Friday, June 30, 2006

The Flag, Patriotism, and the Constitution

epm at Deertown Times tells us what chaps his ass raw with his Burns My Butt:
The other day I held up an American flag (3'X5' acrylic, made in China) and a copy of the Constitution of the United States. I threatened to burn only one. Guess which one most Washington politicians prefer I burn?

The irony is, the hollow patriots have no problem burning the same Constitution they were so keen to amend to prohibit the burning of a foreign manufactured symbol of American nationalism. I think that speaks volumes for where the priorities of this congress lie.

Meanwhile, Jodi at I cite says this about her lack of Patriotism:

Perhaps, then, my lack of patriotism is linked to a sense of a lack in the country, a split in it, a division and separation. Patriotism fills this in, prevents us from seeing it, prevents us from using it as a source of criticism and escape.

Once patriotism becomes merely another form of extortion, it is valueless.

Critical Thinking

From the Sckeptical Inquirer (via arts and letters daily): Critical Thinking, What is it good for? (In fact, what is it?)

In short, since it is so easy to misperceive reality, a critical thinker is disinclined to take things at face value, suspicious of certainties, not easily swayed by conventional (or unconventional) wisdom, and distrustful of the facades and ideologies that serve as the ubiquitous cosmetics of social life.

In other words, critical thinkers are necessarily skeptics. Skepticism can be summarized as concisely as this (Skeptic 2005):

  1. Skeptics do not believe easily. They have outgrown childlike credulity (Dawkins 1995) to a greater extent than most adults ever do.
  2. When skeptics take a position, they do so provisionally. They understand that their knowledge on any subject is fallible, incomplete, and subject to change.
  3. Skeptics defer to no sacred cows. They regard orthodoxies as the mortal enemy of critical thought-all orthodoxies, including those that lie close to home.
[. . .]

Like the honest juror, the critical thinker is ethically committed to the concept of due process-intellectual due process-as the best way to increase the likelihood of finding the truth. This code of intellectual conduct demands giving ideas their day in court before rendering an informed and reasoned verdict. It requires such traits as these:

  • Being unwilling to subordinate one's thinking to orthodoxies that demand to be swallowed whole-at the risk of being charged with heresy
  • Refusing to dismiss possible merits in ideas that otherwise may be deeply repugnant-at the risk of appearing immoral
  • Being capable of saying, "I don't know"-at the risk of appearing unintelligent
  • Being willing to judge the truth value of ideas sponsored by demographic and cultural groups to which one does not belong-at the risk of being accused of prejudice
  • Being willing to change one's mind-at the risk of appearing capricious
  • Being open to the arguments of adversaries-at the risk of appearing disloyal
  • Having an acute awareness of the limits and fallibility of one's knowledge-at the risk of seeming to suffer from that dreaded malady, low self-esteem

In short, this aspect of critical thinking can be the most difficult of all. Subjecting ideas to intellectual due process can require more integrity, humility, tolerance of uncertainty, and courage than most of us find easy to summon. No wonder we will join a wild-eyed, slobbering lynch mob from time to time.

[. . .]

Multidimensional critical thinking is not simply a byproduct of something else. It must be taught. Well, then, what about the "critical-thinking" trend that has permeated American education across the curriculum at all levels? Are these efforts succeeding in materially strengthening the quality of critical thinking in society at large? Again, the various indicators of uncritical thought in our society suggest not. It is doubtful that what students learn from those classrooms and texts does much to alter their worldviews and values regarding the truth. A primary cause of this shortfall is the antiseptic nature of the "critical thinking" typically taught to students. Either most teachers and authors do not possess a highly multidimensional conception of critical thinking themselves, or they are reluctant (perhaps with good reason) to approach the perilous territory-way past logical fallacies and weeping Madonna statues-to which full-fledged critical thinking inevitably leads. The result is the commonplace teaching of quasi-critical thinking.

Validity and soundness are not easy to achieve.


As I started the engine, Wheeler said, "if you get back this way, stop in and see me. Always got beans and taters and a little piece of meat."

Down along the ridge, I wondered why it's always those who live on little who are the ones to ask you to dinner.

William Least Heat-Moon, blue highways

As you can tell, it's blue highways I chose to reread. After a few pages, I am glad I did. The book is so fresh and new it is as if I had not read it before.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Mail opened; laptop found

Major: But, General, we can't just stand around and do nothing.

General: Why not? It's usually best you know.

From Lawrence of Arabia

I am notorious for not promptly opening my paper mail. I finally read this afternoon my letter from the V. A. informing me that a laptop containing my personal information had been stolen in Maryland.

Then a few hours later I read the news story that the laptop had been found. The FBI issued a preliminary statement that the database had not been opened or compromised since the theft.

Let's see, what else shouldn't I open?

Will it be 5-3 next time?

Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory lays out the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling against trying and convicting Guantanamo prisoners by military tribunal. Read The Significance of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

The vote would most assuredly would have gone 5 to 4 if Chief Justice Roberts had not already ruled in favor of the Bush Administration in a lower court ruling.

These kinds of victories won't last long if the Republicans continue to control the Senate as Greenwald points out and is well known.

The socialist/progressive divide

Some people will not join coalitions to achieve their political goals no matter how useful the coalition might prove. The case applies to the socialist/progressive divide on the left.

I am often struck by the sameness of the socialist and progressive critiques of conservative policies when I visit socialist and progressive news sources and commentaries. If presented with the raw text and no identifying author or organization, I can’t tell you where it came from.

When presented with abstract principles and a philosophy as to how to correct conservative policies, the differences appear. Things turn murky again when concrete and specific policies are proposed. Sometimes that is because no concrete or practical policy is ever proposed, at least within the current political framework we are constrained to operate under.

You, dear reader, are not going to read any long essay on this blog about the matter. However, as cases arise, I hope to point some of them out.

