Thursday, June 26, 2008

FISA and Telecom Immunity

Last night Rob and I spent about an hour watching the video of Sen. Dodd's speech on the Senate floor yesterday in opposition of telecom immunity as part of the new FISA bill.

Most of you probably don't have an hour, but it would be a well-spent hour if you did. Sen. Dodd gives a lot of details about FISA, about the scope of spying that our government did on its citizens (think hundreds and hundreds of millions of emails -- I'd thought it was just phone calls -- regularly collecting over the course of five years), and about the current Administration's view on the rule of law. You can read the text of the speech at the same link.

Or here's a particularly good excerpt:

Indeed, Mr. President – as long as this case seems isolated and technical, they win. As long as it’s about another lawsuit buried in our legal system and nothing more, they win. The Administration is counting on the American people to see nothing bigger than that – “Nothing to see here.”

But there is plenty to see here, Mr. President – and it is so much more than a few phonecalls, a few companies, a few lawsuits.

What is at stake is nothing less than equal justice—justice that makes no exceptions. What is at stake is an open debate on security and liberty, and an end to warrantless, groundless spying.

This bill does not say, “Trust the American people; Trust the courts and judges and juries to come to just decisions.” Retroactive immunity sends a message that is crystal clear:

“Trust me.”

And that message comes straight from the mouth of this President. “Trust me.”

What is the basis for that trust? Classified documents, we are told, that prove the case for retroactive immunity beyond a shadow of a doubt.

But we’re not allowed to see them! I’ve served in this body for 27 years, and I’m not allowed to see them! Neither are a majority of my colleagues. We are all left in the dark.

I cannot speak for my colleagues—but I would never take “trust me” for an answer, not even in the best of times. Not even from a President on Mount Rushmore.

I can’t put it better than this:

“Trust me” government is government that asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties.

Those words were not spoken by someone who took our nation’s security lightly, Mr. President. They were spoken by Ronald Reagan -- in 1980. They are every bit as true today, even if times of threat and fear blur our concept of transcendent values. Even if those who would exploit those times urge us to save our skins at any cost.

But again, Mr. President:

“Why should I care?”

The rule of law has rarely been in such a fragile state. Rarely has it seemed less compelling. What, after all, does the law give us anyway? It has no parades, no slogans. It lives in books and precedents. And, we are never failed to be reminded, the world is a very dangerous place.

Indeed, that is precisely the advantage seized upon, not just by this Administration but in all times, by those looking to disregard the rule of law. As James Madison, the father of our Constitution, said more than two centuries ago, “It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger…from abroad.”

With the passage of this bill, his words would be one step closer to coming true. So it has never been more essential that we lend our voices to the law, and speak on its behalf.

What is this about, Mr. President?

It’s about answering the fundamental question: do we support the rule of law…or the rule of men? To me, this is our defining question—indeed it may be the defining question that confronts every generation.

This is about far more than a few telecoms – it is about contempt for the law, large and small.

Mr. President, I’ve said that warrantless wiretapping is but the latest link in a long chain of abuses when it comes to the rule of law.

This is about the Justice Department turning our nation’s highest law enforcement offices into patronage plums, and turning the impartial work of indictments and trials into the pernicious machinations of politics.

Contempt for the rule of law.

This is about Alberto Gonzales, the nation’s now-departed Attorney General, coming before Congress to give us testimony that was at best, wrong—and at worst, outright perjury.

Contempt for the rule of law – by the nation’s foremost enforcer of the law.

This is about Congress handing the president the power to designate any individual he wants as an “unlawful enemy combatant,” hold him indefinitely, and take away his right to habeas corpus—the 700-year-old right to challenge your detention.

If you think that the Military Commissions Act struck at the heart of the Constitution, you’d be understating things—it did a pretty good job on the Magna Carta while it was at it.

And if you think that this only threatens a few of us, you should understand that the writ of habeas corpus belongs to all of us—it allows anyone to challenge their detention.

Rolling back habeas rights endangers us all: Without a day in court, how can you prove that you’re entitled to a trial? How can you prove that you are innocent? In fact, without a day in court, how can you let anyone know that you have been detained at all?

Thankfully, the Supreme Court recently rebuked the President’s lawlessness and ruled that detainees do indeed have the right to challenge their detention.

Mr. President, the Military Commissions Act also gave President Bush the power some say he wanted most of all: the power to get information out of suspected terrorists—by virtually any means.

The power to use evidence gained from torture.

