Friday, March 31, 2006

March's Happy Totals

I won 20 and lost 7. That put me 8.27 wagers to the good for the month, a nice comeback from last month's frivolity.

Now Playing at the Shattered Globe

I saw Patrick Marber’s Dealer’s Choice at the Shattered Globe Theater last night. The play is about a poker game that takes place after hours in a London restaurant. The real game, however, is how each of the players deal with their gambling addictions. Excellent performances by the Shattered Globe ensemble make this a riveting “all-in” story as it builds to its emotional climax.

If you are looking for Chicago Theater at its best, you won’t go wrong with Dealer’s Choice at the Shattered Globe, recognized as one of Chicago’s brightest ensembles in a theater rich city.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chopping Block

I don’t get to TPM Café much. This is the first piece I found when I went there this afternoon. Nathan Newman writes about how Trade Talks Put State Powers on Chopping Block.
Every state and local official should be paying more attention to the global trade talks at the World Trade Organization, since local power to regulate services such as health care, mass transit and a range of other public services are on the chopping block.

New proposals in a part of global trade law known as the General Agreement on Trade in Services could give global corporations the right under international law to challenge a host of state and local regulations …
Some international agreements are binding; others aren't.

An idea for a new treatise

Here is an idea for a new treatise on economics.

Download from the Internet a copy of Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Marx’s Capital Volume I. Copy from both books those passages you find agreeable. Paste them into a new document. Reorder the passages according to taste and preference. Stop when you have mined all the passages you like.

This idea—some have surely thought it before—arises on a warm bright Spring morning. It refers to nothing and has no meaning. It merely asks how pastiche might be relevant to the way we think?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Capitalism vs. democratic republican ideals

Michael J. Thompson writes about the conflict between early nineteenth century American democratic republican ideals and capitalism. From What’s the Matter with Capitalism? in the Logos Journal, which I found via the ever eclectic and fascinating wood s lot.

The early nineteenth-century saw the emergence of a robust critical account of capitalist economic relations. What these critics saw was the incongruence between the emerging relations of market capitalism and the supposed promises of America’s “republican civilization.” What they saw was that the new forms of economic life that were emerging were creating relations of dependence and servitude that would, in time, erode America’s democratic republic. What was central to their concern was the erosion of democratic life, the emergence of inequality, and the demolition of public life in favor of private interests. This has been a concern of western political thought since the days of classical Greece, and the concern for republicanism was always premised on the notion that political power should be in balance and not fall into the hands of the minority who would, in time, exploit the public for their own ends.

This concern gave an insurgent flavor to western political ideas, from Aristotle through Machiavelli, Locke, Kant, Jefferson, and Marx—and early nineteenth-century social critics saw the emerging capitalism for what it was. Reflecting on the emergence of wealthy industrialists and their newly found political power, John Vethake noted in the New York Evening Post in 1835 that “relatively considered, it is now precisely as if all things were in a state of nature; the strong tyrannize over the weak; live, as it were, in a continual victory, and glut themselves on incessant plunder.”5 Theodore Sedgwick, writing in the same year in his book What Is a Monopoly? was resolute in his analysis: “It must necessarily follow, to every person whose mind is cast in that republican mold, the die of which is not yet, thanks God, broken, that the principle of corporate grants is wholly adverse to the genius of our institutions; that it originates in that arrogant and interfering temper on the part of the Government which seeks to meddle with, direct, and control private exertions. . . Every corporate grant is directly in the teeth of the doctrine of equal rights, for it gives to one set of men the exercise of privileges which the main body can never enjoy.”6

Time to skedaddle

President Bush does not want interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari as permanent Prime Minister. Quite frankly, if I was an Iraqi politician who had been openly currying President Bush’s favor, I’d skedaddle to a safer place rather than ride the whirlwind of his approval.

Charles G. Taylor: three cheers for lip service

Former Liberian dictator Charles G. Taylor was found trying to cross the Nigerian border into Cameroon. He is now on his way to Liberia to be prosecuted for war crimes.

The United States has pressured Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to bring Taylor to trial. On the surface, zeal for prosecuting bloody dictators seems admirable. However, one remains curious as to what is going on below the surface.

The call for justice by Western powers always happens after the train has run spectacularly off the tracks and hundreds of the thousand of innocents have died. Interventions to prevent the tragedy never receive much attention.

In another odd coincidence, trials for war criminals have an uncanny way of mitigating against those who are not Westerners. “Countries such as the U. S. do not torture people or kill innocent civilians unless they really deserve or need it,” some say. Oh well, let’s move on.

We did breathe some fresh air this week. The West seems to have rescued the apostate Rahman from the clutches of Afghani Islamic law. The event coincidentally scores a nice public relations coup while obscuring the heroic struggle for human rights by dissidents in the Muslim world, those dissidents who happen to be less than friendly to the West’s globalization agenda.

The West scores a hat trick. The current Afghani government appears enlightened, the West proves its commitment to human rights, and the West avoids dealing with another group of rowdy uncontrollable dissidents.

However, I have grown cynical and maudlin while mucking around in this issue. A hat tip to and three cheers for international justice.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The beautiful game

Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World, despite its grandiose title, fascinatingly blends politics, culture, religion, race, crime, and history. It definitely works as a travelogue too.

In the last chapter of the book he mentions this tidbit.
Not just pundits buried in the C Section of the paper, but people with actual power believe that soccer represents a genuine threat to the American way of life. The former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jack Kemp, one of the most influential conservatives of the 1980’s, a man once mentioned in the same breath as the presidency, holds this view. In 1986, he took to the floor of the United States Congress to orate against a resolution in support of the American bid to host the World Cup. Kemp intoned, “I think it is important for all these young out there, who someday hope to play real football, where you throw it and kick it and run with it and put it in your hands, a distinction should be made that football is democratic, capitalism, whereas soccer is a European socialism [sport].”

Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. Silvio Berlusconi, who owns AC Milan, or Rupert Murdoch, whose SkySports broadcasts it to the world, refute the socialism assertion.

I watched my first professional game on television in 1966. England beat Germany in extra time in the World Cup final at Wembley Stadium. One of my best friends turned me on to it. I was mightily glad he did.

Eight years after Kemp made his statement, the United States hosted the World Cup. I saw two games at Chicago’s Soldier Field. I learned why people call soccer the beautiful game. Too bad the world in which it lives cannot reflect more of its beauty.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Consistency and Imperfection

Writing something and publishing it for public scrutiny offers the chance to display the consistency of one’s beliefs and thoughts. People who publish much and remain consistent deserve admiration.

What about the other folks who don’t always display rigorous consistency in their beliefs as expressed in their writing? Well, events and times change. Ideas and arguments change along with changed circumstances. Consistency fetters creativity and thought in this case. Fairness requires we forgive inconsistency.

Human nature causes problems with consistency. We say we believe something in all honesty, for we consciously do believe it. Nonetheless, our unconscious beliefs, the ones to which we have no direct access, cause problems with consistency. We say things without knowing we do not really believe them. We would all be dead should we consciously process all our beliefs and the actions deriving from them. Thinking and acting swiftly has survival value.

Unconscious beliefs do not make liars of us. However, they have a nasty habit of making us inconsistent. That is merely to say human nature is not perfect. But we already know about the imperfection of human nature in all its glorious aspects.

Confessions of a rube

President Bush signed the new and improved(?) Patriot Act into law. Later, President Bush immediately issued a signing statement ordering the Justice Department not to obey the Patriot Act’s new Congressional oversight provisions.

