Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Happy One Month Birthday Jack

A really crappy month, but we made it. Hugs to you too.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Afghani Brown is Bringing Me Down

While the Administrations imperialist war in Iraq grinds on with nary an end in sight, the former bright star in our militaristic firmament, Afghanistan, is sliding into chaos. A newly resurgent Taliban, assisted by fresh Al Qaeda operatives from Pakistan, have been slowly retaking large parts of the countryside. Where has the mainstream media been while this has been going on? Focused on the disposition of the mortal remains of Anna Nicole Smith, naturally.

Salon has an article today which examines exactly how screwed up things are in the Hindu Kush. I quote, “Last November, a CIA analysis of the Karzai government found it was losing control, and American ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann warned then that the U.S. would "fail" if the plan for action didn't include "multiple years and multiple billions." Our gains, once held firmly, have been lost and the coming year may portend Afghanistan's future, with ominous rumors about a spring offensive by insurgents floating down from the mountains.” Yet the administration continues to pour resources, military and civilian, into Iraq and the acceptable range of opinion expressed in the mainstream media has been again limited to the against the war/against the troops bullshit that has been force-fed to the country by the fascist Republicans since day one.

What explains the administrations reluctance to engage in battle some actual terrorists in the never-ending “war on terror”? While Al Qaeda had no presence in Iraq prior to the United States invasion in 2003, Afghanistan is a thicket of nasty types who have been utilizing America’s folly in Baghdad to increase their strength and numbers. It seems our priorities are completely reversed from where they should be. I suppose a never ending war on terror supports all sort of economies and businesses. Actually winning it would eliminate the justification for surveillance of American citizens and the abolition of the rule of law and cost Cheney and his cronies a few billion in lost wealth.

On the left, the netroots profess to be shocked, (shocked!) that the Democrats who were elected in November have spent most of their time arguing about who gets to stand where in the circular firing squad they’ve been forming since the day after the ballots were counted. Regular readers of this blog know full well my opinion of the Democrats ability to take their heads out of the corporate trough long enough to resist anything this administration has cooked up in its extrajudicial pajama parties.

Things over there are bad but they could get much, much worse. If Congress has even a shred of decency left in its corrupt and decaying body it should cut of the money to Iraq and hold impeachment hearings.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Being in the insurance business I have occasion to meditate on the essence of risk. Insurance companies after all are little more than glorified bookies and actuaries are akin to Vegas odds makers. These companies take a look at statistics of say, scuba diving accidents and run them through an algorithm to see exactly how risky it is and how much to charge to insure the risk. This helps explain why scuba diving insurance costs less than $100 per year; it simply isn't that dangerous. Many things we do every day are far riskier than scuba diving. Driving a car, crossing the street, all pose a risk of serious injury or death far exceeding the risk posed by strapping on a tank and regulator and heading for the briny deep. When people die diving, their deaths are often sensational in some odd way, i.e. they're eaten by a shark or left to flounder in the sea when the boat takes off, that sort of thing. This attracts the media like a bull shark to a floundering swimmer and everyone gets the wrong idea.

I’ve decided I’m going to keep diving. This is no small decision now that I am a single parent and thereby have sole responsibility for my son. Nevertheless, the arguable risks inherent in the sport are manageable if one possesses the right training and the right equipment and I believe that I have both. I will admit that there is a part of me that is afraid to leave the house lest something unfortunate happen to me and my son be rendered an orphan, but clearly I can’t live my life hiding from my own mortality. Who knows what the future holds? I retired my crystal ball at the end of last month. Perhaps, as a concession to the odds, I’ll steer clear of cave diving and 240 foot technical wreck diving, but regular trips to deep destinations remain on the agenda.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Habeas Corpus, Round Two

