Friday, December 31, 2004

Year in Review

[Disclaimer: Since this blog was created in April of 2004, some of the selections are from 03’ because my frame of reference, especially for things I found interesting, is expansive.]

As this year comes to a close and the New Year approaches, I though it’d be interesting to memorialize the things I found fascinating over the past year. Here now is the list:

Biggest disappointments of 2004

The whole tectonic non-sense that Joshua Marshall alluded to never came to fruition. I visit that blog with less frequency now, and plan on doing so in the New Year.

This shouldn’t be on the 2004 list but it was that much of disappointment: Matrix Revolution (2003). That movie was a huge letdown—and will be so for many years to come.

I’m a partisan, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise: The reelection of George W. Bush. But, at the same time, he’s great material.

Best Blog Posts of 2004

John Holbo psychologizing David Frum in this blog post is indispensable. He’s Dead Right. (Circa 2003)

Limited, Inc. on Chess and Sistani: Shakh Mat. Enough said.

(You’d think there’d be more blog posts I found good. But this is it. I’m not even going to plug one of my own blog posts.)

Best Books of 2004(One’s I read in 04’)

House of the Dead; by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

A Problem from Hell: America and the age of Genocide
; by Samantha Powers

American Pastoral; by Philip Roth

Irony, Contingency, and Solidarity
; by Richard Rorty

Things to watch for in 2005

The American Scene’s Rehian Salam, a brilliantly witty writer.

Lasers and al-Qaida, seriously

SuperVolcanoes. via Bradford Plumer

An Israeli/Palestinian Peace?

Lofi indie rock, orchestral pop, post-punk post emo post-post-post genres of everything.

The stealth strength of weakness; bargaining from a weak position; the meek shall inherit the earth type-stuff.

The Pope dying sometime in May.

The Blog phenomenon loses its cult status when your mom gets her own blog and puts you on her blog roll.

Bush unwittingly turns into an American Revolutionary.

Emmy Rossum; Bio.


Peanut Butter.

The collapse of the Greenback and subsequently the American economy, and subsequently the World economy.

Condi Rice comes out of the closet.

Celebrities murdering paparazzi.

Fox's hit show: When Celebrities fatally attack
The paparazzi.

Martha Stewart the folk hero.

Michael Jackson Reality Show.

French intellectuals become Pro-Bush. Seriously.

Flying cars.

Cellphones that are Ipods that are blueberry's that are ditial cameras that are digital camcorders that are DVD players that are laptops that are universal locators that are universal identification.

Love still being as sweet as it was the first time.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


I just now had a chance to see some incredible footage from amateur video: It's amazing. The continuous flow of water is staggering. At one point, the palm trees measuring at least twenty feet in height are lost from sight, submerged underneath a torrent of water.

On the Contrary.

Dru Oja Jay’s December 18, 2004, article in the Dominion is persuasive to the point of irrelevance. His bone of contention deals with the Canadian Media's coverage of L’affaire Ukraine, in general, and it's tendentiously pro-Yushchenko reportage, specifically. While relegating true injustices like Haiti to the wilderness, which up until recently I hadn't fully appreciated, Canadian Media outlets have elided the unflattering portions of Mr. Yushchenko’s bio, attempting instead to prop him up as a champion for Eastern European democratic reform. Notably, Dru mentions this untoward fact frequently glossed over:

Yuschenko's ties to anti-semitic groups -- Ukrainian neo-Nazis and holocaust deniers -- and far-right partisans have gone similarly unreported. Some have speculated that antisemitic activity, which was strictly curbed by Yanukovych's government, could run amok under Yuschenko.

Dru’s piece agrees with a particular sentiment I've been holding for the last month: Where are all the Yanukovych supporters? I don’t thinks he’s been given the sympathetic ear Yushchenko has been lavished. His appeal to the Supreme Court for a recall vote won’t be realized, regrettably. I think the third time is a charm, since, as Dru points out, the first time my have been distorted in Yuschenko’s favor:

In the last two years, the Bush Administration spent more than $65 million helping political organizations in the Ukraine. Additional funds have come from George Soros, Great Britain, Canada, Norway and the Netherlands, according to the Associated Press (AP). The money was key to funding the exit polls that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election results, which showed Yanukovych as the winner.

So, bucking conventional wisdom, maybe this second Ukraine election was a Western abetted fraud. And if it was, where do we stand? That Western Media Outlets were complicit in the construction of the Orange revolution and Western governments and International Organizations architects of the Orange revolution would be far more damning if it weren’t so patently obvious: They were complicit because they have political and financial interests flowing from the success of the Orange revolution. Dru’s piece is enlightening and similarly thoughtful; but one is left thinking “What’s the point?” Really, what’s the point?

Is He an Island ?

I think this is an admirable Op-ed from David Holcberg of the Any Rand Institute, an admirable organization that espouses admirable principles and not so much supports admirable causes as sullies the intention behind admirable causes. The direction of foreign and developmental aid is one issue entirely; whether or not aid should be given at all is a non-starter: We give because we have empathy for human suffering.