The Congress and the President play a bait and switch game with the American public. Congress writes a law that assuages its conscience. The President disobeys the law. They all move on to the next confidence game.

I, much to my shame, have been a notorious rube believing as I have that the Constitution still means something.

As for the future, the 2006 and 2008 elections look dismal. The front runners for the 2008 Presidency leave me feeling agnostic with a queasy stomach.

What takes decades to screw up, is not easily fixed. Grand agendas to fix everything at once always fail.

What needs fixing first? The Iraq War and its mentality seems a good place to start. Nothing will go right until the United States gets out of Iraq, and gives up the notion that multi-trillion dollar wars are tenable policies and practices.

The war destroys any chance of meaningful social change. And forget about civil rights until the Iraq War is over.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Terri Schiavo one year later: a memoir of the event

This is the first anniversary of the controversy over the death of Terri Schiavo on March 31, 2005. I did not have much to say about the controversy while it raged across the nation, for it struck a very deep and sensitive emotional nerve. Even though I had a strong opinion about it, I could not write much that was not emotionally laden. After one year, I will venture an opinion about the event if only to discover whether my emotions have subsided.

I was once faced with making the decision on whether to keep a beloved family member alive or not—someone condemned to spend the rest of her days on life support in a brain damaged vegetative state. There are few more gut wrenching and soul searching experiences. My heart goes out to all those who are confronted with the same terrible decision, regardless of what they decide.

Everyone, it seemed, had their opinion about what ought to be done with Terri Schiavo. It is a so called free country.

The President of the United States and Congress should have maintained cooler heads than the rest of the country. Instead they responded with demagoguery. They interrupted their holidays to take a side in the case. Some, like Tom Delay, rejoiced in exciting the nation’s passions. Tom judged Michael Schiavo an evil man willing to kill his wife for money. Tom knew the Schiavo case was why people murdered judges in cold blood.

Tom Delay was later discovered to have taken his father off life support in a situation similar to Terri Schiavo’s. I have no words to explain the joy I felt when I learned he was not only a demagogue, but an unrepentant hypocrite. And as for all the others who participated in the despicable enterprise, I wish someone would find skeletons in their closets too.

While this was happening, medical care spending was cut for children living in poverty. So much for the right to life. An autopsy showed that half of Ms. Schiavo's brain tissue was dead and she was blind. It was shortly before those same people would remain on holiday during one of the nation's greatest natural disasters, one claiming thousands of lives and creating untold suffering.

I would become a true believer again if someone convinced me they would burn in Hell for eternity. But that is just my passions getting the better of me even after a year has passed. Yes, I took the President’s and Congress’s behavior personally. The President and the Congress invaded the most intimate parts of our lives. Incompetence and corruption reached a new zenith in an atmosphere resembling that of a three ring circus. I was enraged.

In my more sober and reflective moods, it doesn’t bother me much. I know I am a better person than they are. I would never sell my soul for a few votes and a couple of points in the opinion polls.

The irony is that the event started public resentment against the disaster known as the Bush Administration.

I’m not angry anymore. The Hell I ain’t. I hope their opinion poll numbers drop to zero, and they never hold public office again. As for their place in eternity, I’ll leave that to the capable hands of their god.

Religion and State

First, I admit to proselytizing for an idea about religion as I have done in the past. I am not proselytizing for any particular religion nor atheism. However, I am a strong believer in the separation of church and state. Today as yesterday, the struggle continues all over the world to reach this ideal. With that preliminary out of the way, permit me to proselytize a little and argue a point.

Pascal Boyer has done some of the most exciting recent work regarding the nature of religion. He grounds his ideas about religion in research coming from the cognitive sciences. Two of his short articles give a nice summary of his research and conclusions: Why Is Religion Natural?, in the Skeptical Inquirer, and Religious thought and behavior as by-products of brain function (link to PDF document) in the journal TRENDS in Cognitive Science. Both articles cover much of the same territory. His book Religion Explained is not only a break in the traditional discussion of the nature of religious belief, but also a masterful exposition of research in the field and his conclusions from this research.

I will not attempt to summarize his position since has he has already done that in the two short articles I cited. I do want to discuss his conclusion. In Why Is Religion Natural he concludes:
Taking all this into account, it would seem that the "sleep of reason" interpretation of religion is less than compelling. It is quite clear that explicit religious belief requires a suspension of the sound rules according to which most scientists evaluate evidence. But so does most ordinary thinking, of the kind that sustains our commonsense intuitions about the surrounding environment. More surprising, religious notions are not at all a separate realm of cognitive activity. They are firmly rooted in the deepest principles of cognitive functioning. First, religious concepts would not be salient if they did not violate some of our most entrenched intuitions (e.g., that agents have a position in space, that live beings grow old and die, etc.). Second, religious concepts would not subsist if they did not confirm many intuitive principles. Third, most religious norms and emotions are parasitic upon systems that create very similar norms (e.g., moral intuitions) and emotions (e.g., a fear of invisible contaminants) in non-religious contexts.

In this sense, religion is vastly more "natural" than the "sleep of reason" argument would suggest. People do not adhere to concepts of invisible ghosts or ancestors or spirits because they suspend ordinary cognitive resources, but rather because they use these cognitive resources in a context for which they were not designed in the first place. However, the "tweaking" of ordinary cognition that is required to sustain religious thought is so small that one should not be surprised if religious concepts are so widespread and so resistant to argument. To some extent, the situation is similar to domains where science has clearly demonstrated the limits or falsity of our common intuitions. We now know that solid objects are largely made up of empty space, that our minds are only billions of neurons firing in ordered ways, that some physical processes can go backwards in time, that species do not have an eternal essence, that gravitation is a curvature of space-time. Yet even scientists go through their daily lives with an intuitive commitment to solid objects being full of matter, to people having non-physical minds, to time being irreversible, to cats being essentially different from dogs, and to objects falling down because they are heavy.

In a sense, the cognitive study of religion ends up justifying a common intuition, best expressed by Jonathan Swift's dictum that "you do not reason a man out of something he was not reasoned into." The point of studying this scientifically is to show to what extent we can expect religious notions to be stable and salient in human cultures, not just now but for a long time to come.

Should something approximating Boyer’s theory be true, it has very important things to say about the struggle for the separation of church and state.

The United States, which claims to uphold the ideal of separation of church and state, criticizes and battles fundamentalist Islam over this issue. Yet in the United States many religious fundamentalists do not hold that ideal and actively subvert this American tradition. Many would introduce religion and supernatural explanations into the teaching of science, while maintaining the United States is falling behind the rest of the world in science education. Public funding continues to increase for faith-based organizations which discriminate in their employment practices, and also in the distribution of their aid based upon religious belief and personal lifestyle. The United States intervenes for Rahman in his legal fight in Afghanistan based on the principle of separation of church and state, while its leaders, such as President Bush, push for an increasing role for certain religions in governing the country.

Taking Boyer’s advice to heart, that religious belief will be around for a long time, we see the war for separation of church and state will not be won by debating the truth of religious belief. The war will be won by convincing everyone that respect and tolerance for all religious belief via the separation of church and state is the better and safest course for everyone.

The rise of weapons of mass destruction has made this a struggle between life and death. If the United States wants to be a leader for making this ideal universal, it must embrace that ideal at home, and clean up its house before anyone will take it seriously.

Some forces supporting religious bigotry and intolerance in the United States will not be convinced by persuasive argument. That makes protection of the separation of church and state all the more imperative. The cost of defeat will be destruction, tyranny, and death.

