Thursday, November 30, 2006

Never go to The Wall alone

A cold, wet, overcast, and gloomy day.

All the same, I recall the beautiful September 1998 weekend I spent in Washington D. C. with a woman I loved. It was the weekend the Starr report was delivered to Congress. We were walking out of the Capital Building as President Clinton’s legal team was marching in to take possession of the report. I turned to my girlfriend and said, “they look as though they are going to the woodshed.” The lead attorney turned his head towards me and smiled as if he had overheard.

Then we went to the Vietnam Memorial on the Mall. Two ramps take you down to the bottom of The Wall. When you get to the center where the ramps join, the names of the dead overwhelm you, for they seem to reach all the way to heaven. Then you lose it. I mean you absolutely lose every perspective you had on the world and life. You just fucking lose it. The ghosts of the dead surround you and grab hold of you until you walk up the ramp into the sunlight again. Even if you do not cry when you are there, many years later you may feel tears rolling down your cheeks when you recall your brief moment at The Wall.

The next day we stood in line to take the White House tour. Everyone was reading the Starr Report in the Washington Post. A couple with their two young children wondered if they should wait in the long line to take the tour. The mother said, “let’s go. There is nothing to see but a desk and a box of cigars.”

However, the morning was warm and bright and I did not mind waiting in line. I was with the woman I loved. It did not matter where I was or what I was doing as long as I was with her.

Never go to The Wall alone. Always go with someone you love. You are safe and protected that way. The sun shines the next day just as it did the day before.

It is a wet gloomy day—the kind of day where every single word you try to write inadequately turns out to be about love and death, the kind of day fit for reading poetry, no matter what the poems are about, so as to relieve the burden.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This really could be the last of the wine

A rainy and mild day reminiscent of spring. The prediction is for colder weather tomorrow. Time to drift and drink the last of the autumn wine.

How about those Cubs?

The world is watching and asking. What the Hell is going on with the Tribune and the Cubs?

I have to believe that Aramis Ramirez’s and Alfonso Soriano’s signings for a total of over $200 million looks like a poison pill. As we well know, the Cubs also have to buy some pitching. That will not come cheap either.

You had better have a billion dollars in whip-out-cash if you want to own the Cubs. I wonder what Warren Buffet thinks of a deal like that.

I will be long dead and the Trib will still own the Cubs before they ever win the World Series. (They will never win with the Trib as owners.) Oh well, they have been my baseball team for fifty years. I can take it.

Intellect, Virtue, Leadership

I do not view President Bush as an intelligent man. I do not say that to denigrate him. Some people are smart and others, like me, are not. As we well know the similarities between President Bush and me do not matter except for the fact he is the President of the United States of America. (Big Sigh)

My intuition tells me I could have been a better President of the country than President Bush could. In fact, I would like to be President for eight years to undo the damage he has done. I am ready. I am not soliciting campaign donations. Do not write my name on the ballot in November 2008. However, before you vote in 2008, you should think about Lynn being a better President than President Bush is. That should trigger thoughts about the wealth of talent in the United States who would be a better President than President Bush ever could be.

I think the mature person goes through stages when assessing their leaders, especially those that we do not find up to the jobs we give them. At the beginning of President Bush’s reign, I found his arrogance infuriating. His disregard for the people he purported to govern bordered on the obscene. His rash and foolish invasion of Iraq confirmed my suspicions about him. Now, he does not anger me. That he does not anger me allows me to write this polemic.

Politics, at its best, should rise above personal enmities. However, a man can destroy the boundaries between all political theories and one’s personal tastes. Conservatives hated President Clinton even though he further broke the fetters holding global capitalism, balanced the budget, destroyed the safety net for poor and working people, and other projects so-called conservatives dearly love. His crime was accomplishing well-cherished conservative projects better than conservatives ever could. He was the classic case in personal animosity and enmity.

The character of the man who is your leader counts. The leader’s motives count too. Some people say that we should not worry about motives, but stick to the facts. Well motives matter. Motives are facts just like any other fact. We, as human beings, naturally and unconsciously assess others’ motives. It is baked into the cake we call ourselves. I have no time for those who say I should not worry about motives. Those who say it try to obfuscate their intentions and divert criticism from their opinions.

Just what are President Bush’s motives? I do not see him as an evil man. I think he is deficient in intelligence though. I see him as a petulant boy who has never grown up. He never had to think about anything important. He concentrated on trivial matters such as election to public office. He is a bully who depends upon the privilege he has always known to win the day for him. That works for every job he could have had except President of the United States.

Now, President Bush has to face his biggest test. He must confront the majority will of the American people. Bullshit and bullying tactics will no longer win the fight. I stand in the midst of popular opinion and he stands outside it. I, the person who was born at the bottom, without wealth and privilege, have the privileged position now. The one thing President Bush covets most, the approbation of popular opinion, he does not have. However, I have the approbation of popular opinion. Things that I said four years ago, things that enraged people, now sound like wisdom or at least common sense. I take great satisfaction in that, for I am one of the sovereign rulers of the country. President Bush does not know the concept of sovereign ruler in a constitutional democracy. He thinks he is the sovereign ruler, yet the majority elected him at their pleasure, not his. Now, we, the majority, are not pleased or amused with him.

Some people on the left say that it is not right to criticize the incompetence of a person of little intellect such as President Bush, for it blurs the distinction between his ability, motives, and ultimate ends. To Hell with that. Incompetence is the best tool to destroy those projects and policies you most detest. The Bush Administration has mastered the technique. That is not to say a person of little intellect such as President Bush would ever be capable of doing anything right. He never had to during his life. He never formed the habit. He does not know how to do anything right.

I agree with Aristotle that virtue is a habit. You cannot learn about it in a book. To be prudent you must practice prudence. President Bush never had to practice that virtue. People always paved the way for him. We see the results. Iraq.

We know who the front-runners are for the Democratic Party’s choice as President in 2008. I say to them, show me your virtues. Show me your intellect. Do not substitute a sexually repressed virtue that is not a virtue. Show me some prudence. Indicate to me that you know the meaning of the word. If you grew up as a rich boy or girl, I doubly suspect you. You may yelp at my bigotry regarding your privilege, but that is the albatross around your neck you were born with just as poverty is the albatross which others were born with. You get no free pass for having money and graduating from the country’s best universities. You candidates for President do not intimidate me. You are shit in my eyes until you can prove me differently. Shit you shall remain if you cannot prove it.

As for all you Republican candidates for President, go to Hell. I will never vote for you out of sheer retribution for the Presidency of Bush. You sold your souls for the favor of a man with little intellect and no virtue.

Yes, I can see I have matured.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Do not look into the mirror

62 degrees F. Another unseasonably mild day. The perfect day for drifting and daydreaming.

The Iraq civil war plays continuously on CNN—no longer in the background. Other news stories interrupt the Iraq story rather than the way round.

President Bush speaks of the war on terror as being a long struggle. He cannot shift his attention to civil war.

