Thursday, October 19, 2006


Check out the photos of our trip to Brussels, Amsterdam, and Bruges here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Beginning of the end of America

Olbermann addresses the Military Commissions Act in a special comment
By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'

Updated: 7:33 p.m. ET Oct 18, 2006

We have lived as if in a trance.

We have lived as people in fear.

And now—our rights and our freedoms in peril—we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight have we truly become the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have been here before—and we have been here before led here—by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush.

We have been here when President John Adams insisted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were necessary to save American lives, only to watch him use those acts to jail newspaper editors.

American newspaper editors, in American jails, for things they wrote about America.

We have been here when President Woodrow Wilson insisted that the Espionage Act was necessary to save American lives, only to watch him use that Act to prosecute 2,000 Americans, especially those he disparaged as “Hyphenated Americans,” most of whom were guilty only of advocating peace in a time of war.

American public speakers, in American jails, for things they said about America.

And we have been here when President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that Executive Order 9066 was necessary to save American lives, only to watch him use that order to imprison and pauperize 110,000 Americans while his man in charge, General DeWitt, told Congress: “It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen—he is still a Japanese.”

American citizens, in American camps, for something they neither wrote nor said nor did, but for the choices they or their ancestors had made about coming to America.

Each of these actions was undertaken for the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And each was a betrayal of that for which the president who advocated them claimed to be fighting.

Adams and his party were swept from office, and the Alien and Sedition Acts erased.

Many of the very people Wilson silenced survived him, and one of them even ran to succeed him, and got 900,000 votes, though his presidential campaign was conducted entirely from his jail cell.

And Roosevelt’s internment of the Japanese was not merely the worst blight on his record, but it would necessitate a formal apology from the government of the United States to the citizens of the United States whose lives it ruined.

The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

In times of fright, we have been only human.

We have let Roosevelt’s “fear of fear itself” overtake us.

We have listened to the little voice inside that has said, “the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass.”

We have accepted that the only way to stop the terrorists is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

Just the way we once accepted that the only way to stop the Soviets was to let the government become just a little bit like the Soviets.

Or substitute the Japanese.

Or the Germans.

Or the Socialists.

Or the Anarchists.

Or the Immigrants.

Or the British.

Or the Aliens.

The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And, always, always wrong.

“With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?”

Wise words.

And ironic ones, Mr. Bush.

Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act.

You spoke so much more than you know, Sir.

Sadly—of course—the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

But even within this history we have not before codified the poisoning of habeas corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.

You, sir, have now befouled that spring.

You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.

You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And — again, Mr. Bush — all of them, wrong.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that “the United States does not torture. It’s against our laws and it’s against our values” and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens “unlawful enemy combatants” and ship them somewhere—anywhere -- but may now, if he so decides, declare you an “unlawful enemy combatant” and ship you somewhere - anywhere.

And if you think this hyperbole or hysteria, ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was president or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was president or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was president.

And if you somehow think habeas corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an “unlawful enemy combatant”—exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this attorney general is going to help you?

This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope he has not lied about how he intends to use it nor who he intends to use it against?

“These military commissions will provide a fair trial,” you told us yesterday, Mr. Bush, “in which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney and can hear all the evidence against them.”

"Presumed innocent," Mr. Bush?

The very piece of paper you signed as you said that, allows for the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they sustain “serious mental and physical trauma” in the hope of getting them to incriminate themselves, and may no longer even invoke The Geneva Conventions in their own defense.

"Access to an attorney," Mr. Bush?

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, Sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.

"Hearing all the evidence," Mr. Bush?

The Military Commissions Act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.

Your words are lies, Sir.

They are lies that imperil us all.

“One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks,” you told us yesterday, “said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America.”

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The moral force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush, they would be “the beginning of the end of America.”

And did it even occur to you once, sir — somewhere in amidst those eight separate, gruesome, intentional, terroristic invocations of the horrors of 9/11 -- that with only a little further shift in this world we now know—just a touch more repudiation of all of that for which our patriots died --- did it ever occur to you once that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future president and a “competent tribunal” of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of “unlawful enemy combatant” for -- and convene a Military Commission to try -- not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And doubtless, Sir, all of them—as always—wrong.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I am off to Dallas for a couple of days. Doesn't look like the weather will be too hot. It's supposed to snow here, though.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Natural Gas

Yesterday I was at natural gas seminar sponsored by WPS Energy Services at Monona Terrace in Madison.