The primary issue is not over the truth of religion, but religion’s role in governing the state.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Kick a Little

Two wins and a postponement in today's Premiership. Since beginning my new strategy for picking winners, I am absolutely smoking.

Who said this game was hard?

A Coffee Mug

One Christmas, several years ago, a girlfriend gave me a tall stainless steel thermal coffee mug—the kind you can sip from while driving to work. I have tried to drink my morning coffee from cups and other mugs since then. But the coffee tastes better and stays warmer in the mug she gave me.

We have not contacted each other in four years. I should send her an e-mail telling her what a great gift she had given me. I might also mention how I think of her fondly each morning while drinking my morning coffee. I probably won’t though. She was only was my girlfriend for a short time. And then there is that small matter of her not liking me very much when she said goodbye.

Just another Friday night

Friday night. This time I play it sneaky--just for a goof. I get to the local bar about two hours after all the other folks who drink there regularly. I plop my geezer ass amongst them. In a magnanimous gesture, I buy everyone a round. After that, everybody buys me rounds—including the bartenders. This goes on all night, so I save a lot of money.

A woman sits across the bar with her boyfriend. He must be about my age. He watches the basketball game. They don’t talk. She obviously does not want to be sitting in a dark smoky bar on Friday night while being ignored. It looks like one of those deals where he would rather be out with the guys getting drunk and watching the basketball games without her.

I occasionally glance at her. We make immediate eye contact each time because she is already staring at me.

I love her haircut. It fits her face very well. I’m slightly smitten.

The whole exercise means nothing. She is with the guy she loves. She knows she is being treated like shit, but that is just the way it goes sometimes.

I will wake in the morning and the first image in my mind will be her.

Everybody I know leaves in a drunken stupor. I have spent relatively nothing on drinks. I drink one more beer and a shot of Maker’s Mark before I leave.

Now, I’m home blogging. Sigh.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Outside the Flock

Afghan citizen and former Muslim Abdul Rahman has converted to Christianity. He could be sentenced to death under Shariah law provisions contained in the Afghan constitution. The Afghan constitution is built on an uneasy alliance between secular freedoms and religious laws. Shariah law mitigates against Rahman in this case.

One can interpret what is going on in Rahman’s case by reflecting on the nature of religious belief. Let us grant, for argument’s sake, Pascal Boyer’s claim that religion is a by-product of mental processes that evolved for other purposes.

Large organized religions require and demand the social commitment of their believers on pain of death or extreme social ostracism. Social cohesion and commitment, regardless of religious practice, creates survival value. Religion piggybacks upon this natural human tendency toward social cohesion. Keeping believers inside a religion would be tenuous at best if an extreme punishment did not fit the extreme crime of leaving the fold.

Rahman’s case has fueled the same debates as the Danish cartoon events. As people try to score political points, they skip over the tricky questions about religious belief with its grounding in human nature.

Because religious belief is grounded in evolved human nature, it will be with us for a long time. Religion will also transcend political categories. The question remains as to whether persuasive logic about religious issues will change opinions arising from the strong social bonds that religions provide its members. Everyone’s fate hinges partially on this question.

Secular atheists are not popular people. (Evidence for this point can be found in Edie’s excellent article, Thoughts on Atheism, at Annotated Life.) Religious belief does not lend itself to classical persuasive argumentation; it is not that kind of thing. However, is there anything else we have to rely on?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Theft

I finished reading Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, a book about his life long obsession with the Arsenal football team. Now, it’s on to Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World: an unlikely theory of globalization.

Football, as you can tell, has stolen my mind. The theft pleases, yet also instructs. Sports tend to parallel and intensify modern economic, political, and cultural issues such as racism.

My time watching football and learning about it is not entirely wasted while I admit I lack rigorous justification for it.

FA Cup

I won 3 and lost 1 in the FA Cup this week. I picked the 0-0 draw between Charlton vs. Boro today, which made all the difference.

I'm 14 wins and 6 losses so far in March and a shade over six picks to the positive.

Now, if the Premier games would only go according to form this weekend, it is going to a honey of a month.

Fantasy Life

I didn’t play fantasy baseball last year even though I have won my fantasy league in years past. Blogging took its place by replacing one fantasy with another.

This year, I signed up for one of the Yahoo leagues: the easy to play Rotisserie version. I have no desire for anything more time consuming.

The Chicago Cubs don’t appear as if they will win anything this year, although they might be a better team than last year. However, Wood and Prior are once again injured, and have not participated in Spring Training. It’s hard to win without a complete starting rotation.

The fantasy baseball team might take a little of the edge off the situation. I live a fantasy life. Why not play fantasy baseball?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Iraq and Emotions

I was talking to a guy last night who from the beginning of the Iraq War until now has been a vocal critic of it. He surprised me by saying we should not immediately withdraw from Iraq.

When you look at the polling statistics, that is the general sentiment of a majority of Americans. The reasons people feel that way seems the more interesting question though.

The reasons are many; two seem interesting. I have written in another article that the Iraq War is a blood sport that anyone can view from a safe place and distance. I’m not accusing people of being ghouls. However, I have heard too many people talk about Iraq as if they were spectators at a gladiator event in the Coliseum. This emotion is operating at some level in many minds.

The other reason I find fascinating is fear of the unknown. When I question people who are against the war, yet still believe we need to stay in Iraq, I see a lot of hand waving, but do not hear much sound argument. I’ve yet to be persuaded by the hand waving. What prompts this fear? I won’t bore the reader with my many pages about these reasons, but focus on the obvious.

We are in Iraq is because a majority of Americans, for whatever reason, wanted to fight in Iraq. They had no desire to go and fight themselves, nor pay for it, but they wanted to see someone do it. If public reaction against the war had been as swift and decisive as the Dubai ports deal, we might not be there. If all had gone as well as the Desert Storm war, think how popular President Bush would still be.

I wonder if those who oppose current U. S. policies should start taking into account these deep American emotional responses. Should they infect minds with different emotions—even new fears? This might work better than reasoned argument ever could. The opposition knows how to manipulate emotions, and they have had their way for too long.

A sad loss

This is not what I want to write about, but it's midnight, and I am tired. This seems the easiest thing.

Liverpool routed Birmingham 7 - nil today at Birmingham in their FA Cup game. Birmingham, who appears on their way to relegation, probably deserved to have a better result than having 7 goals put up against them. It might have salved a few wounds.

I won some pocket change on the game, but I sure wish it had been a little more seemly, rather than watch the losing side stripped of their dignity.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Memorize your General Orders before you get to boot camp

President Bush has made it official. The next President and the 2009 Congress will have to see to the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

You should memorize your General Orders before you get to boot camp. That’s about the best advice I can give you at this time. If I can think of any other useful tips, I’ll pass them along.

Late Lunch

When I woke this morning, I admitted to myself I would be watching the Birmingham City vs. Liverpool FA Cup game this afternoon. After all, I wagered on Liverpool. So, here I am eating a late lunch in front of the television.

Liverpool has scored in the first and fourth minute. BC is really up against it now. I can hear the extra coins jingling in my pocket already.

What's up with Blogger?

I have been having a devil of a time publishing on Blogger the past several days. My blog disappears after I publish a posting. When I attempt to republish the whole blog, I get a write/out of space error message. When I hit the republish index only button, things seem to return to order. It appears I am doomed to a multi-step process if I want to publish anything.

I've written the support group a couple of times, but it seems they are real busy, for I have not heard back from them.