Civil war does not lend itself to good/evil or black/white dichotomies. Civil war is the nightmare from which we hope to wake to find reality restored. Yet civil war is the real that is part of the human condition. Civil war is the condition that proves the rule rather than the exception in its exposure of our hidden dark side. Black and white blends into gray at the borders. We see our natures most intimately during civil wars. Civil war lies outside the reality we construct for ourselves. Civil war is the surplus we try to repress. Civil war is that terror we deny. Civil war is the mirror that reflects our warts, lesions, and boils.

Maybe, President Bush has it exactly right. It is best not to look into the mirror. Yes, it is a damned fine day for drifting and dreaming. Well, drifting anyway.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Iraq thing, you make my heart sing

The Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation re-politicized me as no other event has done since the Vietnam struggle. I have been obsessed with it this past four years, as readers of State Street well know. I make no apologies for that. If you must be obsessed with something, then why not be obsessed with Hell, War, Death, and Destruction.

My opposition to the Iraq occupation has gone beyond politics. I inhabit the antipodes from those who blindly want to kill every Muslim for 9/11 retribution.

History tells us that there are enemies to freedom and democracy. Many of those who tell me freedom is not free miss the important part. Freedom sometimes comes after hundreds of years of struggle and then only in the right circumstances at the right time. Some people in the United States think you can buy freedom and democracy cheaply. If you are poor, you go to Wal-Mart to get it. If you are rich, you go to Cartier. Privilege spawns this attitude. People will not admit it, but pure and simple privilege and hubris make things like Iraq happen.

Congressman Rangel has called for a new draft of armed forces personnel. I suspect he is being disingenuous when he says it. I do not fault his logic though. If the United States is dedicated to a perpetual state of land wars, then is it not incumbent upon every able bodied citizen to participate? The market determines participation now, but is this not another market failure?

Some people are in favor of escalating the Iraq conflict. They forget one of the shameful parts of the Iraq conflict. Not many want to go there, and not many want to pay for it. At times, I want to say, either go there or at least put your money on the line rather than the money of future generations. I exercise futility in saying that. This is the land where you can get anything you want. You just go to Wal-Mart or Cartier with your credit card to get it.

The recent election shows that many people who once supported the Iraq invasion and occupation have changed their minds. They no longer believe the many falsities repeated daily about the conflict. Yet the powers in Washington still want to make one last desperate effort to retrieve the hopeless situation in Iraq. Senator McCain, who I once admired, wants to increase the troop level in Iraq and fight it out until the last woman or man is standing. The thing I find reprehensible about his stance is that he does not have the guts to call for another draft of troops. At least Congressman Rangel plays out the logic for all to see. As Senator McCain knows and we all know, the call for a military draft would be political suicide for a Presidential front-runner. Senator Clinton joins ranks with him. The recent election shows that the powers in Washington do not listen to public opinion because they do not care about it.

I remember the night the Iraq invasion started. I was with many folks who cheered the beginning of the conflict. Many of those same people have changed their minds. They are better people than I am because they have changed their minds, whereas I never had to do that.

Many say the Iraq occupation is not like the Vietnam War. The hair splitting over differences would be great entertainment if the stakes and the tragedy were not so high. The thing I enjoy now is that Vietnam veterans to whom I talk consider it exactly like Vietnam. I huddled with a group of Vietnam veterans this past Veteran’s day, and we all agreed as to how eerily Iraq repeated the Vietnam conflict. I know this is anecdotal, but I enjoy the shift in opinion all the same. It is better than listening to someone spout something heard on Fox News.

I have said it here before and I will keep saying it. Nothing good will happen to the United States until we leave Iraq. Until we leave, the so called war on terror will be weakened, hopes for freedom and democracy for all people in the world will be weakened, the poor and working classes will fall farther behind in their struggle to achieve the good life, and the ideals the United States preaches to the rest of the world will fall on deaf ears. I know those are grandiose claims, but the evidence after almost four years in Iraq is on my side.

I do not care what your political persuasion is. If you are opposed to the occupation of Iraq, I join you in solidarity. You are my brothers and sisters. The life of one Iraqi child is worth more than all our political opinions.

The United States has yet to face its real test in Iraq. Once the troops have left Iraq, humanitarian goals and necessities remain. I am sure many people think that you can buy a solution at Wal-Mart or Cartier with a credit card.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Once again, the world looks just the same

I have gone five days without drinking. I do not miss it.

I was tired on Wednesday when I drove to Iowa because I had been drinking Tuesday night. I have read that it takes the mind two days to recover from the fatigue brought on by a hang over. That sounds about right.

My strategy for lessoning the effect of alcohol is to start drinking water along with the first beer and shot, and keep on drinking water until the end. I wash down two Advil with a glass of water when I get home. I open a can of ginger ale and set it on the counter. The next morning I drink the warm ginger ale sans carbonation before I drink anything else. It replaces the sugars the alcohol leaches from my body, and it is the easiest drink on my stomach.

I can no longer drink at home alone. I drink two sips of a beer and set it aside. I would rather drink water.

I only drink at the bar. The people I have come to know are what lead me to it. The chefs, small business owners, skilled trade workers, corporate citizens, students, bartenders, servers, clerks, folks on holiday, conventioneers, etc. break up the monotony of the days. With my long hair and other eccentricities, they no longer know what to make of me, but they accept me as an amiable person with whom to rip down shots and beers. The scene is a subculture of which I am a part.

The absence of alcohol is like the absence of God. Not much changes except I divorce myself from a culture to which I once belonged. Other than that, the world looks just the same.

I think of the big questions of philosophy. The world looks just the same no matter how I answer the questions. Take freewill, immortality, or god for instance.

People seem to change the experience and quality of life as nothing else can.

Two Wants

As you know, love and seduction sometimes play across my mind. Sometimes, I daydream that the woman I have loved the most will make overtures to return to the way things were—no, better than the way things were. This is idle daydreaming since she never will. Enough time has passed that I know I could never do it either. Yet we exchange cards and letters. Whenever I receive one from her, it triggers fond memories and hopes I once had. A night of hard drinking erases those memories and silly hopes.

Two wants have figured in the choices I have made. One, I would like to live with someone I love and who loves me too. Two, the excitement of first seduction will not release its hold upon my imagination.

Ah, the seduction: the thrill of the first time I undress her, the first penetration, then lying next to her after we have both crossed a border to a place from which we may never return. We have shared danger and transgression along with pleasure. I want the danger and transgression more than the pleasure. Then there is the list.

Now, I have chosen a life of relative solitude. I am a selfish person too often satisfied with being exactly that. I try to master the art of causing people as little pain as possible. I tell myself that I have others’ interests in mind even though this is a paltry goal and seldom true.

I have gone through several phases and stages in life. My time now is just another one of those phases. I wonder what will be next. I hope I like it, or that it proves valuable to someone, or better yet, both.

I think about Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and that I admire it. How can I say anything about the story without spoiling the ending? Let me just say that it is partially a study of the relation between unrequited love and seduction.

