Zen and the Art of Commuting

Most modern workers spend an appreciable amount of their time commuting to and from work. Some do it in cars, others take trains or ferries, a few even fly.

On morning commutes, people are thinking and gearing up for the day ahead. More than a few are dreading the prospect of what awaits them. That’s why the rate of heart attacks is higher on Monday mornings. The shock of it all is apparently too shocking for some of us. However, it’s also when most people have their best ideas. We suppose that if you think a good idea on how to reorganize your department for the fifth time this year balances out a potential heart attack, you’re certainly management material.

In the evening, people are tired or in a hurry to do something they haven’t been able to squeeze into their busy lives – say blogging for instance. Statistically, commute times are longer in the evening than the morning. Counter-intuitive we know, but there you go. How DO more people come out than go in?

We haven’t seen the statistics for heart attacks and having good ideas on the way home, but we guess both are lower. First, the relief of being released from a cubicle farm is enough to lighten the load for anyone. Second, you’re out of ideas. The well probably ran dry along about 11 that morning.

The trick to overcoming the boredom and frustration of a commute is to take a Zen approach. Just sit back and relax, because you’re not going anywhere fast.

We like to enjoy the view. This works if you’re fortunate enough to commute in a beautiful place. Northern California has enough folded green mountains and sparkling Bay views to overwhelm all but the most jaded commuters – even if power lines, instant communities, and huge smog-belching semis sometimes mar the view.

We even find ways to make the bad things about the roadside environment look better. Have you ever looked at the gentle rise and fall of a power lines beside the highway? It’s beautiful in its own sine wave kid of way. The huge latticework towers, silhouetted against the sky, even evoke strength and architectural beauty if you’re open to the experience.

Counting how many cheaters drive in the HOV lanes is another of our freeway games. It’s an interesting psychological exercise in how people tick. Are there characteristics about them that seem to correlate to this dishonest behavior? (Aside from being predominately men, none that we can see.) What about the kinds of cars they drive? (There do seem to be more junkers and fast cars than family sedans.) Sometimes we do the math to show that 23 cheaters times the $273 (who came up with that number?) fine equals $6279 the state could use to ease our debt crunch.

Nature even abounds. On trips across the San Francisco Bay, nature treats commuters to a never-ending display of fauna. Hundreds of bobbing grebes float next to a flock of pelicans. Funny cormorants drape themselves over the power line towers – wings outstretched like crucifixion victims – trying to catch the rays of sun.

So, you see, beauty is where you find it – even if it is from the windshield of a car crawling through the long death march home. Maybe a little highway Zen will save you from that Monday morning heart attack.

Big Tony Knows How He’ll Vote

It’s clear from their actions that the Emperor and his court jester Dick wouldn’t know the Constitution if it walked up and pissed on their shoes as they richly deserve. They don’t have use for such niceties as due process, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press out in the wild badlands of Texas and Wyoming. The evil twins only seem to care about those parts of the Constitution that strike their fancy. Freedom of religion (as long as it is evangelical Christian) and freedom to make a buck (we know it’s not there, but they don’t seem to) are tops on their list.

Despite their simpering about “judicial activists” who “interpret” the Constitution, they seem to like playing fast and loose with it too. Exhibits A-D: warrantless wiretapping, holding people without charges for indefinite periods, torture, and the old Two Prisoner Monte game they’ve been running in Europe. And these are the things we know about.

In addition to the aforementioned hanky panky, Pat Robertson’s prayers were answered and the members of the Big Dick Rod & Gun Club were awarded two (for now) seats to fill on the Supreme Court. The Roberts and Alito confirmation hearings were long on the abortion issue and short on most everything else, but the judicial Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb and their conservative cohorterie on the court are headed for their first brush with the Presidential shenanigans soon.

First up is whether the detainees at Guantanamo have any legal standing under US law. It’s nice to know that justice Antonin “Big Tony” Scalia has kept an open mind as he prepares to hear the case.

In a speech at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland, Scalia pronounced himself, “astounded” by the “hypocritical” reaction in Europe to the prison. “War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts,” Newsweek quoted Scalia as saying. “Give me a break.”

A Swiss audience member, apparently more familiar with the US Constitution than Big Tony, challenged Mr. Miscarriage of Justice Scalia. His response? “If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son, and I’m not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it’s crazy,” Scalia raved.

We believe he based that brilliant legal argument on Article 1776 of the US Code. It apparently stipulates, “If Big Tony’s kid is out on the battlefield all amendments to the US Constitution are automatically abrogated in favor of the esteemed wisdom of Mr. Antonin Scalia who will lead us into the blinding light of justice spurned.”

Some people may ask why the administration is making such a hubbub over the trials if the bad guys are indeed as bad as Dub claims them to be. One answer might be that through the sheer incompetence of his prosecutors, they can’t even manage to carry out a sentencing trial for someone who confessed and has been convicted. The depths of incompetency in ever facet of the administration continues to boggle our omnipotent mind daily.

After all, Zacarias Moussaoui is still spouting lunacy in court, the prosecutors are busy shooting themselves in the foot, and if the sentencing phases continues on its present course the government will be lucky if Zack is sentenced to 20 years at hard labor as the CEO of Dubai Ports World and fined to a $16 million bonus for being the nuttiest darn guy the court has ever seen.

The administration apparently has little to worry about with Big Tony on the case though. However, in view of the good justice’s decision to decide the facts about the case before the case, we’d like to give him a little tutorial on a law that he should know well by now. Title 28, Section 455 of the U.S. Code says:

Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”


Now we’re no Supreme Court justice – hell, we don’t even play one on TV – but we figure our legal mind is at least as good as Big Tony and his ideological sidekick Lil’ Sam Alito and we think that passage means Big Tony should be a good little boy, recuse himself from the case, and crawl back beneath whatever rock Reagan found him under.

And if our idea of “fairness” was the same as Big Tony’s, we’d assume to know exactly how Alito, Roberts, and Clarence “There’s a Pubic Hair on My Coke” Thomas would vote, even if they were sensible enough not to mutter it aloud.

Nope, we won’t call for them to recuse themselves. We won’t pretend to know how they’ll vote (although we do have our suspicions). We’ll give them the fair chance to hear arguments and decide the case on its merits because we’re not a believer of “judicial activism” either. It seems we’re more respectful of the Constitution than Big Tony.

But then, that’s not hard is it?

As We See It: License to Scare Edition

It’s been a busy week with lots of news and no time to comment on it. Here’s the latest installment of As We See It.