Suffice it to say, the conservative agenda rolls merrily along crushing everything in its path. Scoring theoretical points might be intellectually satisfying, but that doesn’t help much stopping the latest, almost daily, conservative policy victory. You can’t call conservatives incompetent when they always win.

The dam has more than a few leaks in it. Saying you will build a new and bigger damn in the future doesn’t stem the flow of water that threatens to deluge you now. You can’t build a new dam after you have already drowned.

Don't stop thinking about tomorrow

Don't stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don't stop, it'll soon be here.

Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac

We are flooded with e-mail here at State Street asking how we're doing with World Cup wagering, and what we're wagering on in the quarterfinal round.

Well, we are about dead level so far in the tournament. But all that is about to change with our four team parlay this weekend that pays a whopping 350 to 1. (all bets are settled at the end of regulation + injury time.) Here are the picks:

France and Brazil draw
England defeats Portugal
Germany and Argentina draw
Ukraine and Italy draw

Don't worry. We've only bet a million dollars on it and not our whole stake.

Just kidding! About the amount that is.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


When memory is too much, turn to the eye. So I watched for particularities.

William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways

Breaking Away

Warning: This post is probably the most confessional thing I’ve done in my life. Don’t read it if confessional things bother you.

My fortieth high school class reunion was last weekend. I didn’t go; I have never gone to one of my reunions. I liked the people in my graduating class. Some of them were very good friends. You would think I’d go just to see a couple of them after all these years.

High School was not always a happy time for me. My father had something to do with that although I’m not blaming him. He’s been in his grave for over 35 years. I’ve made my own choices for forty years.

My father was about the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. He was quiet spoken and a gentleman to everyone. If he displayed his temper, it was always over the normal everyday things that frustrate us all at times.

My father was also a classic binge drinker. He would leave job and family for weeks to sit in a bar and drink away all his money. When the money ran out, he came home. He and my mother would make up and life would whir merrily along like a lull in a storm until the next time.

Despite all the fights my mother and father had when he stumbled home drunk in the middle of the night, they never came to blows. I don’t think my father ever hit anyone in his life. I did discover recently that my mother may have had a nervous breakdown when I was about six or seven years old. I remember my aunt taking care of me and my sister while my mother was gone. My aunt won’t talk about what really happened.

My Dad eventually got into trouble because he drank more than he could pay for. He passed bad checks at bars to make up the difference. The bar owners prosecuted him. He went to jail after each episode.

My father was a linotype operator for the local city newspaper. That was a union job. It afforded us a lower middle class life—the three bedroom house for a family of four in a nice enough city with excellent schools. That all went by the wayside once my father started going to jail.

Finally, he was sentenced to time in the state penitentiary. I can no longer accurately place all the dates of my father’s jail time, but I think it was the summer of 1964 shortly after I turned sixteen when he started his state time.

My mother, sister, grandparents, and I went down to the county jail on a Saturday morning to see him off to the state pen. I stayed in my grandparents car while the others went in. My act was purely teenage defiance.

My grandfather drove me to a secluded spot along the river afterwards. He tried to convince me in his rough way that things would get better. I shouldn’t walk around with a chip on my shoulder. I think, more than anything, we were both embarrassed about him having to do that. I was sixteen and real busy being a little motherfucker.

My father was a model prisoner and received time off for good behavior. He served one year. I never talked to him about the state pen. Everybody knows it’s a gruesome place to live, so what’s the point in talking about it.

My father never went back to jail. He worked for about five years at a neighborhood retail store before he died.

I remember his death well. I had gotten out of the Marine Corps that year and was home for the Christmas holiday my first year in college. My Dad’s coworkers had given him a couple of fifths of Seagram Seven whiskey, his favorite, for holiday gifts.

I started drinking highballs Christmas Eve with my Dad. That’s when I learned that my Dad’s idea of a highball was a tall tumbler filled mostly with whiskey and topped off with a dash of Seven-Up. We with both got wickedly drunk and fell into fighting as only two hopeless drunks can do. I started the fight, but over what and why I do not know. I must have wanted to impose some revenge upon him. Before it was over I accomplished my objective. The temptation to hurt him when he was at his most vulnerable was too good to pass up. I was still real busy being a little motherfucker.

My father had not been feeling well during that time. He spent Christmas day in his bathrobe and retired to bed early in the afternoon. My sister and I went to a gig her boyfriend was playing with his band.

Early in the morning the day after Christmas my mother discovered him dead in bed. As soon as I saw him, I knew he had suffered a massive heart attack while sleeping and was truly gone. I found an empty bottle of Seagram’s Seven underneath the bed, which I discreetly disposed of before the ambulance arrived. He was a month shy of his 55th birthday. The whiskey took him sure as anything.

We link today’s events and activities with those events that haunt us from long ago, whether rightly or wrongly. Anyway, I did not go to my fortieth class reunion.

However, as this post attests to, you can run, but you cannot hide.

The sun is firmly up over the lake. Time for other things.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Harold Pinter on Politics and His Plays, 1966

From the Paris Review interview (PDF) with Harold Pinter in 1966.
Interviewer: Has it ever occurred to you to express political opinions through your characters?

Pinter: No, ultimately, politics do bore me, though I do recognize they are responsible for a good deal of suffering.

Interviewer: But you do think the picture of personal threat that is sometimes presented on your stage is troubling in a larger sense, a political sense, or doesn't this have any relevance?

Pinter: I don't feel myself threatened by any political body or activity at all. I like living in England. I don't care about political structures--they don't alarm me, but they cause a great deal of suffering to millions of people.

A Two Day Break in the World Cup

We have a two day break in the World Cup matches. It starts again on Friday. Germany plays Argentina on Friday. It could be a great match.

Seven of the usual suspects and tournament favorites made it into the quarterfinals. Ukraine is the exception.