I will end it here. I have other things to write about.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

The holiday has so far gone as planned. I traveled to Iowa on Wednesday and arrived just before sunset. Traffic was light when I left. I made it past the Aurora tollbooth on Interstate 88 in less than an hour. The air was warm and the sun was out. All of the summer’s road construction was complete. The bridge on Highway 30 crossing the Mississippi at Clinton was open again, so I did not detour north to the next bridge. I made it to my sister’s house in Iowa in time to watch the sunset from one of her porches. After that, I worked on Jordon’s, my nephew’s girlfriend, computer trying to find the last of the malware that infected it. I do not know if I entirely succeeded.

I spectacularly blew my diet yesterday at my sisters. The food is always too good not to try one of everything. I topped it off with a piece of pie I really did not need in the evening.

I visited my stepfather. My stepfather appears to be doing well enough given the recent infections in his feet brought on by his diabetes and inactivity. He and I watched a Doris Day and Rock Hudson movie together. It is the one where Rock Hudson is the playboy, advertising executive and Doris Day is his hard working and hard charging rival at another advertising agency. I had forgotten how funny the movie was.

Then I visited friends for a while.

I will travel back to Chicago during the daylight. The forecast predicts another warm and sunny day. I will stop short in the suburbs and spend the evening watching TV (Battlestar Gallactica), reading, and listening to the quiet. Then I will make the last of the drive downtown when all the shoppers are off the road.

Life will most likely go on as normal, although I vow to manage my time and affairs better.

I have a free continental breakfast at a restaurant this morning. I should pack and hit the road so I do not miss it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Off to Iowa

It is the Thanksgiving Holiday, and you know what that means at State Street. I am going to Iowa where the tall corn grows, or at least it did until they harvested it this fall. The day promises to be clear and reasonably warm for this time of year. Good traveling weather. You cannot ask for more than that.

If you are celebrating the holiday, Happy Thanksgiving! If you are not, then have a great week anyway.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Some Days

Some days, posting on this blog is difficult for me. I too often write about matters that I have no business writing about. My thinking is incomplete and my scholarship is shoddy. I should rightly fear to publish anything about what occupies my thoughts. I cannot stop though.

We all try to make sense of our common experience. We attempt to communicate the categories and concepts we have created or learned that organize common experience. Out of basic experience, our imaginations create, through pastiche, concepts that are ever more complex. To me this is philosophy. To me philosophy belongs to anyone who wants to embrace the activity.

Plato is as much my possession as anyone else’s. If I am interested in philosophy at all, how can I not react to Plato’s Ion.? How can I not try my hand at showing how Plato’s attempt to build mutually exclusive boundaries around poetry and philosophy is doomed to failure even if someone such as Derrida has traversed that territory?

The problem amounts to a matter of discipline. What must one do to avoid sloppy and lazy thinking and writing? You may give me a big fat F, but I am not in school. I cannot flunk in any measurable way. All I can do is feel the sting of your rebuke and my humiliation once I realize you are right, and I have made errors I could have easily avoided if I had but taken more time and care.

Sometimes, writing comes down to the courage to risk appearing the fool. Saying something as simple as this is foolish. Thus, it comes down to not caring, or hoping something valuable may yet come of it.

I intended this to be an apology. I changed my mind somewhere along the way.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ion and the Muse of Reason

Plato’s short dialogue Ion has been on my mind this morning. Socrates confronts Ion, an expert in reciting and interpreting Homer. Socrates inquires into Ion’s art and knowledge as an award-winning expert in Homeric studies. Ion is unable to give a good account of it. Socrates suggests that Muses and gods inspire poets, performers, and audiences. Poets are quite literally out of their minds when receiving words and music from a Muse. They have lost the power to reason. The poet does not possess knowledge of any particular art such as medicine or warfare, but is the tool of divine inspiration that arises unconsciously.

However, what is reason? Has anyone ever defined it to everyone’s satisfaction? One may ask me not to be so fussy as to ask for the final definition of reason. After all, it has something to do with thinking logically and producing or inspecting the soundness and validity of arguments. If I follow the argument in Euclid I.47, the Pythagoras Theorem, then I reason.

Besides, I believe that all my thinking arises from the mush I call my brain whether I am reading Virgil or Euclid. In addition, I do not believe in supernatural beings. Should I consider Ion more than a curiosity?

Actually, I do consider Ion more than a curiosity. Creating poems and arguments are imaginative activities. There is no Iliad without Homer. There is no Pythagoras Theorem without Pythagoras. The statement about Homer seems uncontroversial, whereas the statement about Pythagoras has spawned endless and unresolved controversies. The nature of the Pythagoras Theorem and the definition of reason seems as though they are undecidable. One must use reason to arrive at an understanding of what reason is. We try to inhabit a space inside reason and outside reason when thinking about reason.

Extending Plato, I contemplate a Muse of Reason. When I reason, the Muse inspires me. Can I believe Plato's assertions about poetic creativity anymore than I can believe my assertion about the Muse of Reason?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Your Face

I watched the TV show Brothers and Sisters tonight, mainly, because it came on after Desperate Housewives. However, Sally Fields is in it. I think she is a couple of years older than I am. I have always thought her cute, or rather, down right attractive. It appears she has not had any plastic surgery, something currently rare. She has retained her natural beauty. Sometimes, and for some people, it is best to go with the flow.

By the way, Tom Skerritt, who is also in the show, appears he has had no plastic surgery. He has retained his natural good looks too.

So Junkie. Well, Maybe

Leaving copious quantities of beer and whiskey aside, I have been dieting for over a month. The first four weeks, I ate one meal each day. Now I eat three meals. I have instant oatmeal in the morning, a lean cuisine entrée at lunch, and one at dinner. I eat fruit for snacks. I have lost some weight, but you cannot tell.

I know what you are thinking. Lynn, that is so junkie. Well, dieting is relative. Given the diet I was on when I was not dieting, this one seems the paragon of the healthy lifestyle.

Moreover, I spend about 15 to 20 minutes tops preparing my food during the course of the day. I love microwaves.

Destination Unknown

When I finally returned home last night, I went straight to bed and fell into a long and deep sleep, the kind of sleep my body forces upon me when I have exhausted all my resources. All the blinds were shut when I woke. I could not tell what time it was. I lit my first cigarette at the table and glanced at the clock, which registered 10:15, an hour that usually finds me out of bed for a long time.

As I drink my coffee and write this, I feel the residue of my exhaustion. I have not completely recovered. The coffee has not roused me from my lethargy.

All I can think about is why I have been killing myself through acts of irresponsible and unrepentant hedonism. One of the reasons may be that I know I have already lost a good part of my mind. I am no longer fit for learning new things. I seem to be in a constant state of recalling old forgotten knowledge, and even then, not doing it well. I fear old age. I lose powers that once delighted me. My body dissolves into nothing. I cope with it through self-pity and denial.