Monona Terrace is a new Frank Lloyd Wright building. He designed it in the late 1930s, but it was never built. Amazingly, considering the location near the state capital and on the shore of Lake Monona, the land he designed the building for was never developed. The main interior space is fabulous – it’s as though you were right on the lake.

The seminar was interesting. Some highlights:

  • We have 3.254 trillion cubic feet of gas in storage, a near record.
  • Gas prices have been plummeting, currently about $4.4/MMBTU.
  • Gas represents about 18% of electricity generated, but is about 42% of generation capacity: not surprising when you think about it.
  • LNG is expected to be about 16% of gas consumed by 2030.
  • The annual world energy consumption is about 450 “quads” – quadrillion BTUs.
  • The U.S., with about a quarter of the GWP, uses about 115 quads annually.
  • The U.S uses about half the energy per unit of economic output as China, the number 2 energy consumer.

One of the speakers, William F. Ford was president and CEO of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank and served with both Paul Volker and Alan Greenspan. He’s a pretty entertaining guy. He sat at my table during lunch.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Had Enough?

Had Enough?
Tuesday, 03 October 2006

The State Department has admitted that George Tenant and J. Cofer Black had an emergency briefing with then National Security Advisor Condi Rice on July 10, 2001 to warn her that Al Qaeda was planning on attacking the United States, as was disclosed in Bob Woodward’s book, State Of Denial .

We also learned that the White House Press Secretary Tony Snow called the messages that Florida Representative Mark Foley sent to a 16-year-old page, “naughty emails.” When House Speaker Dennis Hastert was asked why the Republican Leadership did nothing more than warn Foley to “stay away” from the page, he replied “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”

Weren’t Jack Abramoff , Bob Ney , Claude Allen , Scooter Libby , Ralph Reed , Duke Cunningham , and Dick Cheney and his secret oil meetings enough? Wasn’t it bad enough that we were supposed to be greeted as liberators in Iraq, that Iraqi oil was going to pay for our effort, and that that there wasn’t even supposed to be an insurgency?

Wasn’t letting Osama Bin Ladden go when we had him trapped in Tora Bora because we didn’t want to commit the troops enough of a reason? Aren't the emergence of Iran as a regional power, the increasing prestige of Hezbollah , and the total breakdown of the Israeli – Palestinian peace process reasons enough?

Aren’t the record budget deficits and huge Congressional “earmarks” by so-called fiscal conservatives that are our children will have to pay for and the disastrous relief effort by Heckofajob Brownie et al enough?

Look at your children, then Mark Foley and the Republican leadership and ask yourself, “Whom should I vote for this November?”

Monday, October 02, 2006

Energy Consumption

October 06: 20.62 kWh/day 3.59 therm/day
September 06: 28.97 kWh/day 0.72 therm/day
August 06: 34.2 kWh/day 0.63 therm/day

We got our energy bill this week.

Last month we averaged 34.2 kWh/day and 63,000 BTUs/day. That's about the same as last year. Our cost is $0.1165/kWh and $1.41/therm.

Our gas bill is going to go up soon. We use about ten times more gas in the winter.

I think it's important to be aware of these numbers in order to be a good energy consumer and steward of the Earth.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers

Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers

Effective government depends on accurate, honest and timely advice from scientists and engineers. Science demands an open, transparent process of review and access to the best scholars from around the nation and the world. Mistakes dangerous to the nation’s welfare and security have been made when governments prevent scientists from presenting the best evidence and analysis. Americans should demand that all candidates support the following Bill of Rights:

  1. Federal policy shall be made using the best available science and analysis both from within the government and from the rest of society.
  2. The federal government shall never intentionally publish false or misleading scientific information nor post such material on federal websites.
  3. Scientists conducting research or analysis with federal funding shall be free to discuss and publish the results of unclassified research after a reasonable period of review without fear of intimidation or adverse personnel action.
  4. Federal employees reporting what they believe to be manipulation of federal research and analysis for political or ideological reasons should be free to bring this information to the attention of the public and shall be protected from intimidation, retribution or adverse personnel action by effective enforcement of Whistle Blower laws.
  5. No scientists should fear reprisals or intimidation because of the results of their research.
  6. Appointments to federal scientific advisory committees shall be based on the candidate’s scientific qualifications, not political affiliation or ideology.
  7. The federal government shall not support any science education program that includes instruction in concepts that are derived from ideology and not science.
  8. While scientists may elect to withhold methods or studies that might be misused there shall be no federal prohibition on publication of basic research results. Decisions made about blocking the release of information about specific applied research and technologies for reasons of national security shall be the result of a transparent process. Classification decisions shall be made by trained professionals using a clear set of published criteria and there shall be a clear process for challenging decisions and a process for remedying mistakes and abuses of the classification system.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Unwinding Bush

From The Atlantic October 2006


Unwinding Bush

How long will it take to fix his mistakes?

by Jonathan Rauch


H istory judges good presidents by what they do, bad ones by how long they take to undo. Although history hasn’t yet caught up with President George W. Bush, midterm elections are about to—and those are often a referendum on presidential performance. Now is therefore as good a time as any to jump to a conclusion: the question history will ask is whether Bush’s presidency was as bad as Richard Nixon’s or only as bad as Jimmy Carter’s.

Five years ago, with the ruins of the Twin Towers still smoking, many Americans—I should own that I was one of them—looked at Bush and thought they saw a Churchill, or at least a Truman: a leader fortuitously equipped for a difficult job at a critical moment. Bush’s partisans are still holding out for misunderestimated greatness, to be vindicated in the end. They think Bush will be to the war on jihadism what Truman was to the Cold War: the guy who established the course that will see the country through decades of peril.

To those disinclined to suspend judgment for fifty years, however, Bush’s course is looking less like a long road than a dead end. Even many conservatives have lost faith; in a recent interview with CBS News, no less a conservative luminary than William F. Buckley declared, “There will be no legacy for Mr. Bush.” For the disenchanted—again, including me—the relevant points of reference now are not Churchill or Truman but Nixon and Carter.

The URL for this page is

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gone for a week

So I'm gone for a week in Atlanta (sprawl and traffic jams at their worst) and come back to find out that Claire prefers to eat off Ellen's floors (apparently E married a mop-enabler) than her table yet also hates taking off her shoes, Madeline and Noey are now both into 4" spikes, there will soon be a massive posting of people's colons, perhaps even warrenting its own website (people with colons...gosh!), AR had a disturbing "birthday colonoscopy" message to Cuz Randolph, and our pope (who was a Nazi, suceeding a pope who faught Nazis) insulted all 1.3 Billion Muslims, much to my hate-filled, dead-to-me, fascist nephew's glee.

And, Le Cruset is on sale!

Gotta love email!

More about Atlanta to come.

Spinach from our CSA

Here's a message from Peter Seely, who owns Springdale Farms, our CSA.

Eat slow and local!

Greetings folks,

A few have asked us to comment on the recent outbreak of e-coli found in bagged spinach.

We cannot claim with 100% certainty that our produce is free from e-coli, (or any other potential toxin, for that matter). We never test our produce for those items (though I'd be very interested if someone were willing to pay to have those tests done). We also do not have enough knowledge of the e-coli virus to know exactly under what conditions it is most prevalent, and how it is spread, etc.

We do believe that our agricultural practices are much less likely to result in outbreaks like the current one as compared to the conventional practices, but more details than that are more than we can offer with any certitude.

We certainly will not hesitate at all before eating what we produce here on our farm, and are not worried about this particular outbreak. But we would like to keep abreast of information, as it comes available, as to how best to minimize the chances of introducing something toxic like e-coli into our vegetables, and would welcome additional comments, and references, if any of you come across information that you feel may be good for us to know about!


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Busy week

It's going to be a busy week coming up.

Tuesday morning I fly to Atlanta. That afternoon I am meeting with some of our JE Edwards experts to try to figure out some of the inventory issues we are experiencing. Tuesday evening I am having dinner with Michelle E., our head of Payroll.

Wednesday through Friday is Advanced Products Training. The syllabus looks pretty good: a lot of chemistry and theory.