France has come alive their last two matches. Could they upset Brazil? This is the last World Cup for Zidane, and Henry will be getting pretty old for a footballer the next Cup.

Not All That Arcane

Akhil Reed Amar points out in his recent book, America's Constitution: A Biography, that the authors of the Constitution intended the President to exercise his interpretation of the Constitution by either signing or vetoing new legislation. President Bush has been signing bills into law and then issuing signing statements that relax their enforcement. This has led to hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the hearing.
But for Chairman Specter, who helped the White House move new powers under the USA Patriot Act through the Senate, the issue comes down to basic respect for balance of powers - and for the Congress. After personally negotiating with the White House over issues such as the Patriot Act and the torture ban, he questioned why objections would not have been raised at that time.

"Wouldn't it be better as a matter [of] comity for the president to come to the Congress and say: I want these exceptions in the bill," rather than asserting them in a presidential signing statement, Specter asked.

When the question was not answered to his satisfaction, he called for answers in writing. ("My office in the Justice Department is flooded," Ms. Boardman said. "It will take a week."

For Specter and some other Senate Republicans, what tipped the issue was the president's signing statement of the fiscal 2006 Defense authorization bill, which included a ban on torture that had passed the Senate by a wide margin. That statement claimed the right to make exceptions to that ban.

Pressing the issue, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts asked Boardman to provide a list of laws that President Bush has decided not to enforce.

"I cannot give you that list," Boardman said.

"No, then who can? Is there any way for the public to know the president has made a judgment that he is not going to enforce a law?" he asked.

[. . .]

"This administration has issued signing statements at an astonishing rate to express the view that it does not have to comply with the laws that Congress has passed," added Sen. Russ Feingold (D) of Wisconsin, who has called for a censure of President Bush. "I believe that is dangerous to our system of government."

However arcane, the debate is "part of a much broader spectrum of issues that has to do with separation of powers," says Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

I don't see the debate as particularly arcane. If a President disagrees with legislation before it becomes law, for whatever reason, he should announce it and veto it. If a President signs a law, then it should be enforced. Hiding your intentions does not seem honest when it comes to enforcing the law.

Stuff on my Bookshelves I Might Read Again

I have been meditating on what to read next. Here are some things in my library I've already read, but might again. The only reason being I like them.

The Blue Nile, Alan Morehead
The White Nile, Alan Morehead
The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux
Blue Highways, William Least Heat Moon
Histories, Herodotus
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig (Damn, has it already been 30 years since it was a cult novel?)
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T. E. Lawrence
The Electric Kool Acid Test, Tom Wolfe
Dispatches, Michael Herr
The Rings of Saturn, W. G. Sebald
Vertigo, W. G. Sebald
Bleak House, Charles Dickens
A Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
The Magus, John Fowles
Poets in Their Youth, Eileen Simpson

I am sure more titles will come to me.

I just noticed that the Blogger spell checker works better in Firefox 1.5 than IE.

Agreement or Good Will

Occasionally, I meet people, not many, who would rather have me agree with them on every particular of their beliefs than have my good will and admiration. It saddens me when it is someone I genuinely like.

Goodbye is all we’ve got left to say.

Steve Earle

For Tom

Some poems from Sam Hammill's Crossing the Yellow River for Tom.

Alone Beside the Autumn River

All spring, my sorrows grew like lotus leaves.
Now they wither as my autumn sadness grows.

Grief is as long and wide as life.
Watch the autumn river. Listen to it flow.

Li Shang-yin (813-858)

From the Heights

I drag my heavy heart
up to these dazzling heights:

this beautiful, beautiful sunset!
And then the onrushing night.

Li Shang-yin (813-858)

After Reading Lao Tzu

"One who speaks does not know; one who knows does not speak."
Thus I have been instructed by the Old Master.

If you tell me the Old Master was one who knew, I ask,
Why did he write five thousand words to explain it.

Po Chu-i (772-846)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fantasy baseball and soccer

I picked up a couple of new players for my fantasy baseball team this morning. I added Curtis Granderson and Dan Uggla and dropped Luis Gonzalez and Josh Barfield.

I’ve been long overdue in adjusting my team. Being in first place most of the season has made me complacent. There is still this one guy who is within hailing distance of me. He just won’t go away.

I’ve been suffering through the injury bug too. A lot of my players have bumps and bruises that keep them out of the lineup without going on the DL.

I’ve been playing fantasy World Cup soccer at FoxSoccerChannel. I am currently in 193rd place which given where I was at last week is a very big improvement during the round of 16.

I like fantasy.


I’ve only been in the mood to read fiction lately. I was going to polish off Highsmith’s Ripley Under Ground rather quickly, but I am reading it a chapter at a time before I go to bed.

Tom Ripley is another one of those protagonists who are always doing something underhanded. He kills those who discover his misdeeds or get in his way. I wonder if it is healthy to read too many novels without heroes?

I think I’ll read Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy once I’m done with Ripley.

Firefox 1.5

I just installed Firefox 1.5. It runs so much faster than IE 6 I'd have to say it is smokin'.

A Big Fat 'F'

Tom Paine reports a survey of the top 100 foreign policy experts across Republican and Democratic party lines give An 'F' For Antiterrorism.
[. . .]

Respondents sharply criticized U.S. efforts in a number of key areas of national security, including public diplomacy, intelligence, and homeland security. Nearly all of the departments and agencies responsible for fighting the war on terror received poor marks. Only the National Security Agency received an above-average score of 5.2, on a 0 to 10 scale, where 0 represents the worst possible job of guarding the United States. Every other agency received below-average marks. Experts gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the worst grade; its average score was just 2.9. In fact, 36 percent of the experts indicated that the newly created DHS has had a negative impact on America’s national security, and nearly one in five thought the department’s funding should be slashed. In addition, more than half of the index’s experts said that creating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has had no positive impact in the war against terror.