With these melancholy thoughts, I start the day. That will not deter me from going out even if my destination is unknown.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I switched over to the new beta version of Blogger about a week ago. Now that I have mastered the art of logging into it properly, I give it a thumbs up.

He Is No Conservative

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jeffrey Hart explains in an article in The American Conservative why President Bush is no Conservative. Ideology Has Consequences: Bush rejects the politics of prudence.

On April 24, Bush repeated his fantastic theory in a speech in Irvine, California:

I based a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things I think are true. One, I believe that there’s an Almighty, and secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody’s soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free. I believe liberty is universal. I believe people want to be free. And I know that democracies do not war with each other. And I know that the best way to defeat the enemy, the best way to defeat their ability to exploit hopelessness and despair is to give people a chance to live in a free society.

Well, it is certainly taking a long time for what the Almighty wants to make its appearance in the actual world. Most of the world today is far from democratic. Over the long span of human history, democracy is almost invisible. In the real world, many people want a society in which the rules laid down in the Koran govern all activities and take absolute precedence over liberty. In Iraq, the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has no interest in freedom, and al-Sadr is the power behind the present Prime Minister Maliki. What planet is Bush living on? He makes the “metaphysical dogma” of the radical philosophes seem sober by comparison.

Before long, students may be allowed to take entire history courses in the expanding library of books analyzing Bush’s Iraq calamity and other failures of his administration, which also derive from his tendency to privilege ideology over realism. Supply-side ideology led to large tax cuts and mountainous deficits. Privatization ideology led to an incomprehensible and unnecessarily expensive prescription-drug plan. No previous administration has produced such an outpouring.

Is Bush a conservative? Of course not. When all the evidence is in, I think historians will agree with Princeton’s Sean Wilentz, who wrote a carefully argued article judging Bush to have been the worst president in American history. The problem is that he is generally called a conservative, perhaps because he obviously is not a liberal. It may be that Bush, in the magnitude of his failure, defies conventional categories. But the word “conservative” deserves to be rescued. Against the misconception that Bush is a conservative, and appealing to Burke, all of our analytical energies must be brought to bear. I hope I have made a beginning here.

I wonder if there is not a fourth ideology brewing in the United States that defies the categories liberal, conservative, and socialist. The fourth ideology would be one informed by Evangelicalism and a utopian view of human nature that never squares with reality.

Just another night on the other side of life

I was not out very long tonight before I met the perfect woman: about my age, attractive, and totally smashed.

She took me to her hotel room. Now, I am home before the sun has come up.

We are supposed to do something tonight, but I know I will never see her again.

Oh well, she is on one of my lists. I hope I make it onto one of her good lists one day.

Why I am telling you all this shit, I do not know.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Some guys just want to add you to their list

I went out to the local bar last night. (Imagine that.) And I was drinking hard with some of the hard drinking folks when two women from the San Francisco Bay area sat down beside me. They asked me some tourist kinds of questions such as what the art museum was like and whether it was worth their time to go to the top of the Sears Tower. I assured them that both places were worth their time.

I included them in the hard drinking by buying shots for them with the rest of the group. Thus, everyone’s guard was let down. (By the way, the two women I am talking about were very good looking, about twenty-five years younger than I. And the guys in the bar, probably from out of town too, were flocking around them even though the women had big diamond rings on their fingers and were obviously married.) I do not know how we got onto the topic, I did not bring it up, but we started talking about love, marriage, and sex. They admitted to me that the one thing that they found strange about marriage was that they would never have sex with anyone other than their husbands for the rest of their lives. No married woman has ever said that to me before, and I have talked to many married women while getting drunk at the bar. I was startled to hear it, even though I know that married people feel that way, especially those who are still young and attractive.

We also talked about the guys who were hitting on them. They said they preferred talking to a guy like me who was out having easy going fun while doing his own thing in his own time. I think one of the major failings of most men who go to bars to pick up women is that they blatantly try too hard. You need to go with the flow. Let it happen and not try to make it happen.

When they left, they hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. I scored in a peculiar way. You see, you can go to the bar trying to score in more than one way. One way is going home with a woman. My strategy these days is not very subtle. I look for the drunkest woman in the bar, no matter who she is, and I sit my tired old ass down next to hers. Then I get her even drunker and hope she makes the fatal slip and leaves with me.

But there is this other way of scoring, which I think is consistent with the above. You do your dead level best to be the least toxic guy in the bar. And if you are, there is a high probability you will get a big hug and a grand kiss on the cheek if nothing else, which is more than what many guys get, at least the ones who try too hard. So, I have decided that I will start another list in addition to the one I keep with the names of the women I have slept with. I will make a list of the women who have hugged and kissed me on their way out the door.

The two women of whom I am speaking said they would be at the bar tonight. I hope so. Chatting it up with them is better than sitting alone in this damned lonely cold apartment.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Folly, Chance, and the View From Nowhere

I always have fun trying to inhabit the view from nowhere, that happy place where one objectively looks at the world without presuppositions and prejudices. The closest I have ever come to the view from nowhere is when I view the world as a big casino populated with eager gamblers. This view does not lead to grand metaphysical revelations or anything else profound. I always leave the exercise burdened by practical and pragmatic concerns rather than possessing Truth or Wisdom or Goodness. Folly and Chance are the dull residues of the exercise. For instance, let us take the strange case of Senator McCain, war hawk and Presidential candidate.

Mr. McCain wants to increase the size of the military in Iraq. He also wants to relieve the strain on Armed Forces Reserves and Nation Guard. To do this Mr. McCain must significantly increase the size of an all-volunteer military. To Mr. McCain the recent election results showed the American public yearns for more troops in Iraq, and, of course, the unveiling of the new super-secret grand strategy for success, whichever way we define success arising from mayhem and chaos. Now, let’s look at the betting propositions.

Can you imagine the riots at the recruiting stations as people rush to be the first to volunteer? Can you hear the thunderous roar of the American public loudly cheering further and increased intervention in Iraq? Can you see the Iraqi roads lined with cheering crowds throwing roses in the path of the additional 100,000 troops entering the country? Do you feel the eerie silence settling over Iraq after the riotous celebrations? Do you thrill at the sight of a world applauding a new and reinvigorated Cradle of Civilization?

Let’s give some more money to the gambling addicted to put into the slot machine, for their luck will surely turn around one day.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Skepticism and Faith

To me, skepticism is an attitude about certainty and not truth. One can be a thoroughgoing skeptic and still believe there is an objective truth associated with propositions. Despite that, people often link skepticism to subjectivism. Being a skeptic does not commit one to being a subjectivist regarding truth.

When someone claims certainty about difficult and important matters of fact, alarm bells go off for the skeptic. When the certainty arises from articles of faith, the skeptic sees his neighbor’s house on fire. This would not be a problem for the skeptic if we were not all related in many different ways. When a neighbor’s house catches fire, it often spreads to other houses.

