Friday, September 30, 2005

Scotland the Brave

I have heard Scotland the Brave twice on the radio the past two days. I see the men in their kilts, playing the bagpipes, and marching into battle where all virtue is stripped save for bravery and caring for the fallen and suffering, making life both simple and horrible.

The song transcends battle though. I feel a call to life and its potential when I hear the song. I feel it was important to have lived in this world no matter what.

From Raymond Carver:
Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Just a Feeling

I have faith I am certain; I am certain I have faith. What about the feelings and the emotions arising from uttering those statements?

I spent a lot of time writing in my journal this week. The journal is a blessing and a curse. I get to try out new thoughts and ideas and see how they play without worrying about whether they are born of blind ignorance and stupidity. However, what enters the writing in my journal is a whining voice that feels sorry for myself as if I am this much oppressed being even though I know I am not unless I take my own actions and decisions into account, take credit for my faults, allow for the ways I oppress myself.

The blog is different though. It's public. My ignorance, stupidity, and self promoting ruminations shine forth for all to see. However, it does allow me to pause while writing and question myself about whether I am happy if only for a psychologically fleeting moment. I often find I am happy in a trivial way, although not fulfilled.

I am menaced by the gap between reality, and my perception and conception of it. I am certain about that even though it is only a feeling.


Another one of those mornings when the sky is so clear and bright it dominates the grayness of the city, makes me forget I'll spend the day passing in and out of shadows. Nice.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

What Block?

Each time I feel I have writer’s block I read one of my favorite Raymond Carver poems.
Sunday Night

Make use of the things around you.
This light rain
Outside the window, for one.
This cigarette between my fingers,
These feet on the couch.
The faint sound of rock-and-roll,
The red Ferrari in my head.
The woman bumping
Drunkenly around in the kitchen . . .
Put it all in,
Make use.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Talking about my generation

What happened to us, the hedonistic generation, the ones that the neocons like to talk about?

We got married, worked in corporate America, and consumed our fair share.

Yes, we were hedonists.

What of the neocons? They never went to war, but they grew up to love it dearly.

And here we are. Me and them.

Are you sure?

"I don't love you anymore," she said.

"Are you sure?" I don't want it to end this way," I said.

"Yes, I'm sure," she said.

And that ended it. She was gone forever, never to be seen again.


An odd thing about the moral high ground is that there are often many of them. Take the Iraq War for instance.

When the Iraq War received its highest poll opinions, one could always point to the dissenters, and represent them as a few on the kooky misguided left. Some even claimed that dissent was unpatriotic and aided the enemy. Some unfortunately still do, but I’ve written about that before via informal arguments.

The Iraq War’s support has come unraveled in a hurry though, much more quickly than during the Vietnam era. Noblesse oblige prevents me from calling the minority view, support for the war, part of a misguided kooky fringe on the right. Nothing can be gained from that, and it’s not a valid argument.

It does raise the question as to who are the dissenters. One normally thinks of the opinion of the minority as the party of dissent, but in this case the whole Bush administration and its supporters in Congress carry more weight.

I can’t see how the Iraq War is going to be any more popular a year from now. Imagine all those dissenters flooding the polling places. Imagine those in Congress requiring swing votes modifying their position if not outright dissenting themselves.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Lynndie England was found guilty of Iraqi prisoner abuse charges. No big surprise there.

I worked at a military prison once. I sympathize with Lynndie, not because of what she did, but because of the position in which she was placed.

I've forgotten. How many officers, civilians, and public officials are on trial for abuse charges?

Desperate Housewives is Back

The new season of Desperate Housewives began last night.

It was the end of a very good day. Earlier, I had reread an essay to which I wanted to return for a long time.

I suffer from Sunday night anxiety, a residual effect from a previous life. Desperate Housewives is the perfect tonic. I go to the local pub, and watch it with acquaintances, people I do not know well, but who seem to like me. After the show, we discuss it a little, try to predict what will happen next week.

Then we trundle off to our trundle beds.


I reread Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents today. I could cite anywhere in the essay, but I’ll try three.

But there is one question which I can hardly evade. If the development of civilization has such a far reaching similarity to the development of the individual and if it employs the same methods, may we not be justified in resolving the diagnosis that, under the influence of cultural urges, some civilizations, or some epochs of civilization—possibly the whole of mankind—have become ‘neurotic’?
And then:

One thing only do I know for certain and that is that man’s judgments of value follow directly his wishes for happiness—that, accordingly, they are an attempt to support his illusions with arguments.
And then:

The fateful question for the human species seems to me to be whether and to what extent their cultural development will succeed in mastering the disturbance of their communal life by the human instinct of aggression and self-destruction.

Civilization and its attendant conscience places heavy demands upon us. If civilization makes us neurotic, then might there be a breaking point where the disturbance becomes too much to handle and a door opens through which our more aggressive tendencies escape?

Civilization lulls us into a false sense of security. It absolves of us of the need to think because we count on civilization to make everything right no matter how severe our outbreaks of aggression. We play a fool’s game.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tough Guy

I wonder if Bill O'Reilly is a tough guy when he's walking around on the street, or is he just belligerent and aggressive when sitting behind the safety of his Fox News desk? Enquiring minds like mine want to know.