Well this week has kept the Patriot very busy, what with Anna Nicole’s will, Britney’s hair shaving escapades and the idea of tire-sized calamari rings from a giant squid found off the coast of Australia, not to mention the second round of American Idol. While America distracts itself with this meaningless blather, the Bush administration won a major victory in Federal Court when a U.S. appeals court Tuesday threw out the legal claims brought on behalf of the hundreds of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and ruled that they do not have a right to plead their innocence in an American court. In a particularly disingenuous 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal District held that the Constitution does not extend the right of habeas corpus to noncitizens who are held outside the sovereign territory of this country. "Cuba -- not the United States -- has sovereignty over Guantanamo Bay," wrote Judge Raymond Randolph. I’m sure this will be news to the Cuban government; I wonder if they’re measuring for drapes and picking out furniture? Shayana Kadidal, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York noted quite accurately that, "This decision empowers the president to do whatever he wishes to prisoners without any legal limitation, so long as he does it offshore. (It) encourages such notorious practices as extraordinary rendition and contempt for international human rights law." Not that the Bush administration was ever troubled by contempt for international law. However, now that the elections are behind them, several Democratic senators have said they will amend the Military Commissions Act to restore the traditional right to habeas corpus for all. Their efforts would face an almost certain veto by the President Bush and it is doubtful that 2/3rds of the senate can be marshaled to override it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Control, or Lack Thereof

One interesting side-effect, if you will, about going through the grieving process and interacting with others who have been through something similar is how absolutely tragic most people’s lives are. I mean, there are thousands of people who have experienced such fucked up bad luck that its amazing that they haven’t jumped off a bridge. I mean, if anyone is a candidate for that it’s me, but I don’t hold a candle to some of these people; entire families killed in car accidents except for one parent, that sort of thing. What is even more amazing is how everyone else thinks they’re somehow immune from it. We run around thinking how we control our lives and really any sense of control we have is completely illusory. We can perhaps control the little things, what sort of toothpaste we buy or what flavor of muffin we choose in the morning, but the big shit, the really big shit, is so beyond our ability to influence that to cede the point is almost incomprehensible. We expect to be able to mange our world; it’s our legacy as Americans for heaven's sake. It’s our birthright as New Yorkers. Despite my apparent laid back hippie persona (ahem), I actually have a bit of the control freak in me and the fact that this was something I couldn’t predict, manage or fix is making me a little crazy. The last time I felt this way was on 9/11 when I was running away from Tower 2. Remember my friends, life is not something we can put into little boxes and the Gods laugh at our plans.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Here's a recent photo of the best looking young fellow I know:

Perversion of Justice

If you had any doubt that prosecutors in this country have too much power and use it indiscriminately, you should check out this article in today’s Times. Briefly, a substitute teacher in Norwich Connecticut is facing 40, (yes 40) years in prison after she was convicted of inadvertently exposing her students to pornographic pop-ups when she couldn’t figure out how to turn off the classroom computer which was apparently infested with spyware. Is Connecticut truly such a backward place that a jury of 12 citizens is willing to send this teacher to prison for the rest of her natural life for being a Luddite? And what of the district attorney’s office who took this case to trial? They offered her a plea which carried no jail time, which she rightly refused. A clearer abuse of prosecutorial discretion is hard to find. Unfortunately her lawyer seemed not too bright either insofar as he failed to disclose his expert witness’s testimony prior to trial; an oversight which led to the judge suppressing most of his testimony. I sincerely hope that this poor woman’s appeal is successful. The violence emanating from Iraq every night, viewed on network television, is in my opinion far more damaging to “the children” than any porno pop-up.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Again, Anew