(As to the direction of aid: e.g. in giving aid to Colombia the U.S has shown a “reluctance to attach specific political conditions to the hundreds of millions of dollars proposed to ... ostensibly ... combat drug trafficking [sic].” Whereas aid given to such squalid places like Sub-Saharan Africa may, under a particular Administration, be contingent on the promotion of “abstinence-only programs”, as opposed to programs that promote abstinence, sexual education, and, failing that, instruction on contraceptive use—programs of this comprehensive nature have been successful in East Africa, especially as is the case with Uganda. )

But I digress. As to the admirable that Op-ed, here are some of its more gracious passages:

The question no one asks about our politicians' "generosity" towards the world's needy is: By what right? By what right do they take our hard-earned money and give it away?

The reason politicians can get away with doling out money that they have no right to and that does not belong to them is that they have the morality of altruism on their side. According to altruism--the morality that most Americans accept and that politicians exploit for all it's worth--those who have more have the moral obligation to help those who have less. This is why Americans--the wealthiest people on earth--are expected to sacrifice (voluntarily or by force) the wealth they have earned to provide for the needs of those who did not earn it. It is Americans' acceptance of altruism that renders them morally impotent to protest against the confiscation and distribution of their wealth. It is past time to question--and to reject--such a vicious morality that demands that we sacrifice our values instead of holding on to them.

Next time a politician gives away money taken from you to show what a good, compassionate altruist he is, ask yourself: By what right?

I’m overcome with a sense of solidarity—the solidarity in the human condition that awakes in each of us empathy for the other. Nearly 120,000 human beings have tragically vanished from this large archipelago we call earth. Isn’t that cause for reflection on what it truly means to be a citizen of the world, on what it truly means to see ourselves as part of a larger project, on what it truly means to have an interdependent global market that is inversely affected by tragedies of this magnitude? Events cast longer shadows than are perceptible to us at the time. Let’s not act as though altruism now won’t have its benefits in the future. David Holcberg is admirably a douchebag.

Via Truthlaidbear.

Weird, Wild Stuff

I couldn't really take this seriously when I first read it; but then I reflected for a moment: This is some serious stuff if the people perpetrating the act are doing so for nefarious reasons.

Authorities are investigating a mysterious laser beam that was directed into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500 feet.

The beam appeared Monday when the plane was about 15 miles from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the FBI (news - web sites) said.

"It was in there for several seconds like (the plane) was being tracked," FBI agent Robert Hawk said.

The pilot was able to land the plane, and air traffic controllers used radar to determine the laser came from a residential area in suburban Warrensville Heights.

Hawk said the laser had to have been fairly sophisticated to track a plane traveling at that altitude. Authorities had no other leads, and are investigating whether the incident was a prank or if there was a more sinister motive.

Even more, that law enforcement has been unable, thus far, to locate the origins of these lasers and the whereabouts of these perpetrators isn't anything to look at ironically. If the conspiratorial gears are grinding and the seditious chatter falling into abeyance, then these lasers—if they are not puerile gags by puerile minds—portend something much worse.

A memo sent to law enforcement agencies recently by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department says there is evidence that terrorists have explored using lasers as weapons. Authorities said there is no specific intelligence indicating al-Qaida or other groups might use lasers in the United States.

In September a pilot for Delta Air Lines reported an eye injury from a laser beam shone into the cockpit during a landing approach in Salt Lake City. The incident occurred about 5 miles from the airport. The plane landed safely.

I find it disheartening that very little reportage has been dedicated to this possible terror tactic; although, at the same time, I appreciate the need not to whip up irrational fears in the public writ large.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Jerry Orbach R.I.P.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The War on Ideology

A necessary if improper and piecemeal distinction is made by Yglesias on the nature of the ideological threat of Jihadism and its comparative analogues to Communism qua Cold War antagonist of western modernity:

I don't know what historical analogies are really worth, but there's something to this. A word of caution. The term "Salafist preachers" covers a lot of ground. You've got basically peaceful Salafis who want to use democracy and/or evangelism to spread their doctrines. You've got violent Salafis who think (not entirely unreasonably) that if you want to eliminate the dictatorial regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, you need to use violence against them. You've got bin Laden and al-Zawahiri who want to attack the "far enemy" -- i.e., us. You've got linkages between Salafi visions and nationalistic conflicts in Palestine, Chechnya, Sinkiang, etc. You've got disputes about takfir and dividing the Islamic community. All sorts of controversies, linkages, disagreements, shades of gray, etc. It's all very complicated. If you were in 1890 and thinking about Communism, what you probably would have been doing was getting Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, democratic socialists, the SR Party, and all sorts of other people mixed up. You wouldn't have known whether Czarist reform initiatives were sincere or tactical feints. You'd get very confused and you would mishandle the situation.

No one who could plausibly be called a "Salafi" in any sense is going to look very sympathetic to an American or any sort of westerner. But there are degrees of objectionableness to these doctrines, degrees of threateningness to our interests and our values, degrees of feasibility to externally combatting an ideological movement, etc., etc., etc. It would serve us well to tread somewhat cautiously in analytical terms before coming to sweeping conclusions.