Wednesday night our group is going out to dinner. Thursday night I am going out with one of the engineers there, Joe S., who is also a UW ChE and worked briefly at my plant.

I return on Friday.

Saturday we go to Appleton to see Noey, then on to Green Bay. Sunday is our Packer game at Lambeau.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Unearthed pipeline is link to the past

Erik Larson, in The Devil In The White City discusses this pipeline.

It carried Waukesha County water to 1893 World's Fair

Posted: Sept. 3, 2006

Waukesha - The treasure, though buried just a few feet deep, took more than 100 years to discover.

A segment of a water pipeline that connected a water spring in Waukesha County with the 1893 World's Fair, also called the Chicago Columbian Exposition, was recently unearthed in Kenosha County.

The segment of the line was saved and sliced into three pieces before being sent to local historian John Schoenknecht. It will soon be donated to the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum.

"In some ways it's priceless because there isn't a lot of it," Schoenknecht said.

Workers repairing stretches of roads in Kenosha County discovered the steel pipe in May. Each slice measured a little more than 6 inches in diameter and about 2 feet in length. Rusty and dented, the pipe certainly wasn't much to look at, and the workers considered scrapping the find. But a Kenosha County woman, who Schoenknecht said wished to remain anonymous, suspected the pieces of steel might be part of the pipeline and called him.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Lincoln Chaffee & Dr Smith

I like Lincoln Chaffee (R) senator from Rhode Island. I do hope he loses, though, for purely political reasons. He has a curious resemblance to Dr. Smith from Lost In Space.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Abbie IV and Roger Williams

My stellar niece, Abbie Popa, is now a student at Brown University. (She has a sushi bar in her dorm!)

My sister and brother-in-law, Mel & Frank,brought her there this week: see it here. While there they snapped this photo of a monument to Roger Williams, one of my personal heroes.

Williams and his role in inculcating Freedom of Religion in American society are discussed at length in the excellent book The Godless Constitution by Kramnick & Moore.

An excellent article on the same topic by Brooke Allen can be found here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Katrina - 1 Year Later

My Aunt Renee Sterling’s email regarding the 1-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.


Hurricane Katrina hit one year ago today. That's all that's been on T.V. lately and we watch and watch and watch more of it.

Last week Tom and I went to New Orleans to visit Ben and Stephanie. We had been through Lakeview not long after the hurricane but had never been to the 9th Ward or St. Bernard Parish. Saturday, Ben took us riding.

Things in New Orleans and surrounding areas are terrible. It is not only the poor black people who are still suffering. Although we didn't go through Lakeview, Stephanie told us it doesn't look any different than when we were there 9 months ago except for now having green -- the grass is growing, shrubbery, trees are green whereas before everything, everything was gray.

We rode through a very affluent area in the City Park area and almost all the homes are deserted. Some are being repaired, others are not. Miles and miles and miles, we rode for hours, as far as you could see, down every street, businesses closed -- drugstores, grocery stores, restaurants -- nothing opened. And deserted homes, mile after mile -- deserted!

Every once in a while you'd see some poor soul sitting on their front porch. Sitting. Watching. Wondering. There's still no electricity in many, many areas, no traffic lights, very little traffic. The biggest business is the hauling of debris. You pass hundreds of trucks hauling debris to the landfills in Avondale. One year and there is sadness everywhere you look. For people to say New Orleans will come back is ludicrous. The city will never, ever be the same. At the rate things are moving now, it would take 10 - 15 years, maybe more, to get everything just cleared out.

And we didn't see the mental anguish and struggles that people are going through. Stephanie told us that the day before we went they had to let their CFO go at the bank where she works. He was a very levelheaded man pre-Katrina. His home was badly damaged and is now repaired but even though, his post-Katrina mental state was terrible. He couldn't make decisions and was making serious mistakes. The bank offers counseling but even with this, it's just too soon to see positive results and changes to people whose lives have been affected so drastically. Losing his job certainly won't help his situation but business-wise, they had no other choice.

People can point fingers all they want. The blame can be placed with the president, the governor, the mayor, the police, the blacks, the whites, the poor, the rich, the government, the Corps of Engineers, FEMA -- it won't change a thing. It was a tragic, horrible storm, an act of God, something that we'll never understand in this life, something you cannot possibly fathom until you see it for yourself. And then still you wonder why -- how -- when -- what?