The index’s experts were similarly critical of most of the policy initiatives put forward by the U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush since 9/11. Majorities believe that the war in Iraq (87 percent), the detention of suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay (81 percent), U.S. energy policy (64 percent), and U.S. policy toward Iran (60 percent) have a negative impact on our national security. The index’s experts also disapprove of how America is handling its relations with European allies, how it is controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction and its dealings with failing states, just to name a few.

[. . .]

Golly, that is more severe than public opinion.

Why is the free stuff better?

Each time I have had a major problem with a virus on my computer, I have found and fixed it with free Internet scans and free software downloads. Which makes me wonder why I should pay for a big anti-virus/anti-spyware program ever again.

In fact, my computer is running the best it ever has because I fixed a lot problems with free software the past few days.

I'm staying with the free stuff until it no longer works.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The end of an obsession: now what?

Now that the mighty State Street computer is restored to service, I’m a little at a loss as to what to do with the rest of my afternoon. But damn it’s nice to have Biker Bar Radio playing over the Internet while I write this.

I have spent the better part of two weeks trying to fix this damned computer. At some point it became a battle between me and technology. Rationality went out the door. My stubborn streak just would not let go of the problem for even an hour. The problem even haunted me when I went to Cincinnati for baseball last weekend. At least I didn’t take the damned computer with me on the trip.

At any rate, I am much relieved knowing I won’t have to worry about fixing the problem or waste huge gobs of time trying. Life is filled with all kinds of problems that need fixing and computer malware should not be one of them.

Not many people maliciously create Malware anymore. They do it for the money. Lots of companies love getting their hands on the information malware supplies. Plus, you can raid people’s checking accounts and credit cards too.

Enough of these somber meditations.

Compute safely!

A day of celebration

I zapped the piece of malware that ruined my computer with a free spyware program from AVAST. I had forgotten how well my computer works when it is healthy.

Along the way I zapped a lot of other problems on my computer, and learned a little about spyware and rootkits.

For awhile, I thought I would have to wipe my computer clean and reinstall Windows, so you can imagine how happy I am.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Congratulations Ghana

Ghana beat the USA 2-1 today to eliminate them from the World Cup. Ghana advances to the next round.

I heard on the news today that Ghana is the 98th richest nation in the world. They cut industrial electricity in the country so there would be enough to power the TV sets for people watching the game.

I am really happy for all the folks in Ghana and wish them all the best the rest of the tournament.


I picked up Sam Hammill's new translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching last week. I was inspired to do it because of Hammil's brilliant Crossing the Yellow River: 300 poems from the Chinese.

The Tao Te Ching has interesting and enigmatic things such as this:

Between Yes and No
there is how much difference?
Good and Evil can be compared.

What others fear
becomes our wilderness of fear.
Oh, it is endless.

People joyfully feast, laughing
as if climbing the springtime tower
to view the terrace.

I alone remain unmoved,
a child not taught to smile,
exhausted, forlorn,
a child without a home.

Everyone has plenty.
I alone am left wanting.
I live in confusion like a fool.

Even ordinary people can be brilliant.
I alone grope in the dark.
The insights of people escape me
as I drift placidly along.

Oh, they know ocean depths
and sea winds aimlessly blowing.
They believe they all have purpose.

The old Taoist alone, the stubborn rustic,
knows Tao itself makes him different.
He's nourished at the Great Mother's breast.

I don't know what that means, but it resonates on a day like today.


I haven't found a way to clean up the nasty piece of malware/grayware on my computer even though I have PC-cillan and tried all the stuff they recommend including HouseCall.

But I must soldier on. So I'll be posting again and using my computer even though it is painful to doe so.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Technical Difficulties

We are suffering through massive technical difficulties on the mighty State Street computer. Posting will be slow until we recover.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Technical difficulties, but still having fun

We are experiencing massive technical difficulties on the mighty State Street computer. However, that has not deterred us from our life mission statement: to have easy going fun while doing our own thing in our own time.

I saw a couple of baseball games at the new Cincinnati stadium. The park is very comfortable and family friendly with plenty of things to do for kids of all ages. I also had the best slice of ball park pizza I have found at any stadium I've been to. Check out the LaRossa pizza stand while you are there.

This is State Street signing off until the computer is fixed or tossed off the 11th floor balcony.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Off to Cincinnati

I'm off to Cincinnati to watch the White Sox play the Reds.

My computer is running a temperature of a 105 degrees, so it needs some bed rest.

Have a good weekend and don't forget to boogie.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


My computer went south and the ducks ate it today. But it's back.

The first thing I thought about was how I would set my fantasy baseball league lineup in the morning and how I would blog.

It is great to have priorities.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


This is the headline for Yahoo's report of Spain's 4 to nil drubbing of the Ukraine in the World Cup today.

"The pain from Spain falls mainly on the Ukraine"

A Joke

This is a joke I heard at the bar the other night.

Osama bin Laden dies and goes to heaven. The first person he meets is George Washington. After introducing himself to George, George punches him in the nose.

The next person he meets is Thomas Jefferson and Thomas punches him in the nose.

The next person he meets is James Madison and James punches him in the nose.

Osama complains to god about the way he is being treated. God replies, "it's 72 Virginians, not 72 virgins."


It is a glorious day in Chicago: cloudless sky and temperature in the mid-seventies. Time for lunch somewhere out of doors and a good read. Maybe, Proust--Sodom and Gomorrah?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Once you have lost Wall Street, what else is there left to lose?