Truth matters. So does certainty. Faith is not a virtue to the skeptic.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A certain kind of militant

My own conversion to religious skepticism did not come after long and serious inquiry into the matter. It came while driving through Illinois farmland at dusk one summer and watching a full moon rise in a cloudless sky. For some reason I no longer felt the need for a belief in god, and stopped believing.

I had read arguments for the existence of god and their critiques. Arguments for the existence of god were unconvincing once I examined them closely. I had also been thinking about various humanist ethical systems, and convinced myself that a completely adequate humanist ethics that leads to happiness or eudaimonia was possible. I saw no need for religiously inspired ethics. The stories told by my Christian faith had no evidence to support their historical truth. This all contributed to my throwing in the towel as far as religious faith. Yet it seemed a sort of after the fact matter or reality check of sorts.

I have never been much of a militant religious skeptic. First, I have not been one from sheer timidity. Bringing up my religious skepticism is not something I feel comfortable doing in polite society. I do not know if I personally know any other religious skeptics. I also believe that religion comes naturally to people. Theories as to how this might be so interest me. The naturalness of religious belief is about the only explanation I can find for why people possess certain religious beliefs. Events such as the virgin birth and Mary’s assumption into heaven have no credible evidence. The only reason why people do believe them is that they seem to fit with a certain natural inclination people have to believe these sorts of things. This leads me to a further conclusion. A militant stance against religion will often be futile since it is a natural inclination. This not to say people cannot be argued out of religious positions, but religious belief does not lend itself to logic and argumentation we use about other matters since it rests on faith.

Even though I am not a militant religious skeptic, I am a militant believer in the separation of church and state. That is, I am a militant secularist. I am not aware of any good that has come from religious control of the state. In fact, it is a subversion and repression of liberty, equality, and justice.

Over the years, I have become more and more comfortable with secularist politics, humanist ethics, and religious skepticism. I like it much better than being a Christian. I also think that it fits better with my belief in rational inquiry and justification and my hope for progress and a better world to come.

Learning arithmetic

I have been helping an acquaintance with her pre-calculus homework. A few days ago, she seemed to be having trouble with trig functions. As it turned out her problems were what you might find the normal student having with new concepts.

However, she did have a deep and more fundamental problem. She was confused about taking the reciprocal of a fraction. She told me she had skipped taking algebra. Studying pre-calculus without the prerequisite algebra course seems daunting to me.

As I recall from my school days, we were conversant with taking the reciprocal of fractions no later than the sixth, seventh, or eighth grades.

About twenty years ago, I was writing a program for a marketing brand manager. The brand manager kept disputing my test results even though I knew them impeccable. As it turns out, the brand manager did not know which direction to move the decimal point on a number when converting it to a percentage. This person had an MBA from one of the top ranked business schools in the United States.

I never used most of the mathematics I learned in school during my career. Most of what I used I had learned by the eighth grade. For that, I am very thankful. I wish the same for our current generation of students.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Baker Commission Report

I give this article by Werther at high marks for its wit and predictive wisdom: A Sneak Peak At the Baker Commission Report. Werther skewers the members of the Commission, then goes on to predict the contents of the report with all the bravado and cynicism one person can muster. I fear his predictions will all come true.

Baltimore's Bromo-Seltzer towerAs we have stated in the past, the reports of government commissions serve their intended purposes best when they act as a cover-up disguised as an exposé. The 9/11 Commission Report is the classic and best-known recent example, with Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton giving bravura performances in pretended gravitas, with only an occasional lapse into imbecility by John Lehman or Jim Thompson. [1] The Robb-Silverman Report, by contrast, was so shakily constructed, and the co-chairmen's dissembling so unconvincing, that their "investigation" should have been accompanied by the music track of "Three Blind Mice."

In the wake of the human and fiscal wreckage of the Iraq fiasco, all Washington trembles in anticipation at the release of the Baker-Hamilton Commission's report on Iraq. Unlike many other commissions, its lucubrations have been held in camera, the method favored by chief Bush family consigliere and fixer James Baker.

A run-down of its other principals should give us a strong indication where this operation is heading. Aside from Baker, there is as co-chairman once again Lee Hamilton, a past master at these performances. As the éminence beige of the Democratic foreign policy apparatus, Hamilton has been participating in high-level cover-ups of government shenanigans stretching back to the Iran-Contra affair.

Read the whole thing as they say.

Sports. Why not?

After being a shut in on Saturday and most of Sunday because of being on a three-week terror and being sick as a dog all last week, I ventured out to the local bar tonight to watch the Bears vs. Giants game. The Bears won 38 to 20. The back breaker was a 108-yard return by the Bears on a field goal attempt that fell short in the fourth quarter.

Good teams find a way to win. I am back to believing this might be the Bears year. However, lots of good football is left to be played. I’m not planning Super Bowl weekend just yet.

By the way, I won a bet last night on the Wake Forest vs. Florida St. game. Wake Forest was a 9.5 underdog despite their record. Wake won 30-0, or something like that. I usually never bet college football, but Wake seemed too good to pass up.

I bet on Arsenal against Liverpool on hunch in today’s game. Arsenal won 3 to nil. I got the broadcast of the game this morning on FoxSoccerChannel, for which I was very thankful.

I’m three and oh for the weekend. Life is good. I needed it. At least as far as sports betting goes.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Philosophy, politics, and the citizen

One of the interesting things about philosophy, at least to me, is that we all do it whether we want to or not. We all at times use words such truth, goodness, beauty, liberty, equality, and justice, to name a few. To use those words in any intelligible way, we must have some sort of conceptual and theoretical framework we apply either consciously or unconsciously. These frameworks may be sparse or rich, but I cannot imagine that we do not all possess them.

A large gulf exists between what a professional philosopher does and what a layperson does when she thinks philosophically. The standards of logic and argumentation are not the same. The background reading of the layperson is paltry and spare compared to the depth and richness of the philosopher. The layperson has not spent the large amount of time thinking through problems that a philosopher does in the normal course of her career. However, what we have is a matter of degree and not kind when comparing the philosopher to the layperson.

When it comes to politics in a democracy, the philosophical commitments of the layperson and the philosopher both translate as one vote for each, whether people are aware of their commitments or not. Let us say I study the prospects of establishing freedom and democracy in Iraq by using my best understanding of the concepts of freedom and democracy, two terms as conceptually complex as philosophical terms get, and I find the prospects remote. Let us also say a philosopher arrives at a different conclusion using a richer conceptual framework and more rigorous argumentation. Let us further say that freedom and democracy in Iraq never takes root. Was I right because I argued correctly, or did I merely predict the event by chance?

If I am doomed to never being right, in the sense of having a rich enough conceptual framework for argumentation, then seemingly good or ill fortune will always buffet me. The best I can hope for is finding ways to reduce the number of mistakes I make, and even the chances of achieving that seem dim. We also have the problem of the philosopher whose predictions go wrong. She made a mistake in her reasoning somewhere along the way. Her mistake was different from mine, but she is wrong about a very serious issue and I was right. The consequences of who is right is no small matter.