Fox News seems like tabloid journalism at its finest. Rupert Murdoch must be laughing all the way to the bank. No wonder the National Enquirer is dipping their toes into the political waters.

I can forgive Fox News their business model, but hiding behind conservative political idealism is so hypocritical and galling.

Now, we turn to our expert on Cindy Sheehan limousine liberalism.

Washington D. C., 1998

I visited Washington D. C. in 1998 the week the Starr Report came out. I happened to be walking away the Capital Building while Clinton's legal team was walking in to receive the Starr report. I remarked to my friend, "looks like they are going to the woodshed." I got an appreciative smile from one of the attorneys who overheard me.

The next day, I was standing in line to take the White House tour. Everybody in line was reading the WaPo copy of the report for the spicy, juicy parts.

A couple and their two young children were standing in line behind me. The husband asked, "do you think it's worth the wait to get in?" His wife said, "No, there's nothing in there but a desk and a box of cigars. Let's go." Ouch!

I wonder what people standing in line are saying now in light of the National Enquirer story that President Bush is "boozing" again. (NE's word not mine.) "Let's go. There's nothing in there but a desk and a case of bourbon."

Ah, for the good old days.

Listening to Country Music in Blogland

I am listening to country music from a radio station in Glasgow, Scotland right now. I am fond of country music in appropriate doses.

Country music tends toward pure fantasy. Love is always pure and never sullied. Sex is completely hedonistic as long as you are a cowboy. The mythical Heartland values create an idyllic world.

Country music satisfies my occasional need for fantasy. Plus, the singers and musicians are very talented.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Friday Night Baseball and a Couch

Freud's Couch

Another night of hard drinking before, during, and after the baseball game.

This morning, I wrote and loved it. My voice, ricocheting around the inside of my skull, delighted me.

Now, I must go out for a spell on a honey of a day, and drift and dream.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fortuna smiles, at least for now

Writing a little, reading some philosophy, going to the baseball game with friends, why worry about being rich and famous?

The Divide and Certainty

While reading Nietzsche, I am confronted, once again, with the divide between Classical virtues and values and Christian virtues and values, not the divide between nihilism and Christianity, that's too boring, but the Classical/Christian split which is the tougher nut to crack.

Isaiah Berlin's The Originality of Machiavelli echoes through the canyon too, that is, his idea that Machiavelli recommends the Classical virtues over the Christian virtues if one wants to build a strong and prosperous state.

What of the United States? How would Machiavelli and Nietzsche make sense of current political events and their justifications? I can't answer that here. I think I will try after I have done much more thinking about the questions.

In the United States, we have the supreme merging of aristocratic (?) values with Christian values in the wealthy CEO class. Government exists first of all to concentrate wealth, influence, and justification for the CEO class. I look at the distribution of income numbers and legislation and know it's true, true in the sense of what the numbers say. I arrive at my preliminary opinions about values based on the numbers.

Two hierarchies, the aristocratic and the Christian, are married. One class spans them both. What was once two sets of values blend together and are self reinforcing. The virtue charity is an interesting case.

Corporate and Christian values are powerless to prevent suffering for those at the bottom of the hierarchy. Charity provides alms to those who have suffered, and soothes the troubled conscience. It allows one to say, "well even those who suffer are a little worthy. They are kind of like human beings." However, the hierarchy values perpetuation of the hierarchy as a supreme value. Others who might be worthy of the public good are secondary to those whose wealth and faith place them on top.

Democracy is the great secular value. Give control of a democracy to the piously rich and you will have submitted to hierarchical religious and commercial values and your place in the hierarchical order. Escape is possible for the few, not the many.

These are thoughts of which I am uncertain. I am certain about science and mathematics, but I am uncertain about political philosophy. I might change my mind by the end of the day about what I have just said. Give me a sheet of paper and I can easily list my major philosophical beliefs except for my political beliefs. I suppose that is because I have not worked out exactly what are my political values. I kind of have, but 'kind of' does not count. I look for some depth beyond idle slogans.

That leaves a gap to be filled. And all the books to read and reread. And lots of hard thinking.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


It's time to go to Milwaukee to watch the Cubs play. That's about all my mind can handle today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Political Economy

You cannot get far into political economy without talking about morals. That means walking into the back room, where the unconscious mind works, and sifting and sorting through a bewildering collection of moral objects.


C. F. Gauss, generally considered the greatest mathematician, published his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae when he was 19 years old. The book is still worth studying. A faculty for numbers will get you through it.

From Excursions in Number Theory by Ogilvy and Anderson.

In the beginning there were no numbers; or if there were, primitive man was unaware of them. Whether the numbers were always "there" (where?), or had to be invented, has been a much discussed question, and we shall leave it to the philosophers to continue that discussion without our aid. What we can say with some assurance is the the ability to count came relatively late to civilization. Nineteenth-century naturalists claimed that some animals could count up to 5. Early man could not do as well, and there are known to be isolated primitive tribes even today where any quantity more than 3 is known simply as "many."


The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, Delacroix

The day was not quite so handsome as today
with its clear blue sky, but all the same
it was good day for a crusade,
to be bathed in blood,
proud of the merciless heart.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Always Real, Always There

She's always there, blonde, sexy, seductive, and wearing red. She tells me what to do and how to get along in life. She appears when I am trying to concentrate the most, when I feel I have conscious control of my thoughts and actions. She gazes at me while I gaze at the world.