Wall Street investment banker Ken Miller says Wall Street does not like this war at Tom Paine.
But despite Wall Street's golden moment, the problem of risk and uncertainty has reasserted itself in an unexpected way. The very unpopularity of the Bush Administration is threatening to create a seismic shock to the system. In financial circles, the word "incompetent" is now frequently applied to both Bush's foreign and domestic policies. The fiscal profligacy in violation of traditional Republican principles, two weak Treasury Secretaries and the recent loss of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's steady hand have begun to take their toll, creating a flight to quality government bonds even as interest rates rise and the dollar weakens.

Wall Streeters now fall mainly into two camps: Those who think the war in Iraq was itself a horrible mistake and those who think it could have been a good choice but was bungled in the execution. It is not the $800 billion the Iraq War is projected to cost that drives us nuts. A $13 trillion economy can make adjustments. But the troop drawdown and failure to finish the job in Afghanistan, the bad information in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, the ever-changing rationales, the failure to develop realistic scenarios after the collapse of Saddam Hussein and the chronic bloodletting without an exit plan -- these smack of the type of performance that, in the brutal meritocracy of the Street, would cost us our jobs.


And Wall Street doesn't like to hear about "the long run." We mark to market every day. It may be that in a few years, a securities position will be worth five times what we paid today, but we are still obliged to carry it on our books for what someone will really pay for it now. The Iraq War is now increasingly seen as an ideologically based experiment, one that departed radically from traditional U.S. foreign policy. Leslie Gelb, former head of the Council on Foreign Relations, has one plan for extrication, Hillary Clinton another. But George W. Bush, who struggles to admit even the smallest error, is promoting a stay-the-course program that draws on a reservoir of trust, a pool of political capital that simply doesn't exist.

With our dollars piling up overseas and the world economy depending on foreigners' confidence in our model, it is going to be hard for us to hold our breath for two and a half years. The damage to our brand under this management has been severe, and heretofore the cost has been neither paid nor calculated. When the markets finally render their judgment for this war and this Administration, there is likely to be a very hard landing.

When a Republican Administration loses the confidence of Wall Street, there isn’t much left to lose except for the support of a few hardcore fanatics and myopic dreamers.

Read the whole thing; it’s short.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

I just watched the last few minutes of Russ Meyer's 1970 movie Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a movie so bad it mesmerizes me. Not only does it have a long moral soliloquy delivered by voice over at its end, it also has an epilogue. I won't tell you the ending or epilogue because I don't want to spoil it for you.

From the Yahoo TV blurb:
Three college singers join a Hollywood scene of debauchery, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Adult Situations; Language; Nudity; Violence; Strong Sexual Content.

Now, it is time for a few episodes of X-Files.


To my untutored eye, the USA football team looked flat in their 3-nil loss to the Czech Republic. The ESPN expert commentators said the same thing.

The Czech team was favored to win. A lot of experts have said they are good enough to finish in the top four.

USA chances to make the next round would have been greatly enhanced should they have gotten a draw. The USA team needs at least a win and a draw in their matches against Ghana and Italy to make the next round. Even that would most likely result in a goal differential tie breaker situation. Going down 3 to nil in the first game doesn't help.

The Italy vs. Ghana match will be playing shortly. Italy is heavily favored in the betting. However, if Ghana pulls off a long shot draw, that gives the USA new life.

It has been said many times before; anything can happen. That's why they play the games.

Football (soccer), or I can deal with it

The Chicago Fire played their first match in their new football stadium yesterday. They were leading 3 nil in the 86th minute when the New England Revolution scored three times--twice in injury time--to tie the game. I know this isn't very scientific, but I hope the game did not put the hex on the new stadium.

Now, the Czech Republic is handily beating the USA football team 2 nil at the half.

Oh well, I am a Chicago Cubs baseball fan. I can deal with it.


4:30 AM. Daylight. These long days are the best days.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Waiting for the Revolution

One can grow old and die waiting for the revolution—sort of like waiting for the messiah to return to make things right.

Most of the time I don’t mind people’s idealism no matter from whence it arises. A lot of idealism, oppositional on its surface, blends into one piece with other contrary idealisms.

Naiveté bothers me more frequently. A revolution is often proposed without any realistic plan. Issues such as who will support and participate in the revolution and what are the revolution’s practical objectives and implementations get short shrift. A steady and inexorable accumulation of small victories don’t count for much compared to that one glorious storming of all the old order’s citadels.

I suppose in some eyes I am reactionary, reformist, jaded, cynical, and naïve myself. I look in the mirror many days and feel the same way.

I think I have history on my side when it comes to skepticism.

Sunday Fiction Reading

I read James Ellroy’s White Jazz last Sunday. From the back cover of the paperback:

Killings, beatings, bribes, shakedowns—its standard procedure for lieutenant Dave Klein, LAPD. He’s a slumlord, a bagman, and enforcer—a power in his own small corner of hell. Then the Feds announce a full-out investigation into local police corruption, and everything goes haywire.

Klein’s been hung out as bait, “a bad cop to draw the heat,” and the heat’s coming from all sides: from local politicians, from LAPD brass, from racketeers and drug kingpins—all of them hell-bent on keeping their own secrets hidden. For Klein, “forty-two and going on dead,” it’s dues time.

Klein tells his own story—his voice clipped, sharp, often as brutal as the events he’s describing—taking us with him on a journey through a world shaped by monstrous ambition, avarice, and perversion. It’s a world he created, but now he’ll do anything to get out of it alive.

Fierce, riveting, and honed to a razor edge, White Jazz is crime fiction at its most shattering.
The book lives up to its back cover blurb.

This Sunday I am reading Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley Under Ground. The novel continues the story of Tom Ripley begun in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Tom Ripley is a thief and a murderer, yet Highsmith, like Ellroy with his Dave Klein, pulls off the near impossible, making Ripley an engaging, interesting, and sometimes sympathetic character.

These novels fit with the mood I am in.

Late Night Typing

Early Sunday morning. I sit in the dark typing and looking out the window at the traffic below. I hear shouts, but they come from places hidden from view.