The sloppy thinking of the popular pundit has far more influence on public opinion than the philosopher who weighs in on public matters. TV trumps learned journals and conferences. Even the most politically engaged citizen seldom has the time to think matters through as thoroughly as they would like. When election time comes, you must put an X on the ballot somewhere.

Not all is lost for the citizen philosopher. Ideologies frame and inform our decisions. These ideologies form and change over the years. My ideology today is not the one I possessed forty years ago. I did not stop thinking about my ideology even when I was at my busiest in life. One also observes when an ideology fails on its own terms. Inconsistency creates dissonance even if it is a low-level dissonance difficult to describe.

The recent election was a victory of sorts of one ideology over another, but the victorious ideology will be short lived should it not press its advantage, not only over the next two years, but also decades into the future. We all do philosophy, whether goodly or badly. We are the raw material on which philosophy in general works its magic. The issue is whether we take advantage.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A New Adventure?

I moved my blog over to the new beta Blogger. I wonder if this will be an adventure.

Oh well, it's time to go to bed anyway.

Friday, November 10, 2006


The thinker I admire the most is I, yet exactly why I do not know. Maybe, it is the incestuous intimacy.

Happy Birthday

Guess whose birthday it is today. The Marine Corps. Happy birthday, dear Marine Corps. Two hundred thirty one years of Hell, War, Death, and Destruction.

Let me assure you that the saying once a Marine always a Marine is true no matter where you may wander in life after the Corps.

Happy birthday, my brothers and sisters.

Shameless and unrepentant admission

OK, I admit it. One of my daily reading staples is sonia belle. It is eclectic, quirky, and fun, but you had better link to it to find out because I cannot do it justice.

Besides, folks like the beatroot and renegade eye gather there to comment, and you cannot beat that either.

One hundred years of solitude

I have had a few exchanges with Cuppa at Brown Betty Brew about her reading of Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. (By the way, Cuppa is one of the people I first met when I started blogging. I decided then that blogging was way good stuff.) In a gutsy and splendidly admirable move, she has stated that she does not understand others reverence for the book. I attempted to read the book several times over many years, but never got far into it. If I had not read Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera while on vacation in Aruba, I doubt I would have ever finished One Hundred Years of Solitude. A voice inside me kept saying, “remember that night in Aruba when you finished Love in the Time of Cholera and walked out to the deserted beach and cried and cried, and not a little cry, but a cry even the gods, should they exist, could hear.” So, I eventually read One Hundred Years of Solitude and liked it a lot, but it was not up to scratch, in my eyes, with Love in the Time of Cholera.

One of my favorite poems is Wallace Stevens’ The Snow Man.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

As a religious skeptic, I feel about this poem the way some people feel about their favorite Psalm. Maybe, that was not Stevens’ intent, but that is what he has done to me. I see the junipers shagged with ice and feel the coldness and the loneliness. I will never find the origin and essence of the nothingness that comes with it, yet I know it is there.

The writer does not exist once her book has reached others eyes and minds. Something like this seems to be true, and many others have said it better than I ever could. In fact, the writer does not exist while imagining and writing the work. The emotions, desires, and the way I see things today do not match those I felt yesterday while writing. I cobble things together in an attempt at consistency and narrative flow then hope I do not show up as scatter brained.

This solitude sits beside a vast sense of community.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Last of the wine

I am more unfocused than usual in my reading. I have been working my way through The Derrida-Habermas Reader, a nice collection focused on the exchanges between Derrida and Habermas, but have picked up The Portable Enlightenment Reader and am distracted by it. Maybe, I should acquiesce in a Panglossian attitude toward reading.

Then there is politics. How I became a political junkie I do not know, but junkie I am. Watching politics the last fours days has not sated my appetite. The problem is that I insist on thinking things through for myself even though I most likely do not possess any of the prerequisites for it. I am incapable of making any genuine ideological commitments, or maybe, I have, and I am not astute enough to realize it.

Then there is Les Liaisons Dangereuses. How does Laclos make me hear different voices with these letters?

Then there is this bright and warm day, the last of the wine. I should taste the last of the wine. That’s the ticket.

Here is to the last man standing

I went to this morning to see what public opinion was about the Iraq situation just before the elections. Here are two typical questions and responses from a CNN poll from 11/3 to 11/5.

Do you favor or oppose the war in Iraq?
33% favor; 61% oppose; 6% unsure.

Do you think the war with Iraq has made the US safer or less safe from terrorism?
35% safer; 56% less safe; 7% no change; 2% unsure.

Americans saw the Iraq conflict as the number one issue going into this week’s election. Nobody disagrees with that. The election results validated that a majority of Americans want to see a withdrawal from Iraq.

President Bush has not changed his opinion about staying the course in Iraq. Senator McCain wants to raise more troops and prosecute the conflict more vigorously. People vaguely talk about a grand new strategy to prosecute the conflict. The new strategy seems to be more of the same failed strategy.

Regrettably, there are no grand strategies to end civil wars. They are protracted affairs that last until one side is exhausted. Foreign military forces are mostly impotent in stifling a revolution’s excesses. Yet we have this attitude by some such as President Bush and Senator McCain that there is some sort of panacea.

We also hear calls from some for the new Congress to support the occupation when the obvious mandate from the American people is to begin withdrawing the troops. When the majority backs your opinion, let the will of the people rule. When it does not, disregard majority will on other grounds.

The dissenters against the Iraq war now rank themselves in the majority, and the pro-war faction is the minority. The problem arises with the Bush Administration. The President is the Commander-in-Chief and the Congress has given him broad war making authority. The Congress, by abdicating its authority to the President, has placed itself in a position where it must struggle mightily to regain it. Until Congress regains some of its traditional authority, the President will have his way, and damn public sentiment.

We also have the interesting situation where the military and intelligence agencies, the very people prosecuting the war, have dissented from the Bush Administration view of the conflict. In the past year, we have seen definitive reports that there was no Hussein/al-Qaeda link and that Iraq has served as a recruiting and training ground for terrorists, thereby weakening the US in the war on terror. An Administration that uses every opportunity to cash in on the support-the-troops rhetoric, does not care all that much about what military and intelligence agency leaders have to say. A certain class of citizen falls into the same category as the Bush Administration.

Doubts about success in Iraq span all ideologies. Last weeks much-publicized Vanity Fair article quoting Neo-Con doubts and reservations is a good example. Reality smacks all ideologues up side the head no matter where they come from.

The President still makes Iraq policy. The hope is that a more vigilant Congress, one that feels accountable for the election mandate, will establish some oversight, openness, and honesty regarding Iraq. Republicans who do not care about public sentiment and the facts will still support the Bush Administration line. The challenge is to keep putting pressure on the Bush Administration to account for failed policy and obfuscating rhetoric. Two years from now, we may have citizens, a President, and a Congress all agreed upon leaving Iraq. The Bush Administration may retreat from its positions, but it will retreat with a scorched earth policy.