I don’t think you can hold the rule of law in any greater contempt than sanctioning torture, Mr. President.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

LeeAnn Rimes and other weekend adventures

Friday I was exhausted. I flew to NYC on Thursday for a Thursday night event and then jetted right back on a 6:55am flight on Friday. No time to see anyone at all in NYC. No time even to sleep. Friday was a long work day once I got back, although thankfully I worked at home, which made it much more comfortable.

Friday night we were thrilled to find that a new bar in our 'hood has finally opened -- The Pony. They are operating with a limited menu, but we enjoyed our chicken sandwiches. It was a little late, but we didn't get there until after 9pm. Hopefully the crowd will turn a little more towards the chill direction because we love having a neighborhood sports bar so close.

Saturday morning Rob and I met up with our friend Georgia for brunch at Victory's Banner. We'd never been there before and we could not have loved more the bottomless cups of chai. Wow.

While we were waiting for our table, Rob suddenly said, "There's LeeAnn Rimes." Rob is extremely gifted in the spotting people he knows department. And virtually every celebrity sighting I've had in my life has followed Rob pointing out the celebrity to me. But still. LeeAnn Rimes at a random Roscoe Village brunch joint?

Well, Rob was right. We went inside when our name was called and we were seated right next to the chairs where folks were waiting for a table. My chair was literally less than a foot from one of those chairs, and in that chair was LeeAnn Rimes. We sat down as one of the staff members was figuring out who Ms. Rimes was.

"Why are you here?"

"We just came from a yoga lesson and they recommended it."

"Why are you in town? Do you have a concert?"

"Yes, we have a show at Soldier Field tonight."

"Soldier Field? Wow. That's a lot of people."

"Well there are six of us performing."

"Do you want to sing for us this morning?"

"Oh, no, I...."

"Come on, sing for us."

"Oh, no...."

I started feeling badly for her at this point and she was seated a few tables away shortly after this. So I tried to focus back on our own conversation. Much as I'd have loved to tell LeeAnn Rimes that her voice kicks major @ss, she really deserved a little privacy. I will say that she's in amazingly great shape, although on the thin side, as all celebs seem to be.

Apart from the celeb sighting though, brunch was great. Thanks Georgia! Later that afternoon we wandered over to Greenmaker, Resa's work actually, to check out bamboo flooring. Hopefully we'll be putting in new flooring in our master and guest bedrooms soon. And Saturday night we had a lovely dinner at Bon Soiree.

Sunday was more of a work day, much like Saturday afternoon. But Sunday night we went over to one of my work colleague's homes for some fantastically grilled steak. Good food, good company yet again.

All in all we had a lovely weekend. Although I can't believe LeeAnn is leaving town without saying goodbye.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


More often that I'd prefer, I stay up late working after Rob goes to bed. I've probably already said to everyone who reads this, and probably blogged about it, but one of my favorite things about Rob is that no matter how soundly he is sleeping when I crawl into bed, when I say "I love you" he always mumbles "I love you" back. Sometimes I even get an "I love you, yo." Rob never remembers these moments in the morning though.

Sunday night was one such late night. Before I even got ready for bed I was fumbling around in the dark trying to plug in my blackberry when I heard Rob half-asleep tell me that he unclogged the bathroom sink drain. Sweet. It's been really annoying lately. So I said thanks, knowing Rob would not remember and tell me about the drain again in the morning. But then Rob mumbled, "French fries and the Arctic Ocean." I tried not to laugh because I didn't want Rob to wake up. But I couldn't help whispering "What honey?" "What?" he mumbled back. "You just said 'french fries and the Arctic Ocean." "I'm french fries and the Arctic Ocean. I'm hot and cold at the same time." Well obviously. :)

Must have been something about his unconscious thinking of plumbing. Who knows. But I love that Rob, even asleep, could make "French fries and the Arctic Ocean" make sense. Rob was very entertained by his unconscious wackiness when I told him about it on Monday.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Old home, New home

Rob and I spent this past weekend in DC. It was the weekend of the annual American Constitution Society convention, which I've been attending since 2004. It was also Father's Day on Sunday, so Rob came with me so that we could hang out with his dad as well. 

DC is hot. Swampy hot. I'd forgotten how much more humid and sticky it feels there compared to Chicago. Still, we haven't had enough hot weather in Chicago yet, so I was glad to pack for a trip and not even bring a jacket. I arrived on Thursday and stayed with my friend Carly that night. We went to a late dinner at a new Thai place called Rice. Well named! If you got there, skip the main dishes and just get several orders of their awesome rice. 