One thing is certain. I can't sleep. Best go back to typing.

Type pleasing words. Pleasing words for whom? Not all are pleased alike.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


The passing of al-Zarqawi would have been a time of great rejoicing and prodigious sacrificing to the gods several years ago. The event has been anticlimactic this week. Several things help explain why.

We have learned two things about al-Zarqawi during the past year. One, he wasn't much liked by Osama bin Laden. Two, he wasn't much liked by Sunni militant groups in Iraq.

Earlier this year President Bush informed us that he would not be removing troops from Iraq during his Presidency. This week he warned of increased violence resulting from the death of al-Zarqawi.

Two things are certain about American politics. Once a President's poll numbers drop to a certain level, it is damned near impossible to bring them back up. Also, once the media loses faith in a President, they won't return to the fold unless something dramatically good happens to change their opinion.

A dull apathy pervades the whole body politic. Everyone feels powerless to do anything about the dire circumstances in Iraq. All they can say is that they don't like it. Oh for the good old days when killing a villain was cause for celebration.

Meanwhile, travel agents are not recommending Iraq as a summer vacation travel spot to their clients. The recruiting offices are not busy. Nobody has their wallet out to pay for the war. The new Iraqi government remains under heavy guard 24/7 with no end in sight.

Sweet, Sweet Ann $$$$

Sonny it's money that matters, hear what I say
It's money that matters in the USA
It's money that matters
Now you know that it's true
It's money that matters whatever you do

Randy Newman, It's Money That Matters

Ann Coulter has a new book out. I see where it has zoomed to the number 2 position on Amazon's bestselling general politics list. Ann's books are money making machines.

I've never read one of her books. On the other hand, the only Michael Moore movie I've seen is Roger and Me. (Yes, I thought it was cute.)

From the buzz, I am led to believe Ann's new book documents how liberals killed Jesus. I always heard it was the Romans or the Jews. I need to get out more often.

I doubt Ann believes all the things she writes. Why should she care? She's making lots of dough doing her thing.

Political Projects vs. Political Parties

One way to think about politics is in terms of projects. We ask what are the projects on a political agenda? What are the projects’ objectives? What ideals and policies motivate those objectives? What are the implementation plans and their feasibilities?

Looking at politics in terms of projects often differs from looking at politics from a political party perspective. Political parties do not always support one’s preferred projects. A certain cast of mind is required to support a good project regardless of party agenda. Some people don’t care about political projects because their beliefs are 100% aligned with political party ideals. In addition to that, some people don’t much care about the messy details involved with implementing large political change.

In politics we often face the additional issue of whether a project’s stated objectives are actually the objectives the project’s proponents claim them to be. The true objectives may be obscured to make them more palatable. A political party often exploits this obfuscation for a supposed great good.

The political project view of politics competes with the political party view on almost every issue. The pressure is always on an individual to conform to some sort of solidarity with a political party’s policies. This often is necessary to get things done, but too many times people support the party line because it is easier than thinking about whether some projects have appropriate objectives or are feasible.

No doubt one should always be straight about one’s ideals and their supporting policies. However, supporting projects with bad objectives or bad implementation plans does not further those ideals. Dissent over a bad project plan is often considered betrayal of political ideals. That is a shame. The betrayal of an ideal is more often caused by bad policies and bad projects.

One of the quickest ways to be disparaged by all is to dissent on the basis of a bad project plan. The view is almost always that one is not suitably ideological and does not possess the requisite solidarity with a given political party’s ideals and policies. Politics is supposed to be a form of magic. If you believe, then it will be done.

Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Interesting Start

The World Cup is off to a rip roaring start. Yesterday, Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in an entertaining game. Ecuador upset Poland 2-nil.

Today, we have England vs. Paraguay about to begin what could be an interesting match. Plus, we have two matches later on in the day.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Death of an Outlaw

The life and death of al-Zarqawi confronts us with the reality of Islamist terrorism. The Islamist terrorist movement is not composed of people espousing one unified political, religious, and military dogma and doctrine. The terrorist is often a social miscreant seeking an outlet for his frustration with society through murder.

Some would continue to maintain the mistaken notion that there is one unified terrorist military organization that can be defeated by conventional methods. Others would have us believe that the terrorist is reacting to some form of oppression that never existed in the life of the terrorist, an expressed oppression that is a subterfuge camouflaging murderous intentions and proclivities. Both views romanticize the terrorist as someone he is not.

The face of the dead al-Zarqawi has been plastered across the news. It is reminiscent of Wild West days when the bodies of notorious outlaws who had been gunned down were put on display on the main streets of towns and photographed for all to see. The image is apt.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

A fascinating article about al-Zarqawi by Mary Anne Weaver in the Atlantic Monthly (via arts and letters daily).

During my time in Jordan, I asked a number of officials what they considered to be the most curious aspect of the relationship between the U.S. and al-Zarqawi, other than the fact that the Bush administration had inflated him.

One of them said, “The six times you could have killed Zarqawi, and you didn’t.”

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Fundamental Mistake

Dean Baker, in his The Conservative Nanny State, states the case for how conservative economic policy is designed to redistribute income upwards. He points out the reason conservatives have been so successful in promoting this policy is because they have convinced many people that they are arguing for market outcomes. Anyone who opposes their program is a proponent of big government intervention in market outcomes.

The irony is that conservatives don’t believe in the ability of markets to consistently redistribute income upwards. Conservatives promote big government programs that subvert market outcomes to assure the result. The programs and agencies of government that redistribute income upward work very well, and happen to be very big. On the other hand, those agencies that protect and promote the interests of the working class citizen don’t work well at all. Think of Katrina and other natural and manmade disasters such as the new drug benefit.