Make sure you are covered before you go

I found these headlines on the NYT home page this morning: Iraqi Insurgents Storm Police Station, Killing 18 officers, and New Business Blooms in Iraq: Terror Insurance.

Who says we are not rebuilding the Iraq economy and that things are not getting better all the time?

I'm curious. How many Americans plan to take their families on vacation in Iraq this year? Have they discussed their plans with their insurance agent to make sure they are covered?

Monday, March 20, 2006

French kiss

I ventured to the local bar yesterday to try and discover whether St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Chicago was finally over. The bar was mostly empty. Only one regular was there, and he left shortly after I arrived. Then the rest of the folks left, and I was left completely alone to drink a couple of beers and watch the basketball tournament with no obstructions and distractions.

Folks who had been out shopping started to drift into the bar. A guy from North Carolina sat down next to me, and was dying to have me listen to him talk nonstop while he drank his beer. It didn’t promise to be as much fun as the French kiss I got from the woman I met at the bar for a few moments Thursday night.

So, I finished my beer and left.


Writing has become damned difficult lately.

My opinions about current events have not altered. And why should they, for the world continues to go to Hell under leadership whose only goal is making sure it gets there as quickly as possible? Lots of people are writing about it; I have nothing to add.

I have answered all the big philosophical questions to my own satisfaction and prejudice except for the free will question, the one question whose illusions I am hesitant to quit.

My reading consists of political and philosophical articles scraped from the Internet, but mostly books on soccer that I enjoy and need for my current writing project.

I mostly listen to Country and Western music these days. Every year February and March drive me to it for reasons I cannot explain.

I went to bed last night thinking I’d break away from English football until next weekend’s Premier games. When I woke this morning, I discovered the next round of the FA Cup begins today, and runs through Thursday with all the games playing on TV. How could I have forgotten? Manchester City is home to West Ham today with both teams evenly matched in the standings. That does not prevent me from dearly wanting to pick the outcome of the match.

Maybe, I should return to the window on my computer with the manuscript in it, and try to write and make some sense, if only in private? Or I could suck it up and confront what is distracting me. Those seem the only options this Monday morning.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Fulham 1 - 0 Chelsea. Thus, I finish with 5 wins and 1 loss in Premier League play this weekend. I made last minute bets on Tottenham yesterday and Liverpool today, both at good odds, and both winners. Things turned out way better than planned.

After my disastrous foray into Champions League play last month, I have already won it all back, plus a little more, during March.


Sunday morning, and Chelsea is a frustrating goal down versus Fulham. A potential Chelsea loss stands between my perfect 6 wins and no losses in Premier League football this weekend. Come on guys, get it together in the second half.

Totally Chicken****

After attending an anti-war rally last night, conveniently located outside my door, I was wrenched back into reality.

During the holidays, President Bush put the number of Iraqi civilian deaths at 30 thousand. A John Hopkins study and others had already put those deaths at 100 thousand to 180 thousand. There are other reports of 300 to 500 thousand civilian deaths attributable to the war. The total of maimed and wounded are anyone's guess. We could expect President Bush to low ball the estimate. He is who he is. What you see is precisely what you get.

But what of the Democrats in Congress? What you see and hear from that group is not what you get. After Congressman Murtha's stand against the war in the Fall, you might have suspected some Democrats in Congress to jump on the train, especially with President Bush's approval ratings dropping to Nixon era lows. History now shows that the proposition is at least 10-1 against the Democrats in Congress coming out vocally for withdrawing from the war.

Since it is Sunday morning, and I am in a reasonably affable and gregarious mood, I will call the Congressional Democratic position, across a whole spectrum of issues, chickenshit.

Russ Feingold's attempt to muster Democratic support in Congress to censure President Bush for illegal domestic spying has fallen on ears attached to heads not supported by backbones. This comes after the ABA overwhelming pronounced the activity illegal and published a public statement, and while public sentiment was running against domestic spying.

Many Conservatives have been defecting from the pro-war camp recently, or at least expressing grave concerns about the way the war is going. However, the Democrats in Congress, most of them pro-war, remain as isolated as their fellow Congressional Republicans and the Bush Administration.

We apparently have one party rule in this country. Those who express their disapproval of Bush Administration policies, incompetence, and corruption have no one to turn to in Congress, except a few souls who speak out every now and then about an issue such as Murtha and Feingold.

Let's call what it is: chickenshit.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

War Protest

A very nice rally was held protesting the war a block from where I live, so I joined the proceedings for awhile. Several thousand people seemed to be there. I was going to post a picture, but Blogger is all messed up right now.

It is time to bring the troops home.

Chicago: the city of never ending St. Patrick's Day

Chicago held its St. Patrick's Day parades last Saturday. And of course, everyone went out drinking after that was all over. Yesterday was the official drinking celebration. And now today, people who missed the first couple of rounds, or didn't get enough, are out in force.

It's getting so I guy can't find a barstool to watch a ballgame from anymore.

Times Change

The Everton vs. Aston Villa game is over, the Warburg vs. Hamburg match now plays on TV, and the Birmingham vs. Tottenham match is coming up on TV in a few minutes; three ESPN Gamecast computer screens are open to the Arsenal vs. Charlton, West Brom vs. Man. U., and Bolton vs. Sunderland matches—all of which I have wagered on and apparently won; the NCAA Wrestling Tournament plays on another computer screen; the NCAA basketball tournament is starting, and the college wrestling finals will be played later on TV; my sport radio is dialed into Saturday morning flashback on WXRT (year 1971) with Bob Dylan playing my favorite of his: Watching the River Flow; I am in heaven.

We didn’t have this kind of stuff back when I was young. You didn’t even see an NCAA basketball tournament game until the final game. If you were lucky and the wrestling tournament was held in Iowa, you could listen to the finals on the radio. They showed the England vs. Germany World Cup final back in ’66 (the match that got me interested in soccer), but that was the only match.

Times have changed for the better for sports fans such as me.

The Start of Day 3

I am in the top 12,000 with one of my ESPN basketball brackets. That's pretty good, at least for me. Danger lurks in the future. One of my Final Four teams was Kansas, who lost yesterday. Thus, as the tournament advances, I'll be falling out of the top 12,000, and become one of the several million who entered the tournament--consigned to oblivion if you will.

Life is like that sometimes. You start at the top, but your luck cannot hold forever.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Strange Obsessions

I have always enjoyed following sports—some more than others. The National Collegiate wrestling championships are being contested in Oklahoma City this weekend. The past two nights, I have sat in front of the computer and watched the real time results of all the matches.

My wrestling team is Iowa. When I lived in Iowa, I had season tickets to all the matches. Not only that, I would travel to away matches and to the national championships every year. Iowa was wildly successful back then. At one point, they won nine national championships in a row.

Iowa has not fared well this year. However, they are challenging for second place in the tournament, which will sooth a lot of the fan’s bruised egos.

ESPN is broadcasting the championship matches live at 6:30 Central Time tomorrow night. Guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow night, even though Iowa has only one wrestler in the final matches?

I have started a new ritual every Saturday morning. I watch a FoxSoccerChannel live broadcast of an English Premier League match at 6:30 in the morning. Tomorrow’s match is Everton versus Aston Villa, a match in which I don’t have a vested interest; in fact, I didn’t even wager on it. Football (soccer) has become a new obsession with me, just like baseball and college wrestling, and that's why I'll be watching.

