Arrived on Caye Caulker a few days ago, and have settled into the “go slow” vibe.
Took a Raggamuffin Cruise to Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Snorkeling by sailboat is definitely the way to go, because the whole day was completely relaxing. The guides were both skilled and laid back, and the rest of the passengers were young backpackers. When the sail wouldn’t come down easily, the captain Jerry sent his first-mate Leban up the mast to fix the problem. (picture forthcoming) Climbing twenty feet up a metal pole, bare feet to metal, Leban his unforeseen duties in stride and came down smiling. Cheers from the passengers, and we were underway.
Stopped at Shark and Ray Alley, where the animals swarm with the expectation of food. Some people tossed watermelon rinds overboard, but the nurse sharks were more interested in each other than our fruity refuse. Saw large grouper, tarpon, and a school of spotted eagle rays. There was a short swim-through underwater cave that Eric attempted, but his flipper fell off just as he was about to enter, forced him to abort. Also stopped at Channel Cut, and a coral garden, where there were fewer large fish, but it was almost more interesting to see the complete ecosystem functioning together. Returned with our feet hanging over the side, enjoying the sunset. I decided then and there that I must one day own a yacht. Early retirement, here I come!
We had a nap after returning from the boat, exhausted from the swimming and the sun. Went to Habaneros for New Year’s Eve dinner. Excellent food and atmosphere; the best on the island. Had great ceviche, lobster stuffed snapper, seafood curry, and margaritas all around. Went down the main street to Sobre Las Olas for some live music as we tried to stay awake until midnight. The main party at the Oceanside Disco was far too crowded, and the music was terrible. Got cheaper beer and better service at the chinese market next door, and enjoyed the street scene. As midnight approached, the island’s sole firetruck drove through town, siren blaring. Everyone cheered, and a few fireworks sputtered toward the moon. Not exactly Times Square, but everyone was enjoying themselves and it fit perfectly with the town’s culture. Wished perfect strangers a Happy New Year, and walked up the beach toward bed, exhausted at 12:30.
I spent the morning reading up on a current Supreme Court case, Frederick v. Morse, in which a high school student in Juneau, AK, was suspended for displaying a sign with that cogent message at a school-sponsored viewing of the Olympic torch relay in 2002. Interesting case, not only because that phrase might make even Scalia smirk, but because it’s a pretty clear free speech violation by the principal. The student was 18, on private property, and school was not in session. It’s hard to spin a corporate sponsored torch relay as an educational event. And because of Alaska’s enlightened marijuana laws, the poster might also be taken as political discourse, which is entirely accepted under the Tingle precedent where students wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam war. In the student’s own admission, he only wrote the sign to get on television, but he has fought the good fight all the way to the top. Can’t wait to read the transcript on this one, it’s perfect for a drinking/smoking game. Bong hits 4 everyone!
For the first time in my political memory, the day after an election doesn’t feel like a funeral. We had high hopes, and they were acheieved. We’ll have to wait for Virginia, but just having Speaker Nancy is a step in the right direction. In honor of this auspicious day, please enjoy some poetry from the *Former* Secretary of Defense himself, Donald Rumsfeld. Stolen from Hart Seely, slate.com
As we know, There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know There are known unknowns. That is to say We know there are some things We do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, The ones we don't know We don't know. - Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing
Once in a while, I'm standing here, doing something. And I think, "What in the world am I doing here?" It's a big surprise. - May 16, 2001 , interview with the New York Times
I think what you'll find, I think what you'll find is, Whatever it is we do substantively, There will be near-perfect clarity As to what it is. And it will be known, And it will be known to the Congress, And it will be known to you, Probably before we decide it, But it will be known. - Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing
Courtesy of David Rees’ Get Your War On
In one month, the future of the country will once again be up for grabs. And while legislative control is not as exciting as the presidency, it’s still the duty of every citizen to pay attention. If you feel like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, here’s your opportunity to demand that we pull over and ask for directions.
Here’s a quick recap for those who haven’t been keeping score: Iraq is devolving into a civil war. The CIA has revealed that Iraq has become a fertile jihadist recruiting ground. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan. One of the fundamental tenets of Western law, habeas corpus, the right of the imprisoned to challenge their detainment in a court of law, has been suspended for aliens classified as enemy combatants or awaiting classification. This essentially allows the President to detain anyone, anywhere in the world, and hold them indefinitely without trial, forever. The Geneva Convention prohibition against “outrages upon personal dignity” against prisoners of war has been stripped from unlawful enemy combatants and those who have “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States” or its allies.
Don’t think this applies to you, because you’re a law abiding citizen who has nothing to hide? Better to fight them over there than over here? Remember that the steady erosion of rights always starts with someone else. It’s not so bad when it’s a suspected terrorist being held in a cell, tortured until he confesses. But when the United States drops all pretense of being the land of the free, we all suffer. It puts our fighting men and women in further danger if they are captured, and it foments international anger. It’s bad enough that the Middle Eastern street thinks that America is the great Satan, we don’t need to confirm it for them. If we’re really in a great clash of civilizations, shouldn’t we show our enemy what we really stand for?
On the home front, things aren’t much better. Yes, gas prices have fallen significantly over the last month, and the Dow is back near its historic high. But the Federal debt is over $8.5 trillion. That’s $28,541 per citizen, even more to add to your college payments. Foreign central banks have begun selling their shares of our debt, getting out of a bad investment before it gets worse. New proposed air pollution standards lower restrictions on particulates. New historical climate data reinforces the scientific consensus on global climate change. Senator Mark Foley sent explicit emails and instant messages to a sixteen year old page, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert knew for years.
I’m assigning everyone homework. Think of it as a one unit course for the next month. First, read a real newspaper. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. Find out if your senator is up for reelection, and look at their platform and that of their opponent. Then decide who you want to run the country. And maybe look at your local house race. Register to vote in your home district with the National Mail Voter Registration form. Request an absentee ballot; links to every state election office are available.
It is critical that you participate this year. In 2002, the Republicans parlayed their midterm victory into a mandate for total governance. Remind everyone in power that a slim margin of victory is not a writ for dominance by either side, but a reminder that there are two sides to this debate. It’s your country too; fight for it.
Published in the October 13 Tech
Here’s the whole trip, out west and back east, by the numbers:
– Miles: 8333
– Dollars of gas: $981.83
– Days of driving: 17
– States and provinces: 25 (VT, NH, MA, NY, PA, WV, OH, IN, IL, MO, KS, CO, UT, NV, CA, OR, WA, ID, MT, ND, MN, WI, MI, ON, QB, VT)
– Continental Divide crossings: 6
– National parks visited: 7
– Small animals crushed: 2
– Interdictions by law enforcement: 4
– Tickets issued: 1
– Going to look for America: priceless