She is my unconscious. And I'll never be free of her.

"Win or Die Choking"

I can tell summer is almost over because a Chicago baseball team is sliding into infamy. The White Sox lost to the Indians 7-5 last night. Cleveland is only 2 1/2 games back and the Yankees are 4 behind.

The White Sox starting pitching looks as old and tired as I feel. The White Sox advertising says, "Win or die trying." The Chicago Tribune ran a headline this morning, "Win or die choking." Ouch!

I should run some sort of realistic numbers on this thing, but intuitively I suspect what was once a near statistical impossibility has become a statistical probability even though there are only 13 games left to the season.

Monday, September 19, 2005


I jot the images for my next novel on postcards, cocktail napkins, and 3 X 5 scraps of notebook paper. I throw the scraps in a shoebox because I am too lazy to type them into the computer.

This is the time of the year when my mind drifts more than usual. I suspect my blog will become even more like disorganized incoherent postcards.

Darn, I wish I knew how to write.

After the leaves have fallen, we return

To a plain sense of things. It is as if

We had come to an end of the imagination,

Inanimate in an inert savoir.

The Plain Sense of Things, Wallace Stevens

Seems Like Yesterday

It was not long ago when the sky lightened at about 4:30. That doesn't happen anymore.

I hate waking up in the dark.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Charitable Funding for Iraq

The Chicago Tribune reports on the U. S. Government's attempt to obtain charitable contributions for the rebuilding of Iraq. The article goes on to discuss what is wrong with this picture.

I'll only say it will be cold day in Hell before I give a charitable contribution to the current administration to secretly spend the money as they see fit.

A Harvest Moon With Some Nietzsche

I sat along the lake just before sunset yesterday to watch the harvest moon rise over the water. The waves had recently thrown up a dank grassy detritus on the concrete shore. I like that smell better than the smell of pure concrete.

The moon escaped a narrow band of clouds along the horizon shortly after moonrise. One of my favorite things is the full moon rising in a clear sky at sunset. I get a sort of mystical feeling that I am at home even though I know I am not at home.

My conscious mind hovered around some of the Nietzsche I'd been reading during the day. I started the day by reading his On the Genealogy of Morals, but it quickly drove me to reading his Beyond Good and Evil. That is odd in itself since I've read it twice, the last time only a few months ago. Upon starting to reread Beyond Good and Evil the book seemed entirely new to me. I suppose it was because when I read it before I was not specifically thinking about the nature of certainty and what Nietzsche had to say about it. Don't laugh. I can be that stupid.

I could cite almost every page of Beyond Good and Evil but I'll settle for this passage:

After having looked long enough between the philosopher's lines and fingers, I say to myself: by far the greater part of conscious thinking must still be included among instinctive activities, and that goes even for philosophical thinking. We have to relearn here, as one has had to relearn about heredity and what is "innate." As the act of birth deserves no consideration in the whole process and procedure of heredity, so "being conscious" is not in any decisive sense the opposite of what is instinctive: most of the conscious thinking of a philosopher is secretly guided and forced into certain channels by his instincts.

Behind all logic and its seeming sovereignty of movement, too, there stand valuations or, more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a certain type of life. For example, that the definite should be worth more than the indefinite, and mere appearance worth less than "truth"--such estimates might be, in spite of their regulative importance for us, nevertheless mere foreground estimates, a certain kind of niaiserie which may be necessary for the preservation of just such beings as we are. Supposing, that is, that not just man is the "measure of things"-

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Part One, 3, translated by Walter Kaufmann.

A lone sailboat passed below the moon riding low above the horizon when I rose to go from the lake. I felt as if I could sail to the horizon to touch the orange disk hanging in the sky.

Later on, I was writing at my table with nothing but the glow of the computer screen and the city lights illuminating my apartment. The moon snuck between the tall buildings, and bathed me in its light. For a few moments, I felt certain I was someone better and more holy than who I am.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


The sky was blue when I woke. I read some Nietzsche and drank coffee in the morning until it was time to get a haircut. Went to the local bar afterwards and watched the Cubs lose to 5-1 to the Cardinals. Lots of out of towners spending the weekend in Chicago were there, and that's always fun bullshitting with them along with some acquaintances. Now, I'm home watching the Notre Dame/Michigan St. game.

A harvest moon will rise above the lake at 6:34. I'll walk down there and watch that. I'll pick up some videos at Video Schmideo on the way home.

My luck holds. Life is good.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Getting Testy

People at the local pub are getting testy about politics again. An off hand remark about President Bush starts an argument. I wonder if it is President Bush or deeply held political convictions that cause the riot. I suspect it is President Bush. That's bad because nobody talks about what should be done.

President Bush hasn't a clue what should be done. It's up to the citizens to figure it out whether they like it or not.

The great divide might be between those who worship false idols and those who want some simple progress for the little people.

Before the Blog

Before I started blogging, I used to play penny ante poker on the Internet. I wasn't much good at that either.