The next book I will be reading is Nick Hornsby’s Fever Pitch, a book about his obsession with the Arsenal football team. I’ve seen the movie, and really enjoyed it. After that, I plan on reading Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World. People tell me it is good. I just finished reading Galeano's Soccer in Sun and Shadow.

And then there is March Madness. I only have one bracket sheet that has not been run through the shredder. But that’s a whole different story because I don’t follow college basketball much anymore until tournament time.

Everything has changed about sports since I first grew interested in them back in the Fifties as a boy--except these annual obsessions I go through.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bad News: Cancel the Kauai Trip

As I mentioned in a comment to a previous post, I was going to buy a condo in Kauai and treat all my favorite bloggers to a trip out there should I win the $10 million in the NCAA basketball pool I entered.

I have already picked the first game incorrectly, which means there will be no $10 million or Kauai trip.

We'll just have to wait until next year.


Because sports wagering has significantly increased at State Street, we will only be updating results at the end of each month in order to save time and space. (Don't everybody cheer at once.)

Please feel free to contact us by e-mail if you have a hunch on a sporting event.

We have won 6 and lost 2 so far this month.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Liverpool 5 - 1 Fulham

I win.

The Ball

The history of soccer is a sad voyage from beauty to duty. When the sport became an industry, the beauty that blossoms from the joy of play got torn out by its very roots. In this fin-de-siecle world, professional soccer condemns all that is useless, and useless means all that is not profitable. Nobody earns a thing from that crazy feeling that for a moment turns a man into a child playing with a balloon, like a cat with a ball of yarn; a ballet dancer who romps with a ball as light as a balloon or a ball of yarn, playing without even knowing he's playing, with no purpose or clock or referee.

From Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

What Galeano says about football applies to all professional sports; indeed, it applies to work in general. Life should not be joyless.

By the way, I recommend Galeano's book whether one is a football fan or not. I can imagine some people turning into a football fan after reading it. Galeano beautifully blends sport, history, politics, and life's joy and despair.

Today's action

I've got Liverpool 1.40 to win at home versus Fulham today.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Who are you picking, Lynn?

Last night I retired to the local bar with my NCAA basketball tournament bracket sheet and a mound of statistics, rankings, and ratings for all the teams. Each year, I enter one of those Internet promotional mega-pools, the kind with a kazillion entries. This year's promotion is $10 million if you pick every game correctly.

So, after a couple of beers, I made one simplifying assumption, and picked my alma mater, Iowa, to win the whole thing. The guy sitting next to me said he picked them to go all the way in his office pool, and he is not even from Iowa. So, at least two of us in the world need to get back into rehab.

Usually, I don't pick many upsets in the tournament because I go mainly by the betting futures. This year I picked plenty of upsets.

I plan on buying the condo on the beach in Kauai with my winnings, so I will start looking at Internet real estate listings today.

This is going to be good. In fact, I'm wearing my Kauai hat as I write this.

Monday, March 13, 2006

2008 Presidential Election Futures: My Dream Election

I was looking at the odds on the 2008 Presidential election. Hillary Clinton is the favorite at 3-1. George Allen Jr. is 7-1 and John McCain is 8-1

The longest shot is Michael Moore at 7500-1. Pat Robertson is 2000-1. I like to gamble, but not enough to take either of those odds even for a goof.

My dream election would be a competition between Laura Bush, Jesse Ventura, and James Carville all of whom are running at 1000-1. Even better would be if the election was so tightly contested between the three that it was thrown into the House of Representatives for decision. Once the election was decided by the House in favor of Jesse Ventura, the two losers would claim voting irregularities and kick it to the Supreme Court. The court would overturn Jesse "The Body" Ventura's election in favor of Laura Bush. The Social Conservatives would howl that Laura does not have a strong enough record on social issues, and the Supreme Court would overturn their previous ruling and give it to either Alito, Scalia, or Thomas. And then we'd be right back where we started.

Let's make it a real circus in 2008.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Iowa 67 Ohio St. 60

Hawks win the Big Ten Tournament; I win too!

Hook 'Em Hawkeyes!

Juventus 0 - 0 AC Milan

I get my draw to make up the one I missed earlier today. Now, if my beloved Hawkeyes would only cover the spread, I'd be golden this Sunday--or at least silver anyway.

Diving into the deep end

Not content to leave well enough alone, I wagered on Iowa +2.5 to win vs. Ohio St. in the Big Ten Basketball Tournament Final.

I wouldn't need so much action today if I had not watched The Hustler last night.

The lesser of two evils

I couldn't resist. I bet the draw at 2.85 between Juventus at home versus AC Milan.

I needed the action, and figured it was better than wagering on Iowa.

Arsenal 2 - 1 Liverpool

I lose my draw.

Gerrard (Liverpool) makes a disastrous mistake, and Henry (Arsenal) gets an easy goal at 82' to ruin everything. That draw would have made me well again.

Now, I have to fight the urge to bet on Iowa in the Big Ten Final this afternoon because the spread is just not good enough at +2.5 for Iowa.

The chilling breath of Fascism

This is why those of us whom have refrained from using the word Fascist for the tactics of the Bush Administration often wind up looking like fools. Read Deputies' Questions Unsettle University in the LA Times. The story is causing a stir, as well it should. Of course, those who don't care about their freedom should go to for a completely fictitious account of what is happening in America.
A Pomona College professor of Latin American history said Friday that he was questioned about his Venezuela connections by two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies working for a federal task force and called the quizzing an intrusion on his academic freedom.

The college's president weighed in as well, saying he feared the "chilling effect" such visits could have on academia.

Professor Miguel Tinker-Salas said the deputies entered his office without an appointment Tuesday during hours normally set aside for student conferences. He said the deputies were there for about 25 minutes and asked him about the Venezuelan community and his relationship with it. They also told him he was not the subject of an investigation (a patent lie--my words). . .

Tinker-Salas figured in a Christian Science Monitor story last month dealing with whether Iran and Venezuela could forge a political counterweight to U.S. power. He said the detectives questioned him on subjects that easily could have been answered elsewhere.

Tinker-Salas said the deputies also questioned waiting students about him and examined cartoons on his office door.

"They asked them about my classes," he said. "My students were intimidated."

Read the whole thing. It's short.

Think it cannot happen to you? Think again.

Those who do not care about the freedom of expression for others deserve everyone's complete and sincerest apathy should they lose theirs.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Gotta Hunch

You know I gotta hunch, fat man. I gotta hunch
it's me from here on in ... One ball, corner
(shot goes in)
I mean, that ever happen to you? When all of a
sudden you feel like you can't miss? I dreamed
about this game, fat man. I dreamed about this
game every night on the road ... five ball ...
(shot goes in)
You know, this is my table, man. I own it.

Fast Eddie Felson, The Huslter

Change of Plan

The Hustler is showing on Turner Classic Movies right now. I'll be watching that until it's over.

Postcard from Costa Rica

A honey of a day; blue sky; walking around outside without wearing a winter coat; and the sliding glass door to the balcony wide open to let in some air.

I received a postcard from Costa Rica sent by I woman I once knew. We spent a week there several years ago. That is when I learned the thing had come undone.

I was reminded of this passage from Walter Benjamin’s A Berlin Chronicle:
There are people who think they find the key to their destinies in heredity, others in horoscopes, others again in education. For my part, I believe that I should gain numerous insights into my later life from my collection of picture postcards, if I were able to leaf through it again today.

And what of tonight? Study the Presocratics a little, read Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow, listen to the drunken revelers far below in the street, and dream about how pretty Costa Rica might be should I ever wander that way again.