My prayer is that God will hold these people in the palm of His hand and gently, gently press them to His heart until they can adjust to a life they never imagined would be turned into what it is now, thanks to a lady named Katrina.


Where's George?

I got a "Where's George," $10 bill today. This is the first time I've gotten something other than a $1.

I like the whole Where's George thing: fun with money.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Colleague's Book

A colleague of mine, Chris Geszvain, has had his children’s book, Evergreen Academy And The Golden Club published. Here is his review of the book. You can get it through I soon hope to link to the first chapter so that everyone can read it.

He would appreciate and all feedback. I will make sure he gets it.

Read Chapter One Here.


Evergreen Academy and the Golden Club is a book with a heart. It’s a book combining mystery and fantasy. There are two main lines: one is the on-going mystery and the other is the mystery the whole series are based on.

The book starts when the main character Daniel Ray finds his father disappeared into thin air. He is then taken to the Evergreen Academy on Jade Island, where he finds his powers. He soon finds himself facing with problems most high school students facing even though his is an immortal. Meanwhile, he has to deal with his own mysterious past and helping another student finding a stolen magical weapon. To find clues, he has to venture into the sea and the jungle full of mythical creatures and dangers.

I really like the concept of the book, in which the world is not in imminent danger, and the heroes are not trying to save the whole human species. A lot of fantasy books have a super villain. There is only pure evil and pure good. The two battling it out is the main theme. It bears little resemblance to the world as I know it. Things are rarely white and black. In this book, no one is totally evil. There are only good intensions and bad behavior. As one character pointed out in the first book: “There is very little destruction caused by pure evil. Actually in this world, there is very little pure evil. Most destruction is the result of ignorance, greed or cowardice. The best way to make things right is through education, not punishment.”

I think the book carries good messages. For example, Daniel learned that punishing one wrong with another never makes it right. It’s also relevant to today’s world situation. For example, the damage caused by a storm created by one character is a reflection of the environmental problems due to human activities. You can really tell that the author cares about what’s going on and wants things to be better.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Panasonic DMC-TZ1A

We finally bought a new camera: a Panasonic DMC-TZ1A. We have yet to receive it.

Read a review from here. Or, the review from Asia.cnet here.

I will post my own later.

Friday, August 18, 2006

U.S. Judge Finds Wiretap Actions Violate the Law

From The New York Times...

Thank God for the ACLU!

August 18, 2006

U.S. Judge Finds Wiretap Actions Violate the Law

A federal judge ruled yesterday that the National Security Agency’s program to wiretap the international communications of some Americans without a court warrant violated the Constitution, and she ordered it shut down.

The ruling was the first judicial assessment of the Bush administration’s arguments in defense of the surveillance program, which has provoked fierce legal and political debate since it was disclosed last December. But the issue is far from settled, with the Justice Department filing an immediate appeal and succeeding in allowing the wiretapping to continue for the time being.

In a sweeping decision that drew on history, the constitutional separation of powers and the Bill of Rights, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of United States District Court in Detroit rejected almost every administration argument.

Judge Taylor ruled that the program violated both the Fourth Amendment and a 1978 law that requires warrants from a secret court for intelligence wiretaps involving people in the United States. She rejected the administration’s repeated assertions that a 2001 Congressional authorization and the president’s constitutional authority allowed the program.

“It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly when his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights,” she wrote. “The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another.”

Republicans said the decision was the work of a liberal judge advancing a partisan agenda. Judge Taylor, 73, worked in the civil rights movement, supported Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign and was appointed to the bench by him in 1979. She was the first black woman to serve on the Detroit federal trial court.

She has ruled for the A.C.L.U. in a lawsuit challenging religious displays on municipal property. But she has also struck down a Detroit ordinance favoring minority contractors. “Her reputation is for being a real by-the-books judge,” said Evan H. Caminker, the dean of the University of Michigan Law School.

The government said it would ask Judge Taylor to stay her order at a hearing on Sept. 7.

The Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union — which brought the case in Detroit on behalf of a group of lawyers, scholars, journalists and others — agreed that her order would not be enforced until then, but lawyers for the A.C.L.U. said they would oppose any further stay.

Administration officials made it clear that they would fight to have the ruling overturned because, they said, it would weaken the country’s defenses if allowed to stand.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, at a hastily called news conference after the decision, said he was both surprised and disappointed by the ruling on the operation, which focuses on communications of people suspected of ties to Al Qaeda.

Administration officials “believe very strongly that the program is lawful,” said Mr. Gonzales, a main architect of the program as White House counsel and the biggest defender of its legality in a series of public pronouncements that began after the program was disclosed by The New York Times last December.

“We’re going to do everything we can do in the courts to allow this program to continue,” he said, because it “has been effective in protecting America.”

Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, also described the surveillance program as a vital and lawful tool. “The whole point is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks before they can be carried out,” Mr. Snow said. “The terrorist surveillance program is firmly grounded in law and regularly reviewed to make sure steps are taken to protect civil liberties.”

Democrats applauded the ruling as an important affirmation of the rule of law, while lawyers for the A.C.L.U. said Judge Taylor’s decision was a sequel to the Supreme Court’s decision in June in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that struck down the administration’s plans to try detainees held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for war crimes.

“It’s another nail in the coffin of executive unilateralism,” said Jameel Jaffer, an A.C.L.U. lawyer.

But allies of the administration called the decision legally questionable and politically motivated.

“It is an appallingly bad opinion, bad from both a philosophical and technical perspective, manifesting strong bias,” said David B. Rivkin, an official in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush. “It is guaranteed to be overturned.”

Mr. Gonzales would not say whether the program played any role in foiling a plot last week to set off bombs in airliners bound for the United States from Britain. But Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois, suggested that it did play a role in the investigation.

In a written statement criticizing Judge Taylor’s ruling, Mr. Hastert defended the wiretapping operation and said that “our terrorist surveillance programs are critical to fighting the war on terror and saved the day by foiling the London terror plot.”

His office declined to elaborate.

Mr. Gonzales said he expected that the ruling would play a role in the debate in Congress over how and whether to change federal eavesdropping laws. But he said the exact impact was “hard to predict.”

Among competing proposals, Republican leaders have proposed legislation that would specifically permit the wiretapping program. Some Democrats, however, have introduced legislation that would restrict, or in some cases ban altogether, the government from conducting wiretaps on Americans without a warrant.

The White House is backing a plan, drafted by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, with the blessing of President Bush, that would allow a secret court to review the legality of the operation.

But in the view of critics, it could also broaden the president’s authority to conduct such operations. Mr. Gonzales said it appeared to administration lawyers that the Specter legislation, if passed by Congress, “would address some of the concerns raised by the judge in her opinion.”

Another element of the Specter legislation would force other lawsuits over the program — like the one brought by the A.C.L.U. in Detroit — to be consolidated into a single action to be heard by the secret court.

Judge Taylor rejected the government’s threshold argument that she should not hear the case at all because it concerned state secrets. Dismissal on those grounds was not required, she wrote, because the central facts in the case — the existence of the program, the lack of warrants and the focus on communications in which one party is in the United States — have been acknowledged by the government.

The government also argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they had not suffered concrete harm from the program. Judge Taylor ruled that the plaintiffs “are stifled in their ability to vigorously conduct research, interact with sources, talk with clients and, in the case of the attorney plaintiffs, uphold their oath of providing effective and ethical representation of their clients.”

Some plaintiffs, the judge wrote, have had to incur travel expenses to visit clients and others to avoid possible monitoring of their communications.

Going beyond the arguments offered against the wiretapping program by many legal scholars, Judge Taylor ruled that it violated not only the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but also the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Supreme Court has never addressed the question of whether electronic surveillance of partly domestic communication violates the Fourth Amendment. Judge Taylor concluded that the wiretapping program is “obviously in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

The president also violated the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrines, Judge Taylor ruled. Neither a September 2001 Congressional authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda nor the president’s inherent constitutional powers allow him to violate the 1978 law or the Fourth Amendment, she said.

“There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution,” she wrote, rejecting what she called the administration’s assertion that the president “has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution itself.”