Faith and Certainty

One question that interests me most is the relation between faith and certainty. I have designed a course of reading for myself for this Autumn I hope organizes some of my thoughts. It goes like this:
  1. Selections from Montaigne's Essays,
  2. Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling,
  3. Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals,
  4. Wittgenstein's On Certainty,
  5. Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By
It's all stuff I've read before, but long ago. I'm excited. The tricky part will be picking out which of Montaigne's Essays to read.

Chicago Baseball

Chicago baseball has become so deja vu all over again.

I went to the Cubs game Wednesday night. The temperature was a little cool and the wind was blowing straight in from the lake, but still it was beautiful night for baseball. The Cubs turned what should have been a 2 1/2 hour win into a 3 1/2 hour extra inning loss. I predict they will finish below .500.

The White Sox, who had the best record in baseball for much of the season, have fallen back to earth. Ozzie Guillen, White Sox Manager, says they stink. The White Sox might not make the playoffs even though it is still a statistical improbability.

Thinking about these things, liking baseball as much as I do, adds the gloom to the overcast sky.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Reading Glasses

Where do my reading glasses go when they leave home? Why don't they enjoy my amenities?

I only use them in dimly lit places, or when print is terribly small such as the disclaimer on the back of a consumer product.

I discovered the other morning the glasses I was wearing the day before was missing the right lens. I searched for my backup pair of glasses, which once lay waiting by my computer, and found them vanished.

My reading glasses live in a Haruki Mirakami story where people, animals, and objects mysteriously vanish into an unseen world. That's why I buy them cheap, two at a time, at Walgreen's.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Moral Justification

Wars receive their moral justification after they have begun. The inciting incidents are often naked aggression, or perceived threats that don't have much to do with moral considerations. I wrote earlier about the "9/11, Q. E. D." argument for the war.

Katrina and Judge Roberts have pushed the Iraq War to the back of the mind. However, events in Iraq this week indicate that the country still suffers from uncontrolled internecine bloodshed between factions. The U. S. military presence further enables and intensifies the bloodshed and hatred. However, the war remains at the back of the agenda for the President and Congress.

How can this be? One simple reason is that there is often an unquestioned justification for the war. The U. S. is supposedly engaged in building a free and democratic Iraq. The moral justification excuses inattention since the idea is that all's well that eventually ends well. You can goof around and screw things up all you want as long as morality is on your side. Out of sight, out of mind becomes the norm.

The proposed Iraqi constitution tells a different story. If adopted, a dicey proposition in itself, the Iraqi constitution will result in three well armed Islamic states, two with oil resources and one without. The Iraqis don't need our help setting up three independent well armed Islamic states. They already know how to do it, and when you strip away the veneer of moral theorizing that's what they want.

Iraq President Talabani made the big Freudian slip of saying that 50,000 U. S. troops could be evacuated by the end of the year. The Bush administration put him back in line.

The polls indicate that increasingly people view all the justifications as mere cover for a very bad strategic mistake in the war on terror. Nothing good will happen until the mistake is rectified by pulling out the troops.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Love and Randomness

From Pamuk's Snow:
None of these memories were in any way related, apart from the commonality of love; Ka knew very well that life was a meaningless string of random incidents.

Human Brain Evolution

There's a short and interesting article at Scientific American summarizing new research on brain evolution. Genetic changes affecting the human brain occurred 37,000 years ago and 5,800 years ago.

Some idle speculation on my part: 37,000 years ago coincides with some estimates of when language, art, religion, philosophy, and science developed. It also coincides with some estimates of the migration out of Africa. 5,800 coincides with recorded history.

What will the human brain be like in another 6,000 years?

Still Reading Snow

I keep reading Snow, but I am not half way through it. Snow unnerves me. I set it aside after I read a chapter. Ka, a poet in the midst of a violent society where the police state vies for power against the fanatically religious, admires the incessant falling of the snow and writes poems.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Blood Sport: the over/under on Iraq

A gruesome question will not leave me alone. What if an Internet bookie had an over/under line on the number of years it will take for U. S. troops to leave Iraq? I could not find any bookies laying odds after a cursory search. The financial markets must already contain information about the outcome of the war, but it's too darned hard to sort out how much impact the war has on asset prices.

An over/under line would recognize the blood sport element of the war along with its numbing and alienating effect. It might sharpen analysis too.


I have been in denial since my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes lost to Iowa St. this past Saturday. I console myself by remembering the season is still young.

I noticed that Iowa is still ranked ahead of Iowa St. in the latest polls. Odd. I wonder if the experts look at all the scores of the games before they vote on these things.

I didn't bet on the game. I always advise not betting on your favorite team. And don't bet your lunch money either.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Practice, practice, practice

Michelle Malkin says she is going to the gun range to celebrate 9/11.

I am sure the practice will serve her well when she gets to Iraq.

Slogans, a view from nowhere

You can bleach a lot of the politics from the Iraq War controversy when you think about it in practical terms. That's a brutal and unforgiving way to look at it, but necessary.

Before the Iraq invasion, one argument for the Iraq War went something like this: 9/11, Q. E. D.

I recall the opening speech by General Patton in the movie Patton. He said nobody ever won a war by dying for their country. You win wars by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

Idle sloganeering doesn't win wars, nor make them right. Slogans don't mean doodly squat to the al-Quaeda leaders still on the loose. They are still alive enjoying the spectacle.