It is difficult for me to focus on the affairs of the world when the affairs of my personal life have been completely upended. Nevertheless, when I ask myself the eternal question, “What would Becky do?” the answer comes quickly. Fight on. Battling the power of the corrupt state was her raison d’etre, although at times we both were ready to toss in the towel and go live in the woods. Jack and I might get there yet, who knows. It is difficult to raise a child with values in a society that elevates the importance of money and power over people and community. The journey will be long and hard. Thankfully there are still good people who haven’t been swallowed up by our consumerist culture and burdened under the yoke of the corporate oligarchy. They are few in number but strong in spirit. Many of them have come to our aid in recent weeks and we appreciate everything they have done for us. I speak specifically of Becky’s colleagues at Legal Aid but in a larger sense the entire activist legal community in New York who’s outpouring of support, both financial and moral has made this time a little easier. Jack and I thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. So, onward.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Many, if not most of you are aware that my beautiful wife made the crossing to a better place on January 29, 2007 due to the presence of a previously undiscovered malformed blood vessel in her brain stem which ruptured after she went into labor. There was no warning and her pregnancy was by all accounts completely normal. Our son, Jack Becket Rutkowski was born by c-section and is a healthy and vibrant fellow. My intense grief at losing my life-partner is tempered by the realization that I have this beautiful gift that Becky left me and he is truly the center of my life now. The following is the printed version of the eulogy delivered by Kristin Bremmer at her funeral mass. I personal tribute by me will follow when I think I can write it. Thank you all for your support during this trying time.

I can’t possibly put into words the searing pain that I feel now. Becky was my best friend for the last 20 years and the loss that we all feel is a measure of the depth of the impact her life had on all of our lives. It is truly a tremendous honor that Becky’s family has asked me to speak here today.

Out of everyone we knew, Becky always had it together. She was the smartest, the prettiest and the kindest; but, she was also the most unassuming. She was the most beautiful person on the inside and the out. She was the quiet rock in the midst of a bunch of loud mouths. We would laugh that she was our front man because she made us all look better.

Becky was a true friend.

Her kind gentle soul was always there for us. She was there for the highest highs and the lowest lows. She took care of us. Becky understood friendship and we were fortunate that she was in our lives. To me – Becky was a true friend, a confidante, and a sister. With Becky as a friend, I never felt alone – she was a comfort, an ear to listen, and a soft voice of compassion. Becky’s friendship changed me – I learned to trust in my friends and I learned how deeply friends care.

Becky loved her family.

In my years with Becky, I learned of her deep love for her family despite long distances. Mr. and Mrs. Z. recently traveled to my hometown to investigate moving closer to Mark and Becky. The love they have for their daughter and the excitement of a new grandchild was evident. I selfishly hoped they would move to Pennsylvania so I could see Mark and Beck more frequently. Becky spoke often of her sibling’s expanding families – to her – family was an essential part of who she was. Her relationship with her sisters, Chris and Ann, and her brother, Adam, always seemed so much more -- they were her friends. And, she delighted in their children.

Becky was a great lawyer.

What characterized Becky were her principles. She put her beliefs into practice. She was an activist. She protested against those things that conflicted with her principles. During conversations with her she always directed you toward the most ethical view without being judgmental. Her gentle presence made her arguments all the more convincing because you knew they were coming from the right place.

Becky viewed her career as a public defender as a calling. She represented the poor, the troubled, those that society had thrown away. She was all about compassion, mercy, and justice. She believed that all people had dignity – that all people, no matter what they had done – had worth and deserved a voice, an advocate. She went into law, and, specifically, into criminal defense, to serve the poor, to serve the outcasts, to insure fairness and dignity and justice. She saw the good in all people and her gentle kindness, keen intelligence touch the lives of the hundreds of people she represented.

Becky was a great wife.

Mark and Becky have always been one word – one person. Their marriage was truly the merging of two people. They set the example of commitment. They made it through good times and bad and their love always came out on top. She viewed marriage as a union greater than herself. Everyone would agree that Mark is truly the luckiest man alive to have had Becky by his side.

In the last nine months Becky has literally been beaming with joy. I’ve never seen Becky happier than she was last Saturday. She was laughing with her friends, talking about her family, and discussing baby names. It was clear how much she loved her baby. I know she is smiling down upon Jack from Heaven. She is not to worry because he is the most loved child ever. Jack is truly a miracle and is blessed to have Becky for a mother because her beauty, intelligence and loving presence is passed down to him.

Mark, I know your loss is profound. You are not alone. Everyone here shares that loss with you. We love Becky and we love you. You are surrounded by a large circle of family and friends.