Sending Help to Sudan

Having just finished Samantha Power's stellar A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, it is gratifying to see that we may not be completely unable to do better:

After weeks of negotiations, the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted Thursday to send 10,700 peacekeepers to Sudan to monitor an accord ending a 21-year civil war between the government and southern rebels.

The Security Council hopes the move will not only create lasting peace in southern Sudan after the civil war but help end current violence in the country's western Darfur region, where the number of dead from a conflict between government-backed militias and rebels is now estimated at 180,000.

This is still long overdue, but compared to our reaction to Rwanda (where we actually pushed the UN to withdraw its peacekeeping contingent), this is a vast improvement. I highly recommend that anyone troubled by the litany of genocides in the last century (and the American lack of response) should read Power's Pulitzer-prize winning book, and begin educating yourself about the situation in Darfur.

Congress and Schiavo

I suppose I am too old to be surprised by this sort of thing, but I am really quite mortified by the actions being taken in Congress regarding the Terry Schiavo case. It is a nightmare scenario for a states rights libertarian (which is vaguely what I'd call myself), yet the vanguard of this movement is led by those would supposedly champion the importance of federalism and of local government rule, and have spent decades trying to limit access to federal courts!

This case has been completely litigated, through every level of the Florida courts, with appeals to the US Supreme Court, with dozens of rulings on Schiavo's status. Her husband, doctors, and the Florida judiciary all agree on the proper course of action. But just because Congress doesn't like that, they are giving de novo jurisdiction of the case to federal courts, ordering the federal judiciary to completely disregard all of the testimony and decisions that have already been rendered. This is a total abuse of federal power, attempting to reopen a court case by creating new jurisdiction solely to cover these litigants.

The fact that this legislation ONLY applies to the Schiavo case also raises totally separate equal protection problems, and is precisely the type of thing a legislature should not be involved in.

Do I know all the details about this case? No. Do I have a personal opinion on whether the husband is really looking out for his wife's interests? No. What I do have is a confidence in the judicial process of the state of Florida, that after hearing all of the testimony about this case (and not just the particular details beneficial to one side or the other, like on FoxNews), the courts have rendered good and sufficient decisions.

To allow Congress to essentially overturn rendered decisions by creating new federal jurisdiction is a recipe for federal overreach and the destruction of what little state sovereignty still remains. That it is being done by those who normally stake their political livelihood on protection of local power shows that this is political pandering of the absolute lowest kind. I hope people can see through it.

Check out Jack Balkin and Andrew Cohen at CBS News for more.

They Made Canseco Look Good

I do not know who Mark McGwire retained as counsel, but he ought to fire whomever told him to spout this nonsense at a Congressional hearing:

Former St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire refused to answer questions about steroid use during his playing career at a congressional hearing Thursday, repeatedly telling a House committee he was "not here to talk about the past."

As anyone could have predicted, this went over like a ton of bricks and all the major newspapers went with "McGwire won't talk" as the theme of their front-page coverage. Sportwriters, who disagree with each other as part of their genetic makeup, are unanimous that McGwire's performance did irreparable damage to his image, singlehandedly asterisked his home run record, and may cost him a first ballot Hall of Fame vote, if not HOF status completely.

The larger story, though, is that somehow, in the bizarro world of Congressional hearings and Major League Baseball, Jose Canseco came off as the most reasonable, truthful, reliable person involved. Rafael Palmeiro may have gotten just angry enough to absolve himself, but neither Schilling's backing off his years of steroid-bashing nor Sammy Sosa pretending he didn't speak English were any more credible than McGwire's interest in looking to make a "positive influence."

All in all, a horrendous day for a sport I love, but one that Selig, Fehr, and these cheaters we call baseball players richly deserved.

One Interesting Travel Note

Maybe it was just that I had barely finished Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and was half-way into Kafka's The Trial, but navigating through the Atlanta airport (where we connected from Charlottesville to Montego Bay) and then Jamaican customs seemed even more bizarre than air travel usually does. Of particularly note was the flight that was supposed to be leaving from the gate directly opposite ours.