Prediction and History

Edie at Annotated Life has gotten me interested again in historicism and prediction via her recent articles titled A Scientific Historical Perspective.

What is prediction, in general, though? Let’s offer a preliminary definition. Prediction is merely a set of propositions about what will be the case in the future. That might seem good enough to define prediction, but let’s add some meat to the bones, while avoiding the minutiae of the philosophy of science.

One can make all kinds of predictions that are neither verifiable nor falsifiable. Predictive propositions should be sufficiently detailed, so as to settle whether they have come true or not. A good example is my wager on the Chelsea versus Tottenham football match today. My bookie and I both agree on what counts for my prediction to come true.

When it comes to predictive propositions, one should be able to frame a wager about the future. This does not go far enough though. I have all kinds of 25 cent bets with the guys at the bar about the outcome of this year’s baseball season. Is that a real wager? Or am I just having fun, rather than predicting those events?

A wager must be significant if a prediction is to be taken seriously. Evidence continues to mount that the garden variety TV political pundit’s opinion of the future is no better than the average citizen’s, whose expertise is not in matters political. Why might this be? Well, the TV political pundit has no stake in the game. If he’s wrong, he either qualifies his prediction after the event, or, most likely, no one remembers what he predicted. Because the TV political pundit is so often wrong, no one cares about his prediction in the first place. One must have a dog in the fight if one is really predicting an event.

Should one give reasons for one’s prediction before an event, or should one simply state a proposition about an event, and leave it at that? Yesterday, I published my wager and prediction of today’s Chelsea versus Tottenham match. I gave no reason why I wagered on Chelsea to win, even though my thinking went like this: Chelsea is the best team in the league, and Tottenham has yet to win a match against a top five team this season. Chelsea is also playing on their idiosyncratic home pitch called the potato patch. However, to be taken seriously, my reasons should have been given at the time of the wager, rather than after, if I claim to have an explanation for why Chelsea won, which they did. Prediction requires explanations and reasons prior to the event if one claims to understand the causal relations leading up to the event.

Have we really gotten to the heart of the matter regarding prediction? No. The things we really care about, such as the future state of society and culture, do not lend themselves to these kinds of clear cut propositions and predictions. We gather the facts of history, analyze them, try to find reasons for believing certain propositions, and make some very broad predictions. One prediction might go like this: if we invade Iraq on the basis of poor or neglected intelligence, do not possess a good plan, and execute poorly, we will create a disastrous situation that will cost a lot of lives and money. That is a loose prediction, but one that makes all the difference in the world when it comes to war.

We make these kinds of predictions all the time in our personal and public lives. Some people do it very well. That is why Adam Smith and Karl Marx are still read today. People disagree over whether history has causal laws, ones that we can use to predict the future. What gets lost in the debates is the powerful pull and sway of ideals.

The way we want the future to look counts toward the way the future will look; what we want to happen counts toward what will happen. Ideals influence events as much as events influence ideals. When ideals clash, faith and will often determine which ideals will be realized. The person who gives up loses. People of many different political persuasions admire Marx for his insights into how the world works. But his ideals have also driven historical change. Historical conditions may set the stage for change and progress, but the ideals people hold and their willingness to work toward those ideals also create progress, for good or ill.

Historical laws, should there be any that predict the future, are held hostage by individual beliefs and wills. Does collective action determine individual action, or is it the other way round? It's both. That is one reason why historical prediction is so damnably difficult.

What is a revolution without its Paine or Lenin? Who are Paine and Lenin without conditions ripe for a revolution?

Chelsea 2 - 1 Tottenham

Gallas scores at 91' off a brilliant kick, and I win! I needed this one.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Now what?

The season ending episode of Battlestar Galactica was tonight. It won't be back until October. Now what do I do on Friday night?

Weekend Football

I have Chelsea 1.48 to win at home versus Totenham on Saturday. I bet the draw at 3.18 in the Arsenal (home) versus Liverpool match on Sunday.

I'll be looking for an opportunity to wager on the Iowa basketball team this weekend should they beat Minnesota today. The Minnesota game did not present that opportunity.


It is actually a pretty good day: partly cloudy sky, and the air hints of Spring.

Plato’s damnable Republic sits beside the computer. I find Plato a thoroughly nasty man; and I would rather live in Hell for eternity than his ideal state.

For the past week, I have been thinking about a new way of writing. First, put in all the punctuation marks. Second, fill in the words. What a crazy idea to have nagging my mind.

Time for lunch, two plain donuts, and a big mug of Starbuck’s French Roast coffee.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Social Engineering Experiments

Now that the smoke has cleared the ideological battlefield, the Iraq War shows itself to be a grand experiment in social engineering. The war’s primary goal was to create a secular society embracing the Neoliberal economic model friendly to U. S. interests. Some cynically call it modernization. Supporting that economic model would be a democratically elected government of those who fully embrace the Neoliberal economic model. Reconstruction in these terms means spending enough money to assure friendly candidates get elected and stay elected. The result would be an outpost and beacon to other countries within the region to embrace global capitalism as a newly found religion, and relegating Islam to a subsidiary role in their cultures.

Now, we see even the most ardent intellectual supporters of the war finally announcing that the plan all along was establishing a liberal democracy friendly to U. S. interests in the region. Yes, we still hear the leaders of the war trot out the tired and worn out rhetoric of how bad Saddam was; and the intent was merely to overthrow a tyrant who was friendly to terrorism; and the sooner the better. This rhetoric is no longer designed to convince skeptics, but to keep the convinced on track, on message, and on board.

But what of these grand experiments in social engineering? Does the Iraq War prove once and for all that they are not possible?

The poor execution of the Bush Administration in conducting the war helps obscure the answers to social engineering questions. One can always say, as the neoconservatives are currently saying, that if the planning and execution had been better, then the result would have been achieved.

Fresh off the disappointments during the Nineties in turning former Soviet Bloc states into model liberal democratic states via uncontrolled capitalist experiments, the U. S. blundered into yet another failed social engineering experiment, despite the historical evidence that these massive experiments never turn out as planned. Now, we hear quibbles about whether Iraq is having a civil war. Let us not put too fine a definition on the current state of Iraq, but call it by the appropriate term: bloody chaos.

Of course, to say all this is merely to critique and rehash the obvious. Two classes of people compete for the elusive benefits of social engineering: the people or an elite ruling class. The U. S. should remain an activist world citizen. The question is for whom should the U. S. be an activist?

The world has become a lethal and toxic place where the extinction of the human species is possible if not probable. Every human is now truly stuck with the consequences from the mistakes of others. Yet the U. S. continues to fail in providing practical social engineering for its own people. Even the concept of the free market has gone by the wayside in favor of ruthless crony capitalism. Capitalism is also a social engineering experiment: one that results in haves and have nots along with massive disruption to the lives of those whom have not.

The economic needs of all the world’s people need to be met. The large scale Neoliberal social engineering experiments keep failing on an equally grand scale when it comes to meeting those needs. Neoliberals fail to notice that one can be an individualist and altruist at the same time. Claiming the political and economic rights of the individual does not mean one needs to be an egoist in the Neoliberal manner.

Let’s look at the extremes. The Capitalist engages in social engineering every much as the Marxist. The Capitalist touts the virtues of egoism. The Capitalist engineers society to support that egoism regardless of the consequences. The Capitalist denies he is engaged in social engineering. The Marxist touts the virtues of individualism and altruism. The Marxist claims that all people have political and economic rights. The Marxist admits that successful social engineering is a prerequisite to achieving the economic and political security of all people.