The majority of American people have called for withdrawal from Iraq. Those who dissent from that view are already trying to pull a clever yet transparent end-around by putting the burden for a solution in Iraq on many folks who voted against going into Iraq. This blurs what has happened during the Bush Administration years. In many ways, the Bush Administration has gone a long way towards achieving its goal of unitary Executive authority. That has not changed post-election. The Presidential news conference yesterday indicates the President has not changed positions. He does not care about the election results. He will continue to prosecute the Iraq conflict in his own way regardless of public opinion. There is no way a new Congress will magically overcome a well entrenched and committed Bush Administration policy that disregards the facts and public sentiment.

The irony of this post is that I, who fancies himself a leftist, have defended the military, the intelligence agencies, and anyone who takes a realistic and skeptical attitude toward the chances of success in Iraq regardless of their ideology. Part of the reason for doing so is that there is a class of folks, including the Bush Cult, who want to fight it out until the last man or woman is standing, regardless of what the reality of the situation is. Whatever their motivations might be, they have aligned themselves outside traditional conservative, liberal, and socialist ideologies. Yet continuing a strategy that plays directly into terrorists’ hands seems like suicide.

I often use the toast, “here is to the last man or woman standing,” when drinking shots with the folks at the local bar. I can assure you from harsh experience, the last man standing is never the winner.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


The day was unseasonably warm and clear. The light from the setting sun is reflecting off the building windows and facades. Even the most drab buildings have an orange glow. The lights inside the buildings are coming on like decorations.

These dusks happen about once or twice during November in Chicago. It is not nature, but you take any pleasure you can get.

Fresh Eyes

I am suffering from election hangover after staying up all night watching results. Now, we have the President’s announcement of Rumsfeld’s resignation. According to President Bush, the new Defense Secretary, Bob Gates, will provide “fresh eyes.”

During the President’s question and answer session with reporters, we see that those fresh eyes do not belong to President Bush. He continues to claim that leaving Iraq will provide a safe haven for al Qaeda. Comprehensive intelligence assessments and intercepted communications by al Qaeda leaders refute the claim. Staying in Iraq provides a recruiting and training ground for al Qaeda. Withdrawal would most likely cause a collapse of al Qaeda in Iraq.

The election showed a high degree of frustration with the Iraq occupation. President Bush is stuck with the occupation. I wonder if any politician in Washington wants to be associated with it two years from now when things will be worse should we stay.

Civil wars do not end quickly, and the result is seldom pretty. The question that we should ask is whether the United States is fueling the civil war by its presence. I would say yes.

It will be interesting whether the new Congress received the basic message from the election. It appears the President did not, yet that was to be expected.

Watching the election returns through jaundiced eyes

I went out to the local bar, just as I said I would, to watch the election returns. I forgot my local bar is not that kind of place. However, I convinced one of the bartenders to dial one of the TV’s to the election results. She picked Fox News. That turned out to be good.

I loved watching the sullen and ashen faces of the Fox News team as they tried to put a positive spin on the slaughter. Actually, you could not tell it was a slaughter from watching Fox News.

The crack in the façade has become visible even to my jaundiced eyes. Thank you, President Bush, for running the campaign on the Iraq issue. What is your next good idea?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Big Game

I am going to the local bar to watch the big game tonight. Oops, I mean the election returns.

I am interested in what the exit poll numbers say versus what actually gets counted.

I have a solution for national elections, but will wait until tomorrow to spring it on you. The idea is probably crackpot anyway.

I hope your vote gets counted.

Toleration and same sex marriage

The same sex marriage issue comes down to what it means to be tolerant in a democratic society. Toleration means no religious group may trump the civil rights of other religious or secular groups based on a preferred set of religious beliefs. Yet we have this gross violation of the rights of a whole class of people who would like to start a family, whether with children or not. Laws banning same sex marriage are anathema to democratic forms of government that espouse religious toleration as a value.

A few people, despite their opposition to same sex marriage on religious grounds, have recognized toleration as the issue surrounding same sex marriage. They may stop short when government enforces same sex marriage ceremonies in churches opposed to it, but they recognize the rights of other churches and the civil authorities to perform those marriage ceremonies. I applaud them for understanding the issue aright.

The public debate over same sex marriage revolves around legal matters such as whether states or the federal government should ban or approve same sex marriages, or it is a vacuous discussion about family values, a term so nebulous that it defies definition. Toleration has slipped from the public debate. This says something about the erosion of democratic values and our understanding of them.

We often hear those wishing the state would ban same sex marriage called values voters. However, those who value toleration have a better claim to the name values voter than those who oppose toleration in a democratic state.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Spiritual Healing

I will make a prediction about Ted Haggard and his accuser Mike Jones. (I assume everyone has heard the news.) Yes, the sheer hypocrisy of Mr. Haggard is stunning because not only is he an Evangelical leader, but he is also a key political operative who has spent a great deal of time lobbying against same sex marriage. However, what will the future hold for Mr. Haggard and Mr. Jones?

Mr. Haggard has retreated somewhere for spiritual healing. I assume it is a place somewhat swank and well appointed. Mr. Jones, however, ought to be seeking the best legal counsel he can find before he worries about such matters as spiritual healing. Should the police press criminal charges in the case, they will go after Mr. Jones rather than Mr. Haggard.

The fallen rich and powerful usually get sanctuary somewhere nice after their sins. The fallen poor man finds spiritual healing, if at all, in jail. That is particularly the case when the poor man confronts power. (I mean fallen in the strictly legal sense.)

I predict that we have not quit the hypocrisy and injustice surrounding the Haggard/Jones case.

A real wrestling legend

Renegade Eye has a great article on the passing of Memphis wrestling legend Sputnik Monroe and his life and times. It is well worth the read.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Same old, same old

Some people say we should question facts and not motives. However, questioning motives has its uses and survival value. Take this NYT report for instance.

Congress Tells Auditor in Iraq to Close Office

Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

Mr. Bowen’s office, which began operation in January 2004 to examine reconstruction money spent in Iraq, was always envisioned as a temporary organization, permitted to continue its work only as long as Congress saw fit. Some advocates for the office, in fact, have regarded its lack of a permanent bureaucracy as the key to its aggressiveness and independence.

But as the implications of the provision in the new bill have become clear, opposition has been building on both sides of the political aisle. One point of contention is exactly when the office would have naturally run its course without a hard end date.

The bipartisan opposition may not be unexpected given Mr. Bowen’s Republican credentials — he served under George W. Bush both in Texas and in the White House — and deep public skepticism on the Bush administration’s conduct of the war.

Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who followed the bill closely as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, says that she still does not know how the provision made its way into what is called the conference report, which reconciles differences between House and Senate versions of a bill.

Neither the House nor the Senate version contained such a termination clause before the conference, all involved agree.

“It’s truly a mystery to me,” Ms. Collins said. “I looked at what I thought was the final version of the conference report and that provision was not in at that time.”

“The one thing I can confirm is that this was a last-minute insertion,” she said.