Republicans attacked the decision. “It is disappointing that a judge would take it upon herself to disarm America during a time of war,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Judge Taylor did give the government a minor victory, rejecting on national security grounds a challenge to a separate surveillance program involving data mining. That ruling is consistent with recent decisions of federal courts in San Francisco and Chicago.

Judges in those cases drew a distinction between the wiretapping program, which the administration has acknowledged and defended, and the data mining program, which has not been officially confirmed.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Immigrants' Success Story

Here's a note from my more here.

Hey, Everyone -

I was so impressed last night with a family who came to America 28 years ago.

It was in 1978 that St. Mary's sponsored a Hmong family (the Hmong people are a tribe from Laos.) They lived in a house that St. Mary's owned. The father, Pang, later on became the school janitor. The mother, Chia, stayed at home to raise the children. Today neither Pang nor Chia can read nor write English. They speak very broken English. When they arrived in the U.S. they had 5 children rangeing in ages from about 10 down to a baby under a year old.

The culture that they came from was so different, it was very difficult them to learn our American ways. The children learned the English language rather quickly. The oldest girl became the spokesperson for the parents. This kid would have to do such things as go to the doctor with the parents to translate for the parents. The only way they knew how to grocery-shop was to look at the pictures of the foods on the cans. They had a food disposal in the house. When it broke, they stuffed the garbage into the sink and pushed it down with a broom handle. They put their mattresses on the floor, rather than on the beds.

The children went to our St. Mary's grade school, then went on to Xavier High School. Pang, the father, by this time had started working a 2nd job at Appleton Medical Center as a night-time janitor to help pay for their tuition. I'm sure they got some financial aid. Pang is still doing that working that 2nd job. Those kids all went on to college and got many degrees (I will list them later on.) They decided to throw a party to celebrate their accomplishments.

When the invitations arrived, it read that it would be a "Graduation Celebration for the Children of Pang and Chia Xiong" and it was to be held at the Paper Valley Hotel here in Appleton, a place where many people have their wedding dinners, etc. When Sr. Joanne saw that it was at the Paper Valley she said to me, "I feel bad that they're having their party at the Paper Valley." I asked her why and she said because they can't afford that. I told her, "Joanne, with all those advanced degrees that those kids have they probably all have very good jobs and they CAN afford it. I'm happy for them that they can now do what we, native-born Americans, can do."

The party started at 3:00 and ended at midnight. Sr. Joanne, Germaine, and I went together. There were about 300 people there when we arrived. We got there a little late because we had to get the 4:30 Mass at St. Mary's started, then we left. We knew that Hmong parties go on and on, but we were sorry we weren't there for the first 3 speakers.

The first two were Hmong people, both from Minneapolis. The other was an African-American woman who was the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Penn State Dickinson School of Law from 1994 to 2002. They showed a video with pictures from the time when they were little children. They honored their parents by handing the mother a diploma and the father a cap and gown. When he took it from them, he put it to his face and cried.

I could go on and on about the party, but I will just list for y'all the degrees they have received:

Anne Vang-Lo
B.S. - Education, UW Oshkosh
Bon Xiong
B.S. - Psychology, Brandeis University
M.S. - Education, UW-LaCrosse
A.S. - Fox Valley Technical
Ge Xiong-Moua
B.A. - Anthropology/Biology, Mount Holyoke College
M.A. - Education, Concordia University
ThaoMee Xiong
B.A. - Community and Culture, Mount Holyoke College
M.P.A., Columbia University
J.D., University of Pennsylvania
Pla Xoua Xiong-Hang
B.A. - Chemistry, Yale University
M.P.H., University of Michigan
M.D. Candidate, 2009, Wayne State University
Mary Xiong-Thao
B.A. - American Studies, Carleton College
M.B.A., UW-Parkside
Kathy Xiong
B.A. - Psychology, Amherst College
M.A. - Education, New York University

The second one listed above, Bon Xiong, is the only boy in the family. All the rest are girls. And only two of the girls are not married yet - ThaoMee and Kathy. All the married ones have children -- and lots of children. Anne, the oldest one, has 7 kids. Pla, the one who is in Medical School, has a 14 month old little girl and is expecting another baby in November.

This is, indeed, a great American success story.