September 18th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

QuickTakes

Did I say al Qaeda 14? Make That 14,000. While we're all having such interesting debates over what the Bush administration is thinking or planning or worried about with regard to the 14 "high value" al Qaeda targets that the CIA has been detaining without charge for years, abusing, and denying that those 14 people are entitled to be treated as either prisoners or prisoners of war? The Associated Press's Patrick Quinn just made the interesting point that the debate leaves out the other fourteen thousand people that the US also denies are either criminal prisoners or prisoners of war. Ever since our counter-attack against Afghanistan began, and from day one in the Iraq War, the US has been rounding up anybody suspected of even knowing anything about, let alone being in, the Afghan Taliban, Iraqi Baathist, or Arab al Qaeda resistance cells in those countries. The US is invoking (and in the opinion of the UN, abusing) the concept of "security detainees" where, during specific security operations, you're allowed to briefly hold someone for long enough to determine if a crime has taken place. The US has been "briefly" holding these people for, on average, between 18 months and 3 years before grudgingly admitting, one prisoner at a time, that they if they ever knew anything we want to know they sure don't now. In its own defense, the Bush administration points out that a suspicious number of the people they've let out have gone on to join the Taliban, the Iraqi resistance, or al Qaeda -- but after, for example, being held in Abu Ghraib and then still not released for months after it got closed, without your family knowing where or why you were held or even if you were being held for years at a time, wouldn't you? ("U.S. war prisons legal vacuum for 14,000," September 18th, 2006.)

Tentative Good News: Lower Court Struck Down Missouri's Poll Tax. The Republican governor is leaning hard on his presumed 2008 Democratic rival the Secretary of State to appeal the decision to a higher court, but at least for now a state judge has stepped in and ruled that the cost to the voters of complying with the state's mandatory official photo ID requirement for voting in November and beyond. The state argued, "oh, come on, most people have one and the rest are only out $15 for a birth certificate." Ah, but that's only for people who have never changed their name for any reason (including marriage) and who currently live in the same general area they were born. I know people personally who've been fighting to prove their identity to the state for months now, at costs that keep going up; at least one of them it looks like is going to need a lawyer. So yes, it's a poll tax, one that singles out people who haven't had to get driver's licenses because they can't afford a car and people who moved in from other states for disproportionate impact, and at least one court has pointed out that none of that is even vaguely legal. I probably shouldn't risk governor "Baby" Blunt winning on appeal though; now that the new rail line to the county government offices is open, I should quit putting it off and go pay the poll tax whether I'm going to have to or not. (See Virginia Young, "Voter ID law rejected," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 15th, 2006.)

I'm a Failure as a Pirate. It's a major blow to my self-image that I didn't make it out to the St. Louis Pirate Festival on Saturday. (Obviously less so on Sunday; I assume they got completely rained out.) (There was a good article about it in the newspaper: Jessica Bock, "Pirate Festival is a spinoff of successful Renaissance Faire," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12th, 2006.) For someone who once said that he wanted to be a professional pirate (actor/educator), I'm rather disappointed with myself that I didn't try harder to get out to Wentzville. OK, it's not on the bus lines, but if I'd put the call out in time I could have gotten a ride, I'll bet. Some reluctance may be coming from the miserable state of my wardrobe; I really need more pirate costume pieces than I own. But if I'd wanted it badly enough, the stuff I have is just barely good enough and frankly, there's no requirement for attendees to be garbed at a RenFaire or RenFaire spinoff. But the sad truth is, for all that Caribbean pirates haven't been more popular in a generation, and for all that here in St. Louis we've practically expanded International Talk Like a Pirate Day to a whole 9-day week this year ... I just don't feel very piratical lately. It's odd, and unpleasant.