The ACS convention kicked off on Friday. The best part of the convention for me is catching up with the friends I've met through ACS over the years, including some truly great mentors. Friday's lunch speaker was Sen. Leahy, who gave a more nuanced speech than most elected officials give to ACS crowds. The day's programming was capped off with a speech by Eric Holder, who was particularly thoughtful as well. My friend Elliot introduced me to Holder after the speech and he was a genuinely nice and engaging man. We wished him luck guiding Obama's VP selection process these days. 

While I was busy at the convention, Rob was busy with his friend Brian schmoozing with world class athletes as they saw Alexander Ovechkin be presented with a key to DC. Friday night, Rob and I decided to grab dinner on our own before bonding with more DC friends.

DC is truly the smallest city in America some days. On Friday night we found out that Rob's friend Peter (whose place we were staying at) lives on the same block as two old DC friends of mine. And as we walked to dinner on Friday, we ran into yet another old friend of mine while crossing 16th Street. Saturday night we went to my friend Charlie's house for a party, where we met two more people who are good friends with my friends who live on Rob's friend's Peter's block. Did you follow that? Probably not. The short story is that in DC, everybody knows everybody! 

Saturday morning we scooted out to the suburbs for a couple hours. Rob's dad's wife's son's daughter (whew) was turning two. We joined the small celebration and scored some Carvel ice cream cake for our trouble. :) Then we headed back into the city. I went back to the ACS convention where I heard Supreme Court reporters reflect on this past year, a group of brilliant constitutional scholars ponder the future of constitutional interpretation, and more. I also finally tracked down one of my favorite ACS buddies, my good friend Doug. Meanwhile Rob met up with his friend Christian to watch some Euro Cup soccer

After a short nap at Peter's Saturday evening, Rob and I headed out to Charlie's party on Saturday night where I had a full three beers in one evening (that never happens!). My college buddy Elliot works on the Hill with Charlie, who I know from my law school internship on the Hill, so we caught up with Elliot there... the same Elliot who'd introduced me to Eric Holder the night before. (Did I mention the small world thing? :) Then Elliot, Rob and I headed off for 2am falafel in Adams Morgan, which is way more insane than it used to be. Or maybe I'm just way older. Probably both. 

Sunday morning we slept in and then met Rob's dad and his wife for a delicious Father's Day brunch at Blue Duck Tavern near Georgetown. We had a great time at brunch. I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I am very lucky in the in-law department. Then we headed back to Peter's pad for the afternoon. Rob's friend Brian joined us sitting outside on Peter's sunny deck for a couple hours before we had to hit the road for the airport. 

All in all it was a great weekend, with lots of reminders of how much we loved and still miss our DC days. But when we got home late Sunday night, we were so happy to be here. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Going out on Top

News reports are saying that New York Football Giants Defensive End Michael Strahan is set to announce his retirement.  In case you were wondering, this is a big deal.  During my time as a Giants fan, there has been a continuous torch bearer on the Giants defense.  When I was younger, it was Lawrence Taylor (if you are reading this and you don't know who Lawrence Taylor is, stop reading and educate yourself... I'm serious, stop reading this and return to the blog as soon as you've had the opportunity to properly appreciate the awesomeness that is Lawrence Taylor the football player).  LT retired in the early 90's, and was quickly supplanted by new stud, Michael Strahan.

For 15 years Strahan has been setting the standard for the DE position.  Not the strongest, or the fastest, but a lethal combination of both, Strahan was the benchmark against which all other DE's were measured.  Was Strahan as dominant as LT?  No.  But through his work ethic, athletic ability and intelligence, he consistently ranked as the one of the most effective defensive players of his generation.

I've never been the Canton, OH, but I might just make the trip in 5 years.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The hot weather has arrived

Note: Katherine wrote this under Rob's account. Didn't want the authorship line below to mislead.

This weekend was particularly muggy. Friday I was so relieved to be done with jacket weather. But then Saturday the humidity was in full force. We were at a wine festival in the north suburbs with Resa and Nick. We left around 4pm and made it to our car just in time to beat an absolute downpour. A nice stroke of luck.

Today we grilled out at Jeff and Sara's, although we spent a lot more time than planned indoors because it was still so hot and sticky out. It feels like Chicago missed the memo on how to nicely transition from winter to summer. We never got real spring!

Friday, June 06, 2008

I have been saying this forever

Gender differences in math ability stem from gender inequality.

I say this all the time. I am a broken record.