The Iraq War shows who has the more reliable motives and methods between these two extremes.

Canada 8 US 6

OK, now we are losing in baseball to a bunch of guys from Canada who aren't good enough to play hockey? This is too much. Whatever happened to US hegemony? The only thing that is keeping me from throwing myself from my 11th floor balcony is the hope the Cubs will win the World Series this year.

And that ain't much.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Liverpool 0 - 2 Benfica

I lose. Bummer.

Singer, Popper, and Marx

I found this article, Discovering Karl Popper, by Peter Singer, who reviews a couple of books about Karl Popper for the The New York Review of Books back in May 2, 1974. Here's some stuff about Popper versus Marx, but the article is worth reading for an overview of Popper and his critics.

Popper's Marx is a rigid determinist who thought he had discovered the inexorable laws that control our destiny, laws in the face of which we are "mere puppets, irresistibly pulled by economic wires."[3] Using this discovery, Marx, like a good historicist, is supposed to have considered himself in a position to prophesy the allegedly inevitable outcome of all human history.

Popper is not the first to have misinterpreted Marx in this way. Indeed, this is one of those fortunate instances in which the author lived long enough to rebut the misinterpretation. In a letter written in reply to Mikhailovsky, a contemporary critic, Marx denies that he has given "a historico-philosophic theory of the general path that every people is fated to tread." Mikhailovsky, he protests, "is both honouring and shaming me too much."[4]. It was in reply to this sort of dogmatic, rigidly deterministic interpretation of his ideas that Marx, late in life, used to say that he was not a Marxist.[5]

Admittedly, Marx was being a little disingenuous. As Engels wrote in a letter to Bloch, he and Marx were partly to blame for the misunderstanding, having felt the need to stress the economic side in opposition to those who denied it any role at all in history. Still, as Engels goes on to say, one has only to look at Marx's own historical writings, especially The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, to find that Marx is well aware that, as the first page of that work says, "men make their own history," though under circumstances handed down from the past. The same point is also to be found in quite theoretical, non-historical texts—the "Theses on Feuerbach" is the classic example.

This is not to say that Popper's attack on Marx misses its mark entirely. Marx sometimes, and Engels more frequently, wrote as if Marxism were a body of scientific knowledge that included general laws governing all historical development. Because this conception of Marxism is relatively easy to grasp, and attractive to a period impressed with the achievements of science in other areas, it has proved popular with later Marxists. Since most of the predictions that can be culled from the original general laws have turned out to be false, one would have to be extraordinarily biased to hold this view today. This is the only possible interpretation of Marxism that Popper could be said to have refuted.

It is not, in any case, a tenable interpretation. We have seen that late in life Marx and Engels rejected the idea of general laws determining all history. In his early years too, when Marx transformed what he thought sound in Hegel's philosophy into the ideas that we now associate with his name, he made no claims to scientific certainty. Moreover, Marx continued to think in the categories and terminology of Hegelian philosophy even while planning his most "scientific" works, as the recently translated rough draft of Capital shows.[6] In the light of these texts—which Popper admits he had not read when he wrote The Open Society—Marx appears less the Newton of the social sciences, more the philosopher struggling to apply to the real world the insights gained from his Hegelian education.

The fact remains that these insights do prove illuminating. A proper appreciation of Marxism would grant its philosophical orientation and would see it as suggestive of ways of looking at man and society that are scientifically fruitful, although it is not itself a full-blown science. We may disregard Marx's sometimes excessive claims to certainty and his mistaken predictions, and yet agree that he has pointed out a path along which the social sciences may progress. Before Marx it was common to treat man and his ideas as if their history and development were independent of the fulfilling of more mundane needs; since Marx the idea that man's ideological, political, social, and economic activities are bound up together and cannot be understood fully in isolation has become generally accepted. For this reason Marx could justly claim that his insights have made a science of society possible.

I cannot see why Popper should want to deny any of this. It fits well with his view of the role metaphysics can play in science, as a source of hypotheses for the scientist to test; and it fits too with his own admission that his treatment of Plato and Hegel in The Open Society was influenced by Marx, and that a return to pre-Marxian social science is inconceivable. To say that, today, no rational man can fail to be a Marxist would be an exaggeration—but no worse an exaggeration than Magee's remark that after reading Popper no rational man can remain a Marxist.

Today's Wild Ass Guess

I have Liverpool 1.48 to win at home over Benfica in today's Champions League match.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Juventus 2 - 1 Werder Bremen

I win on a goal at 87'. Whew!

I'm still thinking about tomorrow, but I might go with Liverpool to win over Benfica.

Monday, March 06, 2006

March Madness - European Style

Hard to believe, but the second leg of the round of 16 in the Champions League begins tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I have Juventus 1.44 to win at home against Werder Bremen. I'll let Wednesday sort itself out on Tuesday.

The potato patch

I see where Crash has won the Academy Award for best picture. That is the only movie of the bunch I saw this past year, and that only because the DVD was given to me as a Christmas present. I liked it. Stories with all kinds of people bumping into each other capture my imagination.

And Brokeback Mountain? I read Close Range while on a business trip to Idaho one winter. Reading was always good on those long and lonely business trips to the semi-arid earth of the high plateaus that are home to the potato patches of the Northwest. I needed to believe there was something beyond--something different from--business, especially then, when the whole ordeal began to bore me.

Today, I have my wish. I don't regret it.

Making sense

Not knowing what to do with myself in the wee hours last night, I began rereading Scanning the Century, a poetry anthology, that documents, roughly in chronological sequence, the Twentieth Century. I am hooked as I was the first time.

The first period is 1900 - 1914, so we have this poem by Arthur Lichtenstein dated 1913:


Sometimes there comes--I have a premonition--
A deathstorm out of the distant north.
Everywhere the stink of corpses
The great murder begins.

The heart of heaven darkens,
The storm lifts its deadly claws:
The base are hurled to the ground
Actors explode, girls go bezerk.

With a crash a stable falls
Not even a fly can save itself.
Beautiful homosexual men
tumble out of their beds.

Walls of all the houses crack.
Fish are rotting in the streams.
Everything comes to its own sticky end.
Screeching buses are overturned.

Translated from the German by
Peter Forbes and P. D. Royce.

Some big events, not all of them happy, came and went during the Twentieth Century. One yearns to make sense of it all, rather like Anna Ahkmatova, who wrote this in 1919 during the Russian Revolution.

Why is our century worse than any other?

Why is our century worse than any other?
Is it that in the stupor of fear and grief
It has plunged its fingers in the blackest ulcer,
Yet cannot bring relief?

Westward the sun is dropping,
And the roofs of towns are shining in the light.
Already Death is chalking doors with crosses
And calling the ravens and the ravens are in flight.

Translated from the Russian by D. M. Thomas

Just as there were some light days during the century, there are like poems in the anthology. What remains are the memories and documents of what was seen, heard, and felt during it all, and this anthology delivers on that.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Another Sunday Night

I bought my Coca Cola and drank it. The sugar elevated my mood, which was definitely sagging all day long. And now what? Watch the Academy Awards ceremony? No, I need something more interesting than that to latch on to.

I will try watching Mulan, showing on the Disney Channel. I've never seen it.

If that proves too boring, I'll take a nap and conjure a dream.