Bureaucracy, Crony Capitalism, and the Public Good

David Brooks talks about bureaucracy in his NYT Op-ed column today. He documents the kinds of activities and planning that were supposed to take place before hurricane Katrina hit. I guess the point is that people were well meaning, but it is in the nature of bureaucracies to fall on their faces when nudged by events. People fall on their faces when nudged by events too. Large bureaucracies in the private sector don't do any better. Read Dilbert. Large bureaucracies have been around for thousands of years. They are part of large organizations. It comes with the territory. What's the real point?

His gets to it in the last two paragraphs:

This preparedness plan is government as it really is. It reminds us that canning Michael Brown or appointing some tough response czar will not change the endemic failures at the heart of this institutional collapse.

So of course we need limited but energetic government. But liberals who think this disaster is going to set off a progressive revival need to explain how a comprehensive governmental failure is going to restore America's faith in big government.

He frames the difference between progressives and conservatives using the same tired old cliches and hackneyed phrases.

Progressives want government that promotes and delivers effective government for the public good. Progressives limit government to doing those things that promote the public good. Progressives believe crony capitalism does not count, and should not be nurtured at the public tit.

The question Mr. Brooks should have asked is whether progressives think that returning to effective government that promotes the public good will restore America's belief in government?

And the answer is yes.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Oh, for a different night

I wish I was in the country, lying in the grass, and looking up at the stars. Summer is almost over, and I haven't seen the Milky Way.

A motorcycle growls in the street below.

I wish I was listening to whippoorwills and crickets.

Congressional Supplemental Spending Is a Very Bad Thing

Congress has approved $62 billion in supplemental spending for the hurricane Katrina disaster, which was needed. Soon, they'll approve another supplemental spending bill. They won't discuss the total cost of rebuilding the southern states, where the first $62 billion went, or who is getting the money. That's unacceptable.

The President has suspended worker wage contracts. Nobody has put controls on contractor profits. That's unconscionable.

The same goes for Iraq. The President and Congress must provide a timetable and an estimate for the total cost of the war in lives and dollars. They should also account for where the money has already gone. We already know it hasn't gone to the troops fighting the war. Let's see how many people want the war given an honest assessment of its costs by the government.

The President and Congress won't account for a dime unless you drag them kicking and screaming into the spotlight. It's time to do that now after Katrina has kicked them in the ass and while they are awake.

Is Thucydides Relevant in Today's World?

The post-modernist claims that there can be no independent view from nowhere of history because of the beliefs and attitudes readers and writers bring to a text. When I contrast Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States against the sanitized obfuscating 'great white man' versions of American history, I consider the proposition all but proven. I oversimplify, but that is not relevant to my purpose.

Does Thucydides speak to us today from his The Peloponnesian War? To the extent that he documents folly, hubris, vanity, pride, the consequences of unrealistic imperial dreams, morals justifying immoral means and ignoble ends, and the brutal consequences of man made and natural disasters, he does.

Thomas Hobbes puts it this way in his translation of The Peloponnesian War in the To the Reader section:
It hath been noted by divers, that Homer in poesy, Aristotle in philosophy, Demosthenes in eloquence, and others of the ancients in other knowledge, do still maintain their primacy: none of them exceeded, some not approached, by any in these later ages. And in the number of these is justly ranked also our Thucydides; a workman no less perfect in his work, than any of the former; and in whom (I believe with many others) the faculty of writing history is at the highest. For the principal and proper work of history being to instruct and enable men, by the knowledge of actions past, to bear themselves prudently in the present and providently towards the future: there is not extant any other (merely human) that doth more naturally and fully perform it, than this of my author.
I know I can be censured for quoting a passage that begins by listing names in the 'white man canon'. I defend myself thus.

My thinking has turned toward my own peculiar brand of post-modernism during the past several years. That has not prevented me from turning to Thucydides and posting some passages particularly relevant to the Iraq War and the hurricane Katrina disaster. Histories must be written. Scrupulous readers will approach them prudently and skeptically, or waste their time. The truth sucks because it is so hard to find, but one shouldn't curse being born because of that.

Friday, September 09, 2005

A Parade

I landed at El Toro Marine Air Station the week of Thanksgiving 1968. I was newly returned from Vietnam. I got on a bus that drove me to LA International Airport. I changed planes in Denver, then flew to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

On the flight home I sat next to a very stylish woman around thirty. We didn't talk. My mind was not yet wrapped around being in the United States and heading home. In order to begin my adjustment to a different world, I mentioned to the woman while we were landing that I was returning from Vietnam. She hesitated before replying, "oh." I did not say anything more.

Chicago held a splendid Vietnam Veteran's parade the summer of 1986. It concluded a week of wonderful events the City of Chicago held for the veterans and their families. It meant a lot to so many people, a catharsis of sorts.

The place where I worked allowed everyone who wanted to go to the parade. I went to lunch at McDonald's across the street from the Merchandise Mart where I worked. I thought about marching in the parade while I ate my Big Mac and fries. I went back to work instead.

I was working hard at my career in 1986. I cared about business success most.