A Republican spokesman for the committee, Josh Holly, said lawmakers should not have been surprised by the provision closing the inspector general’s office because it “was discussed very early in the conference process.”

But like several other members of the House and Senate who were contacted on the bill, Ms. Collins said that she feared the loss of oversight that could occur if the inspector general’s office went out of business, adding that she was already working on legislation with several Democratic and Republican senators to reverse the termination.

One of those, John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that Mr. Bowen was “making a valuable contribution to the Congressional and public understanding of this very complex and ever-changing situation in Iraq.”

“Given that his office has performed important work and that much remains to be done,” Mr. Warner added, “I intend to join Senator Collins in consulting with our colleagues to extend his charter.”

While Senators Collins and Warner said they had nothing more than hunches on where the impetus for setting a termination date had originated, Congressional Democrats were less reserved.

“It appears to me that the administration wants to silence the messenger that is giving us information about waste and fraud in Iraq,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform.

“I just can’t see how one can look at this change without believing it’s political,” he said.

The termination language was inserted into the bill by Congressional staff members working for Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and who declared on Monday that he plans to run for president in 2008.

Mr. Holly, who is the House Armed Services spokesman as well as a member of Mr. Hunter’s staff, said that politics played no role and that there had been no direction from the administration or lobbying from the companies whose work in Iraq Mr. Bowen’s office has severely critiqued. Three of the companies that have been a particular focus of Mr. Bowen’s investigations, Halliburton, Parsons and Bechtel, said that they had made no effort to lobby against his office.

This follows revelations that Bush Loyalists, crony capitalists and Christians unqualified and incompetent to do the job, administered Iraq reconstruction. About the only bright spot has been the special Iraq auditing.

The Bush Administration has not earned the right to have their motives go unquestioned. Bad news, especially corporate corruption allied with government mismanagement, never makes it on the radar screen unless someone makes a heroic effort to put it there.

Different day; some old, same old.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Never Forget

On May 2, 2003, President Bush landed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. A banner stating “Mission Accomplished” adorned the carrier’s tower.

This is from a CNN story about the event.

ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CNN) -- From the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush announced in a nationally televised address that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

"In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment," Bush told the Navy men and women aboard the warship Thursday.

Bush also made a direct connection between the war in Iraq and the continuing war on terrorism.

"The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11, 2001, and still goes on," Bush said. He then highlighted successes in Afghanistan, citing the construction of roads, hospitals and schools.

But the focus of the speech returned sharply to the connection between Iraq and terrorism.

"The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror," he said. "We have removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding."

How could he have been that out of touch with reality? The sheer magnitude of his incompetence never ceases to amaze and overwhelm.

After the Election: a Future Politics

I was heartened to read the news this morning that the Democrats were still looking good going into next week’s election. I have expressed my doubts that Democratic Party control of Congress will right what ails us, but will delight in Democratic Party victories. What should happen after the election?

Larval Subjects is on the right track with his ideas for a future politics. He analyzes how the Christian right created and seized control of channels of communication. This has allowed them to go beyond framing messages to substantive acceptance of their once marginal beliefs. His prescription sounds good:

I think this sort of organized movement and slow conquest of the channels of communication is what is lacking on the left. Again and again I hear stories about people who volunteer with the DNC to make calls and cavas neighborhoods, only to never be called. Moreover, the left offers nothing comparable to the social services of the churches, giving people a sanctuary from the alienations of contemporary life under capital. If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, it doesn't matter much whether or not it makes a sound. If a political group has a platform and it is never communicated beyond the confines of the inside members of that political group, then it might as well not exist. The blogosphere has already gone a long way towards overcoming this problem with blogs such as Americablog, Dailykos, MyDD, and so on. They've been able to raise tens of thousands of dollars for political candidates, thus forcing politicians to take their interests seriously. Moreover, they've been able to organize massive letter writing campaigns to news organizations, forcing these organizations to report on stories that would not otherwise be reported, thereby disseminating this political platform further throughout the population. Even if these campaigns have not always been victories, the very act of getting certain stories and issues reported is itself a victory as it forces the opposition to take these stories and issues into account and respond to them.

There appeared to be a massive lack of skepticism about Bush Administration claims before invading Iraq. However, there were solid analyses before the invasion doubting Hussein possessed WMD, predicting the low probability for a stable Iraq post-invasion, and predicting the high cost in lives and money. No one communicated these analyses through enough appropriate channels to catch the public’s ear. I often hear people claim they would decide differently about the Iraq invasion if they knew what we know now about Iraq. The irony is there was plenty of spot on analyses that forced sober reflection rather than the rush to invasion.

It would be great stop the train every now and then before it runs off the tracks.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The New King

I drank a whole fifth of Maker’s Mark whiskey over the span of five hours at the local bar today while washing it down with some Budweiser. I was the last man standing when shot drinking time ended, as usual, because I have practiced hard. In fact, the bartender remarked that I had drunk the whole bottle. My drinking friends were awed. I am the new shot-drinking king.

I walked out at 9:30, went to the grocery store, bought some essentials, and made some spaghetti when I got home, which have just finished eating.

I wonder what I will do for my next PR.

What I really want to do is meet a wonderful woman and fall in love again. And, of course, I do not want to fuck it up this time.

Howling at the Muse

When the writing time came this morning, I stared at a blank sheet of paper rolled into my manual typewriter for a good two hours.

I howled at the Muse. The Muse remained silent. She either was not listening or did not care. After a while the Muse said, “quit whining, asshole.”

I started typing the thing I was thinking about at the time. I will squish it into the previous days’ writing later.


These two passages are stuck inside my head today.
Come my songs, let us express our baser passions.
Let us express our envy for the man with a steady job and no worry about the future.

You are very idle, my songs.
I fear you will come to a bad end.

You stand about the streets. You loiter at the corners and bus-stops,
You do next to nothing at all.
You do not even express your inner nobility,
You will come to a very bad end.

And I? I have gone half cracked.
I have talked to you so much that I almost see you about me.
Insolent little beasts! Shameless! Devoid of clothing!

But you, newest song of the lot,
You are not old enough to have done much mischief.
I will get you a green coat out of China
With dragons worked on it.
I will get you the scarlet silk trousers
From the statue of the infant Christ at Santa Maria Novella;

Lest they say we are lacking in taste,
Or that there is no caste in this family.

Ezra Pound, from LUSTRA

The first thing we have to remember is this. Whether our argument concerns public affairs or some other subject, we must know some, if not all, the facts about the subject on which we are to speak and argue. Otherwise we can have no materials out of which to construct arguments. I mean, for instance, how could we advise the Athenians whether they should go to war or not, if we did not know their strength, whether it was naval or military or both, and how great it is; what their revenues amount to; who their friends and enemies are; what wars, too, they have waged, and with what success; and so on?

Aristotle, Rhetoric II, 22

I wonder why passion and reason often seem as if they are at war against each other. I doubt if they truly are.