Baker believes that calling conservative economic policy market fundamentalism is a mistake, one that conservatives like to see people on the left make. It obfuscates what is really going on with the conservative agenda, which is the design and implementation of big government programs to achieve their desired results. Conservatives can more conveniently shield their real intentions when they mask their aims behind a rhetoric of free markets and free trade. The job gets much easier for conservatives when their opponents buy into that same rhetoric.

I think it is a point well taken.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Poincare Conjecture Proven?

News from China reports that two Chinese mathematicians, Zhu Xiping and Cao Huaidong, have proven the Thurston Geometrization Conjecture and by implication the Poincare Conjecture. Proving the Poincare Conjecture has been one of the most difficult mathematical problems since Henri Poincare first proposed it in 1904.

From The Epoch Times:
In the June issue of the U.S.-based Asian Journal of Mathematics, the two scientists published a 334-page paper, "A Complete Proof of the Poincaré and Geometrization Conjectures - application of the Hamilton-Perelman theory of the Ricci flow."

The Poincaré Conjecture, first stated by French mathematician Henri Poincaré in 1904, is that, in topology, if in a closed three-dimensional space, any closed curves can shrink to a point, this space is topologically equivalent to the three-dimensional sphere. Like the Riemann Hypothesis, the Hodge Conjecture and the Yang-Mills Existence and Mass Gap, the Poincaré Conjecture has been rated as one of the seven "Millennium Prize problems"for proofs of which the Clay Mathematics Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts was offering prizes of US$1,000,000 each, in May 2000.

By the end of the 1970s, U.S. mathematician William P. Thurston had produced partial proof of Poincaré Conjecture on geometric structure, and was awarded the Fields Prize for the achievement. Fellow American Richard Hamilton completed the majority of the program and the geometrization conjecture. In 2003, Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman made key new contributions.

Utilizing the Hamilton-Perelman theory of Ricci flow, Zhu and Cao have successfully provided the complete proof of the Poincaré Conjecture in the paper.

The paper must survive the scrutiny of the mathematics community for two years before the Clay Math prize is awarded.

The problem is near and dear to my heart since I had the opportunity to study it for a little while in college. In 2003, when Perelman’s papers were published on the Internet, I tried to learn a little bit about the state of the art. As you can readily imagine, I didn’t make much progress with that endeavor. However, it was fun trying.

As far as I can tell from the news, no imminent breakthroughs are on the horizon for the Riemann Hypothesis. But you never know whether a brilliant mind is working in secrecy and about to crack the nut.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Same Sex Marriage Amendment

The history of America has been about the struggle for freedom and justice for all. The introduction of the same sex marriage amendment shows we still have a long way to go.

The argument for making same sex marriages illegal goes like this. If we allow same sex marriages, then we will destroy family life for all Americans. That’s it in all its stark simplicity. How the marriage of total strangers, no matter what their sexual preferences, will destroy another marriage and family eludes me. It also eludes many who want to make same sex marriage illegal. If a same sex marriage destroys a heterosexual marriage, then the heterosexual marriage wasn’t much to begin with.

Sadly, there are too many people who support this amendment who would also criminalize homosexuality. Some of this is motivated by pure and simple hate.

The ideals of America are predicated on freedom and justice for all its honest and hardworking citizens. To strip the rights and dignity of American citizens because of personal prejudice and bigotry is antithetical to American ideals. The same sex amendment fits well with prejudice and bigotry..

The Bible commands us to love our neighbor. Stripping a good citizen of her rights and dignity is not an act of love. It is more like an act of hate. Too many Christians have not figured this out.

Fall Elections

When it comes to politics and other related matters I am neither good at theory nor practice as you can tell. However, I must muddle through somehow. Being a leftist libertarian makes me doubt that my interests will ever be catered to by either the Democratic or Republican party.

The prospect of the Republicans losing one or both Congressional Houses, unthinkable less than two years ago, excites me. Thank you, President Bush, for making it happen. I don't expect much to change if the Democrats take control, but the facade of a countervailing power opposing Mr. Bush comforts me. One of the problems with living in a fool's paradise is that is harder to escape then what some people claim.

My political thinking has become very polarized since President Bush was elected in 2000. Thank you, Mr. Bush, for that because it has led me into areas of political theory I never thought I'd go. The exercise has been fruitful.

We have a government characterized by bad ideas and gross incompetence. That has been the net result of the 1994 Republican Contract with America. It should have been called the Contract for Some Americans.

Will things improve in '07? It will take a long time to fix what is broken and then start making progress again.

Teri Hatcher's Face

The Irish Examiner tells us Hatcher horrified by mag's plastic surgery request.
TV beauty Teri Hatcher was appalled when she was told a picture of her face was going to be used as a demonstration for women who needed plastic surgery.

In an extract from her autobiography Burnt Toast, the Desperate Housewives star explains her disgust at the actions of surgeons who try to persuade people that they should go under the knife.

She writes: "It's true 40 was an amazing year for me. I got my first beauty campaigns with Clairol and Hydroderm…

"So you might understand my surprise when a magazine emailed me, cheerily informing me that they were going to print my photo alongside the opinions of a panel of plastic surgeons making recommendations as to the kind of 'work' I needed.

So I emailed back. I was horrified at the idea that some plastic surgeons who'd never met me and knew nothing of my medical history or my current health would make suggestions about how, under general anaesthetic, I could have cosmetic manipulations to improve my face and body.

"I wrote: 'Wow. First of all I am so sorry for your readers. I cannot believe this is what you want to put out there for women.'

"'What kind of message do you think you are sending to women, when you tell them that a celebrity - Teri Hatcher, a woman who has had a second chance, who has a great year, a great job, won awards, made money, and has a beautiful daughter - that even she needs plastic surgery to be 'better?'"

Smart move. Go with what got you there.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Questions about Sex

I have heard a rumor that President Bush will give a major address on sex today. And why not? He is a virile Texas rancher and beefcake-in-a-flight-suit kind of guy and ought to know all about it.