Brownie's Resume

Brownie's resume makes CNN Headline News. Life's a bitch, Brownie. Don't worry! I am sure Albaugh will hire him once this little shit storm blows out to sea. Look at the bright side. He'll be making way more money helping to rebuild New Orleans. Isn't that what we wish for all the disaster victims?

Thursday, September 08, 2005


I thought I could make this longer and more interesting, but I don't know how, even though I have tried several times. I decided to write it down anyway before all of my memories fade.

I landed at Danang Airbase on November 10, 1967. I was a 19 year old Marine then. I boarded a transport truck with a couple of friends. We drove north on highway 1 to a large supply base close by the sea where I was to be stationed the next year and sixteen days.

The monsoon season started the day after I arrived. It grew cold and rained all the time for four months until the sun came out one March day. It did not rain again until the next November when we were hit by the outer edges of a large typhoon. That was good because the war stopped for two or three days. I digress.

The Tet Offensive started at the beginning of 1968, but my base was not attacked. The relative safety of my base made me oblivious to the war for awhile. But that changed.

One night, shortly before lights out, a rocket landed not far away from the Quonset hut in which I was living. We ran into the bunker beside our hut. We huddled in the dark while the remaining rounds came in. I looked around in the dark trying determine whether the others were as afraid as I. Later, during other attacks, I would discovered they were.

I have always felt somebody seriously wants to kill me since that time. In fact, their whole mission in life is to kill somebody exactly like me whether rightly or wrongly. I have felt a certain menace even if mostly ungrounded.

On 9/11/2001 I was driving to my job in Oak Brook when I first heard the news about the strike against the Trade Center. By the end of the day I felt sorry for the people in the United States who had just learned that somebody somewhere seriously wanted to kill them. Of course, some people living in high crime areas may have already known the feeling.

Everyone in Iraq knows it too. Things could have been done differently, but it seems they never are. I share the blame even though I have been against the war, just as I do Vietnam and the high crime areas in the United States.

Two Images

One image spawned a disastrous war. What will the other image spawn?

Science and Reality

Why are so many U. S. citizens completely ignorant of the most basic concepts of science? Why do so many U. S. citizens hate science?

One reason is that science explains nature as it is in the raw. The truths of science are not always palatable. Science tells us there is higher probability than we once imagined that an asteroid will hit earth in the near future and will cause worldwide environmental devastation. Science tells us species evolve right before our eyes. We will always be fighting viral and bacterial diseases because those species mutate, which means they evolve. Science tells us that the rapid extinction of species will have deleterious and unpredictable consequences for the environment. Science tells us we are undergoing rapid global warming and what to expect when that happens.

These are not value judgments. Science studies nature as it is and predicts how things will be. Yet, people hate science for this. People want science to be about value judgments, but science doesn't care about value judgments. It cares about matters of fact.

People turn to their religious texts for science, but there is no science in those texts. Religion comes naturally to us. People find it far easier to superficially read a religious text than a popular science article in a newspaper, magazine, or on the Internet. They take the easy road to belief even if there is no basis for the belief.

Pseudo-science has proliferated on the Internet. The owners of these sites come mostly from Right Wing and New Age groups. The truly scary part is that a lot of college students turn to these sources for their basic scientific information. When you look at the source of the information from these sites, you quickly discover that none of it is sourced from reputable scientific research. The owners of these sites are going to one Hell of a lot of work to obfuscate scientific issues and facts.

It will do the haters of science no good to curse the facts of science. They may as well curse the multiplication table while they are at it.

Too Late

Some people think we should not be playing the blame game about Hurricane Katrina. The problem is that President Bush has used up all of his credibility chips. He and his cronies don't know the meaning of the word accountability. President Bush's hollow phrases don't resonate as melodically as before. He's not even good at saying them except when it is entirely scripted for a user friendly audience.

The criticisms of the Bush Administration need to continue and not fade away. The Bush administration won't respond to anything unless their feet are held directly to the fire. The liars in the Bush administration need to be assaulted with the facts every moment of the day and from all directions.

Mr. Bush pushed all his credibility chips in the pot on the wave of 9/11 fears. He sold a large destabilizing and unwinnable war. Even the most rude of the interested citizens knew that the dire predictions about Iraq would all come true.

The government has not gotten smaller and the deficit has grown larger. The myth of no government has always been merely that. The rise of the nation state marked the rise of big government if only to create a large beauacracy to harvest taxes to fight wars. At no time in history has there ever been a large nation, let alone empire, that did not have big government.

And where has the money gone that our current leaders have spent? Not to entrepreneurs or medium sized businesses in general. Even saying large corporations does not hit the mark. The money flowed into the hands of a few crony capitalists. Companies that cannot compete on their own merits feed at the public trough in a shell game of find where the money is now.

I'll admit I never had any confidence in Mr. Bush. He has not disappointed my expectations.

The victims of Hurricane Katrina will soon be scattered to the four winds. They will become even less visible if Mr. Bush has his way. His way is that of the bungler who hires bunglers and for mission critical jobs. His memory and attention span aren't up to taking care of these people. The immediate flow of aid to the victims will obscure their long term needs and others like them.

Mr. Bush will come to realize before his administration is through that he will not be a great man of history. Years of failure before he became President will be followed by an eternity of failure as history is written. He is the consummate incompetent whose true calling was to be the pure politician, the man who only cared about being elected.

