's ok. It all worked out, and time off can be put off for another time. I do notice how it rarely is that other

Takehome message: yay friends and coworkers. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"No You Can't Vote Here"

Ready to do my civic duty and vote today, I set off for my regular polling place only to find there was nobody there. We vote in the local elementary schools, so I asked the secretary if maybe the polls had closed early or something.

Sec: "No, you can't vote here, they only have a few places open today."

Me: "But it's the Democratic primary and this is my official legal voting place."

Sec: "Well they only have a few places open during these minor elections."

Me in bubble over my head, thinking: "A year ago was the primary where Webb defeated Miller. That was a total mob scene. Minor elections??"

Me, politely: "Do you happen to know where I -can- vote, then?"

Sec: "Let me see if I can get someone on the phone."

This was interrupted by a mom who came to pick up an injured child and I decided that was a vastly more important use of the secretary's time. Thanking her, I left and drove home in quite a huff. My time wasted, my inclination to participate in elections thwarted.

The candidate I wished to vote for had urged me to vote on June 12 and provided a web link to where the polling places were. Something was wrong here. A phone call to the campaign predictably got the answering maching, they of course were out working.

As I was dialing the State Board of Elections to ask about the situation, a tiny little light went on over my head. [the aforementioned bubble had gone away.] What if this was not, in fact, my candidate?

Needed to marshall the facts. Ok candidate literature which had cruelly taken me away from my couch and blog in order to do my civic duty. Checked to see which district: yes, the xy-th district. That's mine. Then checked to see who the incumbent was. Say WHAT? He's in a different place, one town over.

Turns out I had not read the campaign literature very carefully. I do in fact live in the xy district: for the state senate. Said candidate is running in the same numbered district: for the state house. Headsmack.

After being sufficiently bewildered, I had to admit the joke was on me. For this is one of my most favorite categories of mistakes [which I collect]: insufficient separation of the variables.

For a few minutes I had a taste of what many Americans of color experience when they try to vote: "No, you can't vote here." It was a moment I will remember when working for electoral reform in the future.

If I as an educated, politically aware [HA!] suburban voter couldn't keep things straight, I feel sorry for those with less time to figure out the truth from the lies in the pamphlets that tell them they can't vote either. Is this any way to run a country?