Snow and fog reign over the city today. I need a 12 ounce Coca Cola, but I'm too lazy go to the store to buy one. Maybe, later.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

For my best friend, Tom, round about his birthday

To a Friend

Late autumn strips the distant hills
beyond the city gates.

A huge white cloud interrupts my dreams
and returns me to the world.

And you, old friend?
Flown silent as a crane.

Will you ever return
to your old home again?

Li Po (701-762) translated by Sam Hamill in Crossing the Yellow River

A darned shame

Poetry is always about the big themes--
the big concepts.

Why can't it be about stuff
like the ghost of the young woman
I saw on the second floor of the house
where my Mom and Dad and Sis and I
lived back in '54 when I was in the second
grade: the cold and brooding house
just a little outside
the city limits of Galena, Illinois?

It seems a shame.

The secret of successful gambling

OK, you readers of State Street having been asking for the secret of our gambling success. Now you have it.

Get lucky at the beginning; and stay lucky until the end!

Just for you, dear reader

So, what do we look like? What are we doing?

We are wearing big ankle high pink down slippers; gray, blue, and black checked jams; a gray neckless long sleeved shirt buttoned to the top; and a gray sweater, whose buttons are undone at the neck.

We are listening to WXRT on our Sony sports radio, which is clipped at the neck of our sweater.

And we are thinking about you, dear reader, because we love you.

First reaction

I recall reading in a how-to-write-poetry book that a poet had to know how to write a good sentence. My first reaction was this: holy shit, that changes everything; it sounds like it is too hard.

Just me

What if I was just me--nobody else--just me?
Would you notice?
Would you care?

What if I was just me,
the one sitting by the window,
the one looking at the overcast sky,
and dreaming--drifting, actually,
into a place somewhat new?

The gray concrete would look as drab;
the sheer tedium and boredom of our lives
would still grate against the grain
if I was just me.

And you would still not remember
my name.


Mist . . .

I watched the football match after I woke: all the while feeling guilty about not writing. After the game, I ran my finger across the books on one of the bookshelves until said finger rested on The Complete Poems of Anna Ahkmatova.

I am a lucky man, for I have a library with lots of poetry in it. I'll spend a good part of the day reading Anna even though she will, most likely, make me cry.

I cannot write. Somedays, just knowing it makes me feel good.

Some Anna:

Latest Return

I have one path:
From the window to the door and back.


Day followed day--this and that
Seemed to go on
As usual--but through it all
Loneliness was permeating.
It smelled a little of tobacco,
Of Mice, of an open chest,
And it enveloped everything in poison
Mist . . .

July 25, 1944

West Bromwich 1 - 2 Chelsea

We won, and it looks as though we might be on the uptick. But you never know.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Worth repeating

I think you have seen this one on State Street before. (We are too lazy to look it up, even if it is on our own blog and computer.) It's Ray Carver though, and is worth repeating.

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.

All the places you'll go

Should you decide to write enough and expose it to public scrutiny, you will be found out as a phony, a Philistine, a fraud, more than a little inconsistent, and at turns morose and ecstatic.

So what?

The doable

On any given day, one is often torn between what one ought to write about and what one can write about. I say it is better to accept the doable, even if it is not what one should be doing. To do anything less means remaining silent, and, thereby, entirely giving up the game.

Myopic bullshit

I hope I never again hear or read the expression, “9/11 changed everything.” Christ, my father grew up dirt poor during the Great Depression, and spent three years in North Africa and Europe fighting World War II. I never once heard him say an event during his life changed everything.

Before you use the expression again, read a history book. And spare me the myopic bullshit.

A golden privilege

The workingman is too busy working to write much about the experience. It is left to the artist, who is not working, to write about working. The world divides itself into these classes too, along with other divisions useful and worthless.

Some mornings, I have sat in front of a blank piece of paper, and felt like heaving my guts out—the privilege of writing not seeming as golden as I once imagined.

A bookmark inside the Tractatus

I plucked Wittgenstein’s Tractatus off the bookshelf during a fit of boredom and low anxiety. The bookmark inside it is a 5 x 8 note card, which has a matrix inscribed upon it, whose entries are the numerals of certain basic passages, and can be read in different orders to achieve different and various explanations of the book’s central ideas.

I dimly recall the young man I met back in the mid-Seventies who shared my passion for logic and philosophy. He told me one could understand certain of the extended arguments in the book by making matrices of the appropriate sections. I do not remember if that was his idea, or if it was a trick he learned from someone along the way. I made several note cards inscribed with these matrices, but it appears only one has survived as an ancient bookmark.

Thus, I came to have this note card with a long forgotten matrix inscribed upon it. Should I follow some of the paths traced by the matrix; or would that be to rekindle a form of madness best left cold and distant?

On blogging well

Writing a blog is hard work—that is if you want it to be well written; and blogs are a form of writing despite those folks who want a free pass on writing well, yet still desire a large readership. State Street stands convicted of many egregious offenses against good writing. However, let’s not turn a rare morning of sober reflection into a maudlin lament.

We’ll try harder next time and leave it at that.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Check, please

Shortly after President Bush's State of the Union speech, I speculated on whether there was any clear intent to support the troops after they returned from Iraq. It appears the answer was not slow in coming. Here is a story from the AP: Veterans May Face Health Care Cuts in 2008.

WASHINGTON - At least tens of thousands of veterans with non-critical medical issues could suffer delayed or even denied care in coming years to enable President Bush to meet his promise of cutting the deficit in half — if the White House is serious about its proposed budget.

After an increase for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing by leaps and bounds, White House budget documents assume a cutback in 2008 and further cuts thereafter.

In fact, the proposed cuts are so draconian that it seems to some that the White House is simply making them up to make its long-term deficit figures look better. More realistic numbers, however, would raise doubts as to whether Bush can keep his promise to wrestle the deficit under control by the time he leaves office.

Tax cuts, anybody?

Encouraging study

At Scientific American: Drug Found to Reverse the Ravages of Alzheimer's in Mice

Back in the action

I've got Chelsea 1.42 to win at West Bromwich on Saturday.

A simple question; a simple answer

A lot of people e-mail us and ask, "State Street, you are really hip and cool, so what is the next movie I should see?" To which we reply, "anything with Helena Bonham Carter in it."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Iraq: the material condition

Juan Cole has an article at Salon, Iraq's worst week--and Bush's, assessing the perilous condition of Iraq. The one easy step the U. S. could take to alleviate the suffering of Iraqis is withdrawing its troops from the country. Some might it consider it unethical, but that is to strain the meaning of ethical beyond comprehension.

The material conditions of people make up a significant part of their well being. The occupation destroys those conditions. Abstract phrases such as "freedom and democracy" do not mean anything when your life and few worldly possessions are at risk each day. Even a rogue and villain conceals himself in the rhetoric of freedom and democracy.

The U. S. would not be in Iraq if there had been anything close to a nuanced discussion of ethics or the political reality of Iraq. Those who made nuanced assessments, both inside and outside the Bush Administration, were silenced and branded as weak or traitors.

A person who lives in the crosshairs of a gun takes a different view of morality than those who are safe and sound each day. Fortunately for those people who live in the crosshairs, President Bush's approval ratings have turned downwards again. One is tempted to trot out one's grand schemes and ideology as a solution, but the sad reality is that the one humane thing the U. S. citizen can do for the Iraqi citizen is vote out of office every single member of Congress who does not support immediate withdrawal from Iraq. The newly elected then need to appropriate only as much money for the war as is needed for the withdrawal.

The real moral challenge comes after that, funding the rebuilding of Iraq for the Iraqi people.