The year 2006, when the impact of Katrina hits the economy hard, deficits skyrocket, and the Fed cannot bailout the economy with easy credit because of self induced inflationary pressures, will find many more people joining the reality based community.

The lives of a few cells headed for the garbage can won't seem quite as important when the economic impact hits far more people than just those living in the shelters. They all will be forgotten if we do not hold the Bush administration's feet to the fire everyday.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Photo Op

The picture of President Bush walking around with the Atlanta firefighters who were flown in specially for the occasion strikes me as bizarre and perverse.

Bush, Cheney, and Rove running this country scares me. I can't suppress my fear. It's primal, something I can't be argued out of.

I once had a boss who used to say to us at his staff meetings, "I'd rather have a bad plan well executed than a good plan poorly executed."

Too bad those weren't the choices.


The trees are nice to look at as they sway gently in the summer sun. My mind wants to fill itself with their images rather than dwell on stories about love, death, and hope. I wish I could start the day over.

Blame Game

All the big guns are now explaining the situation.

John Derbyshire thinks black people aren't smart enough to stay alive in an emergency.

Barbara Bush thinks the survivors in the Astrodome never had it so good.

Senator Rick Santorum thinks the people who got stuck in New Orleans during the hurricane ought to pay some kind of penalty. Ricky, Baby, what ever happened to that whole frivolous lawsuit thing?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Needs, Wants, and Justice

There is an idea that goes back to ancient times. People have needs and wants.

Needs are the basics of well being everyone requires: food, shelter, clothing, education, and the opportunity to participate in the economic system, political system, and culture.

Wants are those things people desire over and above basic needs necessary to live a happy and fulfilling life in the classical sense.

One view of justice is that everyone should have their needs met. Being human is the moral justification for having your needs met, and it is your right.

Unregulated market economies do not assure that everyone's needs are met. The perfectly free market for needs merely sets equilibrium price for supply and demand. If you can't pay the price for a need, your need is not fulfilled.

That is why there must be a socialistic element to every just political system. A minimal socialist system must be in place to obtain the highest moral good, that everyone's needs are met.

The United States is not a just society. The disaster in New Orleans has shown us that in the most horrific way.

In fact, the United States does not even deliver on its promise of efficient and effective allocation of wants. There has been a systematic government sponsored accumulation of wealth into the hands of a very few. Unregulated markets did not create this concentration of wealth into the hands of a few. Systematic legislation designed to create a plutocracy of the few has sabotaged the good life for many people living above the poverty line.

The political Right is not even close to being Conservative. It's spokespersons and thinkers have become merely the mouthpiece for those who would desire the perpetuation and expansion of wealth and power in the hands of a few. In this sense, President Bush is both part of the plutocracy and another mouthpiece dupe of the plutocracy.

How long will it take for the United States to return to the path of justice? If the United States does not reinstitute and reinvorgorate the social systems that guarantee people's needs are met, it will never return to the right and just path. Given how justice in the United States has been ravaged, fulfilling everyone's needs must take priority. Even then it will take a lot of time and resources. As far as returning to the efficient and effective allocation of wants, it will have to wait until the United States embraces the ideals of justice and begins to implement those ideals.

The United States has been once again exposed as a land of hypocrisy, an unjust society, and a land where citizens are expected to be slaves to the plutocracy.

Cheeseburger in Paradise, New Orleans, and Iraq

I won two tickets at the local bar last week to today's Jimmy Buffett concert at Wrigley Field. So I went. The seats were good, the weather was super fine, and Buffett and Company put on a nice three hour show.

Jimmy mentioned New Orleans a few times during the show. He tried to say some positive things about the future, but I detected his heart was not in it. Maybe, I perceived it that way because my heart was not in it.

The spin has started. That's why I'll be venting my anger on this blog for some time to come.

How many people were killed in Iraq yesterday? I got home too late to check.

Reality sucks once it infests the mind.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Some Don'ts Along With Some Garbage

Don't grow old. Don't change your mind about what is important in your life. And most of all don't fail if you do change your mind.

Most people will not understand. What you did before is of no consequence.

Don't ever change. Don't make people uncomfortable. Don't expose a side of yourself people don't expect.

Those are the general rules anyway. There are a few exceptional people who might understand you. As a general rule though, it's best to hide your love away where nobody can get at it.

You pretend you’re high
You pretend you’re bored
You pretend you’re anything
Just to be adored
And what you need
Is what you get

Don’t believe in fear
Don’t believe in faith
Don’t believe in anything
That you can’t break

Stupid Girl, Garbage

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Pamuk Trial

I am about a quarter of the way through the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk's novel, Snow. I read a chapter then set it aside for a few minutes to savor the chapter I've read. It's the best novel I have read in at least ten years.

Pamuk was charged by the Turkish government this past week with making inflammatory remarks about Turkey in an interview he gave in Switzerland back in March. He discussed the Armenian genocide during World War I and the long standing hostilities between Turkey and Kurdish rebels. Turkey has long been in denial about these events. Pamuk goes on trial in December.

The EU will decide soon whether to admit Turkey into the union.