It was also a Delta flight, also going to Montego Bay. Ours was scheduled to leave at 10:25, and had an on-time departure. The "Other Flight" had been scheduled to leave at 8:40, but was now delayed until 10:40.

So bizarre thing number one, which I'm told happens all the time: our later flight was actually going to leave before the delayed one, even though they had all been waiting there for hours, and were going the same place as us.

That's nothing, however, compared to what happened next. For whatever airline stupidity reason, they had oversold our flight by at least 5 or 6 seats. So around 9:30, they start announcing over the PA system that they are willing to give "Delta dollars" and free hotel accomodations to anyone who will stay an extra day in Atlanta (not an easy task with a bunch of people headed to Jamaica).

But at the exact same time, the gate personnel for the Other Flight begin announcing that they have extra emergency row seats available, so anyone that wants to be able to stretch their legs should come to the desk and request a seat change.

I felt like I was going out of my mind. I turned to my wife and asked the apparently unthinkable, unanswerable question: why don't they just move a few people from our flight to the Other Flight?

My gut instinct is that we would eventually be much better off if we just let these crazy airline corporations drive themselves into collapse, and start fresh with a new system. This one is... well... broken.

Wedding, Jamaica, the Last Two Months of School

Our wedding went absolutely perfectly. We were prepared to deal with a few things going wrong, even after all that planning. But then nothing did. The location was beautiful, all the vendors were prompt, professional, and damned good at what they do. The guests all arrived on time, there were enough chairs, etc. The ceremony itself went beautifully. It was performed by George Bailey, who was sheriff of Albemarle County for 37 years, and who has written a gorgeous civil ceremony combining historical elements of colonial-era Virginia, Kahlil Gibran, and traditional Irish weddings. It was a very moving ceremony that touched all the important traditional elements we wanted, without invoking the cliches that we've all heard hundreds of times.

Dinner was delicious, and our first dance was a major surprise. Without telling anyone, we'd taken a few foxtrot lessons. So all of our friends and family expected us to just get up and sway, and instead we did the foxtrot! I think that impressed people as much as anything else. The rest of the night went by in a flash, with lots and lots of dancing, a lot of cake, and plenty of smiles and laughter. We had a wonderful time, and it seems like all of our guests did as well.

We got home after midnight, and peformed the traditional wedding night ritual of promptly falling asleep in preparation for our 4:45 alarm. As some cosmic joke, our flight to Jamaica left at 6:40 in the morning the next day, so the wedding barely felt over by the time we were on our way out of the country.

We spent five nights at the new Sandals Whitehouse resort. It was a perfect vacation for a honeymoon. I am not generally a fan of just sitting by the beach or pool for several days in a row, but I'm not sure we could have handled anything else. It was Wednesday before we actually felt normal again. So in that sense, it was very welcome that we didn't have to worry about where to eat, how to pay for things, etc. We just sat by the pool, sipped pina coladas (well, virgin pina coladas for me), read our books, and enjoyed being able to look at each other and say "You're my wife! You're my husband!" (sidenote: it pretty much defines what a dork I am that on my Caribbean beach honeymoon, I brought, read and enjoyed Kafka's The Trial, Borges' Labyrinths, and Nabokov's Pale Fire).

We don't have the wedding photos back from our photographer yet (a couple more weeks still), but here's a few shots from the honeymoon. The first three are the different angles off of our balcony (the third one shows the French village pool). The next two show the main pool and its swim-up bar, where we spent a lot of our time. And the last photo shows a first person view of what we were doing 90% of the time we were there. It feels good to be back, and great to be married.

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With This Ring....

The day is finally here. I'll be getting married around 6pm this evening, enjoying a wonderful night with friends and family, and then rising bright and early for our flight to Jamaica. 84 degress, sunny, and married: here we come.

Another Glamour Shot

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I took this photo about five minutes ago, and she's still laying over there doing exactly the same thing. Well, actually she's licking her paws and using them to clean her head.

Our friends have a hard time believing it, but this is actually her most common way of laying around. Occasionally she'll really stretch out and meow. My fiancee says it is because she feels so safe, and is thus comfortable exposing her belly. Whatever the reason, it's pretty darn cute.