Modesty prevents me from detailing my own prolific sexual exploits, yet despite that I have some questions regarding sex between fundamentalist Christian married couples. I know sex is supposed to happen between a woman and a man in that case. Some feel that the couple should also be of the same race. My questions are about what you can and cannot do.

What kind of positions are allowed? Dogstyle? Woman on top? Can you do it for fun? Or are you only allowed the old quick in and out in the missionary position with intent to make babies?

What if the husband and wife are washing dishes and get horny rubbing against each other? Can they pull down their pants and do it on the kitchen table? Can the husband take the wife while she is leaning over the kitchen counter?

What about oral sex? Is it allowed? Who gets to do what to whom?

And what about anal? Who gets to do what to whom in that situation?

Maybe, President Bush will discuss some of the specifics in his address. Inquiring minds like mine want to know.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Reuters reports Students "executed" as Iraq violence rages on.

Gunmen in Iraq dragged 24 people, mostly teenage students, from vehicles and shot them dead, police said, as violence raged in the country on Sunday.


The victims included youths of around 15-16 years who were on their way to the bigger regional town of Baquba to write end of term exams, but also elderly men, they said.


Some tried to flee but were gunned down, a police source said. Reuters photographs showed six men shot in the chest, including one old man and five young men.

The vast array of violence and atrocities committed by the too numerous to count militant groups possessing different motives boggles the mind. No wonder some people easily buy into the erroneous idea that it a simple armed struggle between two identifiable sides.

One tries to follow the news as best one can, yet one still walks away bewildered by the horrible chaos. Too bad we are stuck with the desire to discover the truth.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Brazilian Football

The NYT has a good article on the Brazilian football team and Ronaldinho. See Most Bonito.
You look at Ronaldinho, the world's most talented and lethal soccer player, and what you see is the smiling epitome of Brazil's culture of pleasure. You look at John Terry and you have a deeper understanding of how it was that a small island nation once conquered half the known world. Terry — the captain of the English Premier League champions, Chelsea, and pillar of his national team's defense — has the height, the bulk and the air of cold command of the red-coated British sergeant who in days of empire instilled terror in his troops and enemy forces alike. When the two went head-to-head in a game earlier this year, it was more than a clash between two different ways of playing soccer, of approaching life; it was the proverbial case, or so it seemed, of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

It happened in March, at a critical moment in last season's clash of European titans, Ronaldinho's Barcelona against Chelsea, in the round of 16 in the Champions League tournament, club soccer's biggest competition. The score was 0-0, and 12 minutes were left in the game. Ronaldinho received the ball in the center of midfield, 15 yards from the Chelsea penalty area. Around him were four Chelsea defenders. Ronaldinho left one of them for dead and avoided two more. The fourth, the last man standing between him and glory, was John Terry. Ronaldinho's response was to do what he does better than anybody else: the unthinkable. Having mesmerized the Chelsea ranks with the speed of his feet and the swerve of his dancing hips, he met brute force with brute force — and won. He shouldered the English Goliath — perfectly fairly — to the ground. And it was from this abject vantage that London's finest looked on, a picture of defeat, as the samba-loving Brazilian whipped the ball low and true, past the Chelsea goalkeeper and into the net.

They could meet again in the World Cup.

World Cup Fever

World Cup fever has overcome us at State Street. Last night I entered a World Cup fantasy team contest. I have Henry, Nistelrooy, and Shevchenko as my forwards. I had to scrimp on some of my other positions to get them, but you get the big points in the contest for scoring goals.

I also entered a contest where you pick all the match results. I hope my strategy of getting lucky at the beginning and staying lucky all the way to the end works.

Friday, June 02, 2006

One Week Away

The World Cup begins in 7 days. Here are the top ten in the betting.

1) Brazil 5-2
2) Argentina 13-2
3) England 7-1
4) Germany 8-1
5) Italy 9-1
5) Holland 9-1
7) France 10-1
8) Spain 16-1
9) Portugal 20-1
10) Czech Republic 25-1

My Best Ever

I was writing my best blog post ever this morning when Blogger blew up. I busied myself with other things. When I came back I discovered that the post had not been saved. For the life of me I can't remember much of what I wanted to say, nor why I thought it of importance at the time.

At any rate, the dog ate my homework.


We try not to confess too much at State Street., but I just have to tell you what I did last Sunday.

I drank 11 shots of whiskey and 18 beers within the space of 7 hours at my local bar. I think that is a record for me. Plus, I walked home under my own power without any problems. I doubt if I will ever will come close to that again.

It was like one of those days when you run a marathon and unexpectedly set your PR. I've done that before too in my younger year.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Blood Stains

Evidence accumulates that Marines massacred civilians at Haditha, and that military authorities have hidden the fact.

Who was naive enough to believe that murders such as those at Haditha would not happen during three years of all out warfare?

Trying, convicting, and executing the perpetrators will not wash the blood stains from anyone's hands.

Garden Party

OK, you have been writing since first light early in the morning. All the rules you feel you must obey drag you down. These rules include grammar, the techniques of genre, the dictates of voice, vision, and tradition, and the expectations of various classes of readers.

The lyrics from Ricky Nelson's Garden Party play across your mind.
But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.

We all make choices when it comes to writing. Dictating to someone what those choices should be works until that someone is alone and confronted by a blank page. Then it is anybodies guess how it will turn out.


One good way for negotiations to fail before they begin is to have one or both parties demand that the other party accede to their negotiating points as a condition to beginning the negotiation. This subverts the negotiation in the most visible way, yet there are some who fail to see it.

Most people, however, who follow a particular public negotiation will not be fooled into believing the sincerity of the offending party. They will see it for what it is--an unwillingness to negotiate in the first place.