Now that's a donation

I have never read a John Grisham novel, but the next one I read, once I finish Pamuk's Snow, will be a Grisham. This via a-sdf:
Bestselling author John Grisham and his wife are contributing $5 million to help Mississippians rebuild after Hurricane Katrina — more than the donations of the NBA, Major League Baseball and Wal-Mart combined.

The Real Death Tax

It will be very interesting to see whether Senator Bill Frist, who has gone to Louisiana to volunteer his services as a physician, will make repealing the inheritance tax for multi-millionaires the top priority of his political agenda when Congress reconvenes next week.

Or will he come to understand the real Death Tax is living poor, disadvantaged, and completely vulnerable in what is supposed to be a benevolent and democratic America?

Where does your real conscience lie, Senator?

Saturday, September 03, 2005


President George W. Bush delivers remarks at Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in New Orleans, La., Thursday, Jan. 15, 2004. The Administration today announced additional regulations that will help break down barriers to faith- and community-based charities and will continue to look for opportunities to partner with effective social service organizations that are helping the most vulnerable Americans. White House photo by Eric Draper

Maybe, every picture does tell a story. I'll say it one more time. It's all about accountability.

"Potential is nothing; performance is everything." Bud Wilkinson

This is turning out to be another one of those, "gee, nobody told me things were going to be so bad, and even if they had, I had my head so far up my ass I was fighting for air myself," moments.

For those who are into hero worship, and want another 'perspective', check out Fox News. They will make you feel far better than I ever could.

Hook 'Em Hawkeyes 2005

The Iowa Hawkeyes kicked off their football season at 11 Central time today. They lead Ball St. 28-0 at the end of the 1st quarter.

Hook 'Em Hawkeyes!

Some Music

I went to the Los Lobos and Bodeans concert at the new Meigs Field facility last night. Los Lobos and the Bodeans put on a heck of a show. The weather was perfect. The facility seating was very comfortable, and there were short lines at the concession stands and washrooms.

Many thanks to my best friend Tom for coming up with the concept and inviting me.

Friday, September 02, 2005

More Thucydides

From Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book II, 52, 53, translated by Thomas Hobbes

For having no houses but dwelling at that time of the year in stifling booths, the mortality was now without all form; and dying men lay tumbling one upon another in the streets, and men halfdead about every conduit through desire of water. The temples also where they dwelt in tents were all full of the dead that died within them. For oppressed with the violence of the calamity and not knowing what to do, men grew careless both of holy and profane things alike. And the laws which they formerly used touching funerals were all now broken, every one burying where he could find room.

. . .

And the great licentiousness, which also in other kinds was used in the city, began at first from this disease. For that which a man before would dissemble and not acknowledge to be done for voluptuousness, he durst now do freely, seeing before his eyes such quick revolution, of the rich dying and men worth nothing inheriting their estates. Insomuch as they justified a speedy fruition of their goods even for their pleasure, as men that thought they held their lives but by the day. As for pains, no man was forward in any action of honour to take any because they thought it uncertain whether they should die or not before they achieved it. But what any man knew to be delightful and to be profitable to pleasure, that was made both profitable and honourable. Neither the fear of the gods nor laws of men awed any man, not the former because they concluded it was alike to worship or not worship from seeing that alike they all perished, nor the latter because no man expected that lives would last till he received punishment of his crimes by judgment. But they thought there was now over their heads some far greater judgment decreed against them before which fell, they thought to enjoy some little part of their lives.

Sorry for the change in translation. I like the Hobbes better than the Crawley.

A Summer Place

I have been listening to A Summer Place performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra on I must have been about 11 or 12 years old when it was popular. Back then, for some odd reason, I thought the song played in the background when you fell in love. Several years later, I felt Help Me, Rhonda by the Beach Boys was more apt.

Promontory from The Last of the Mohicans performed by the Royal Scottish Orchestra matches my idea of love now that I am old. The cloudless summer sky and danger lurking in the shadows make me feel that way.


I will not talk about it. I would spout a senseless and impotent rage if I did.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Failure of Nerve

I have been trying to put my finger on why I don't like the three novels I have written.

One reason is trivial. When I started writing them, I did not know all I should about technique. That's nothing that I have not repaired by dipping into my library to find out how other writers have solved technical problems. I have had to learn the craft via an apprenticeship, a normal learning experience.

I dislike the books for some other reason.

I hypothesize it thus. I have been afraid to use my own narrative voice, the sound that resonates in the reader's unconscious. The books were written by somebody I did not know, somebody I imagined should be writing the books. I was just too damned afraid to write the books myself.

I remember one time when I was about to receive a very nice promotion, one I had coveted for a long time. I expressed the fear that it might not happen to an associate. She replied, "You know what your problem is Lynn? You are afraid to step into the winner's circle." I have recognized the truth of what she said over the years.

I am not brave. Will I ever be brave? Will it do me any good?

I cannot tell, but I wish I could. At least I have found another thing that does not work.


I started reading Orhan Pamuk's Snow, translated by Maureen Freely, last night. I read a few pages and felt I was hooked. Yet I did not know whether it was merely the reputation of the book that hooked me, or the book itself. Then I read this sentence towards the end of chapter one:

After a lifetime in which every experience of love was touched by shame and suffering, the prospect of falling in love filled Ka with an intense, almost instinctive dread.

I was indeed hooked.