But in case you still don't believe me or need to convince someone else, here's yet another (awesome) study showing just that.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pound It

I really really really don't think the whole Michelle and Barack fist bump should be getting this much news play. There are way more important things to talk about -- from history-making to policy nuance.

Still, I admit I totally loved the moment. That's exactly how Rob and I say to each other, "Yup, you're/we're/that's wicked awesome." So to see the moment between our Dem nominee and his wife... well, it's about partnership, pride in your partner and your partnership, and savoring life's good moments. Very nice to see. Very refreshing. Very hopeful and changeful.

But... the article from which the above picture is pulled makes me worry that my days about blogging about campaign trail sexism are far from over. Not because of this article per se, but because this article hints at the greater scrutiny bearing down on Michelle Obama. I can't imagine the likenings to Hillary Clinton are far behind, which can't mean anything good for the Obamas.

Rob's on Fire

Not literally.

Here's Rob's game preview for the Chicago Fire vs. DC United match this weekend.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Pics from Cincy

For the full weekend's color commentary, see the post below.

Griffey in the outfield with the big board announcing his career home run count in the background.

Griffey swings for the fences but flies out.

Post-game, a little dehydrated.

Dave, you have to send me your pictures from Saturday!!

Weekend in Cincy

After work on Friday, Rob and I jumped in the car and hit the road for Cincinnati, Ohio. Not too far into Indiana we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for a cheesy mystery on tape. (This time we settled on Gone by Lisa Gardner, which lasted all the way to Cincy and half the way back... and was fairly entertaining too.) A little past Indianapolis we stopped at a Wendy's for dinner. And with only one wrong turn to our names, we arrived in Cincinnati around 11pm local time.

The trip was a long overdue visit to my old friend Dave, who's been living there for four years. Dave's visited us in Chicago a couple times, and we've only been here two years. Dave and I have known each other for 15 (?!?!) years now and seen each other through thick and thin. The least I can do is visit every four years!

Dave lives in a great neighborhood called Hyde Park with lots of old homes and non-chain stores. We stayed in on Friday night, but ventured out on Saturday.

For Saturday lunch we hit Zip's Cafe for burgers, onion rings and chili cheese fries. Absolutely delicious. Fully weighed down with food, we wandered into a game and hobby shop next door where we picked up a couple presents for relatives which will remain nameless lest those relatives read this post! We drove up into the hills surrounding the city where we got some gorgeous views of downtown. We drove across the river to Kentucky (Rob had never been there) and enjoyed a beer sampler at Hofbrauhaus. (Really, Rob and Dave enjoyed the sampler while I took a sip of a select few.) We had just enough time on our way back to Dave's house to stop for ice cream at Graeter's. Fantastic, especially since the sun was shining so brightly.

Dinner was with four of Dave's friends, who were a ton of fun. We ate pizza at Dewey's. Our meal included a pizza called the "Bronx Bomber," which I should have avoided on principle. Rookie mistake. Then we headed downtown to meet up with a few more of Dave's friends at the Cadillac Ranch. A little loud for these 31-year-old ears, but we managed to score a table outside. The crowd turned a little crazy after midnight, though. By 1:30am we were happy to head out. Sadly, no one in our crew had ridden the mechanical bull, but many a member of the five bachelorette parties there had partaken in that fun.

We slept in Sunday and then made our way to Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds. Yup, that's it's actual name, if you didn't already know. We were psyched for the game because Ken Griffey Jr. had hit home run number 599 in Saturday's game and the Reds were playing pretty well. Our seats turned out to be in the shade, which made the 85 degree day perfect baseball weather.

Griffey's first two at bats saw a single and a double. His third saw a pop up. His fourth came in the bottom of the 7th with 2 outs, a man on first, and the Reds holding a 5-2 lead. As if I could hate the Braves any more than I already do, they intentionally walked Griffey in what was sure to be his last at bat of the game. Who walks the number 3 hitter to get to the number 4 hitter... especially when you don't need a force out... especially when the number 4 hitter is having a better season??? Lame lame lame.

Still, the game was a great one, with some awesome small ball including a successful squeeze bunt! The Reds' pitcher had a no hitter going through five and should have held it through six, but the scorer credited the Braves with a hit following a botched throw to first base.

After the game, we hit the road. Of course we stopped for Steak 'N Shake shakes a little before we left Indiana.

Four states in just over 48 hours plus fabulous local eats, a baseball game with a home team victory and lots of time catching up with an old friend. Not bad!