Via Yglesias is Gregory Djerjian on why the left needs to make this distinction honestly and close ranks in this next great ideological battle:

This struggle will be on par, quite likely, with the Cold War struggle against Communism. So why haven't we gotten (much) more serious about our moribund public diplomacy efforts, for instance? Put differently, why haven't we better understood the ideological component of this struggle? Part of the reason, I suspect, is that we too easily assume that our caricature-like vision of Islam will hold no real appeal to right-thinking souls (unlike, say, what we feared might prove the overly tantalizing egalitarian utopias engendered in Marxist folkore--until such visions were unmasked to the world as more constitutive of an 'equality of poverty' than some bountiful paradise).

Why haven't we, more vigorously, described to the great European, Latin American, and Asian publics what is at stake in this struggle? Why, put differently, does the global war against terrorism too often look like some noxious, militaristic American adventure? For sure, there is great envy at the hyperpuissance so that assorted gaggles of neo-Gaullists, self-righteously pacifist German Greens, knee-jerk 'Yankee Go Home' Latin American leftists are all stock-full of the predictable and tired protestations. But can't we do better, nevertheless? After all, we must be able to persuade our fellow democratic societies of the justness of our cause if we are to win this long struggle. Is it that we have become so different than they in terms of value-sytems; or that we are reacting too irrationally to a gruesome one-off terror attack; or that, instead perhaps, our former allies in the Cold War have become asleep to the massive perils that gather in their and our midst? My money is on this last--but I nevertheless believe we are failing in making a better case as to why the neutral, "spectating" camp must get into the arena. It's true, of course, that countries like France or Brazil were not necessarily in the anti-communist vanguard, of course. There has always been a vague casting about for a "third way,' or a 'non-aligned movement,' or some other contrarian formulation doubtless often meant to dispel the image of too much servility to one or the other superpower.

This isn't about all the old circa 2003 battles about whether to go to war in Iraq. The French and Germans might say that, but for Iraq, they would have stood with us shoulder to shoulder in the war on terror. But this is too convenient and easy a retort. And, regardless, history has moved on. Fateful decisions were made. The Iraq project, which I still think may prove successful, is now at a critical juncture. A defeat there would have devastating ramifications vis-a-vis aiding radical Islamists that are the current enemy of all those who share Enlightenment values.

I concur.

Buyer's Remorse

Despite a clear-cut reelection and the prospect of lasting GOP dominance in Congress, President Bush (news - web sites) prepares to start his second term with the lowest approval ratings of any just-elected sitting president in half a century, according to new surveys

But wait. Hope is on the way!

That distinction, which pollsters and analysts blame on public discontent over the war in Iraq (news - web sites), comes as Bush begins drafting two major speeches that could quickly recast his image: an inaugural address Jan. 20 and the State of the Union soon after. Bracketed between them is the Jan. 30 election in Iraq, another milestone that could affect public impressions of Bush.

January 2005 is going to be quite a momentous month.

Ah-ha, hush that fuss

When it's time for me to have children, and when it's time for my children to learn some history, the name Rosa Parks will, sadly, be synonymous with frivolous lawsuit rather than, and to the shame of, the civil rights movement. December 1, 2005, will mark the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks' civil defiance on that Montgomery, Alabama, bus.

By refusing to move from her seat at the middle of the bus—normally reserved for whites when the bus was at capacity—Ms. Parks ignites what would turn into a 381 day boycott of the Montgomery Buses, mostly patronized by African Americans. An unknown minister growing in popularity was to lead the boycott. That minister was Martin Luther King Jr., and the man had met his moment.

The year now is 1999, popular Rap tandem Outkast release a single entitled Rosa Parks that goes on to sell 10 million copies. In the intervening years from 1999 to 2004 Outkast is sued by Ms. Parks for using her name with out permission and slandering her legacy. That case is thrown out of court and then reinstated with another lawsuit claiming damages of $5 billion dollars from bookstores that sold the Outkast Album (Aquemini) with that infamous single.

Ms. Parks, 91, now lives in Detroit and suffers from dementia. Why she'd need $5 billion dollars is beyond, in my humble opinion, expression. It should be noted, however, that Ms. Parks has 13 nieces and nephews, and pending lawsuits against the Institute she founded, with damages owing totaling nearly half a million dollars.

Aside from Ms. Parks’ financial interest in the outcome of the $5 billion dollar case—and, no doubt, other interested people involved on her behalf—the merits of her claim my rest on a convincingly sound argument. The legal argument is this: Ms. Rosa Parks is a unique historical figure that, it should be conceded, holds a vaunted place in black history and the history of contemporary America. Therefore, insofar as her title and name represent the integrity of that legacy, her charities, and the causes she supports, anything that may be deleteriously slanderous to this title and name—a brand essentially—is by extension detrimental, even if negligible, to that legacy, her charities, and the causes she supports. If damage is proven, then remedy must be awarded.

$5 billion dollars on the other hand is an obscene amount of remedy to demand. Though, to be fair to Ms. Parks, I hardly think she's calling all the shots anymore. I'm not entirely sure why Outkast didn't settle or resolve the matter earlier: its Rosa Parks for goodness sake—no need to hide behind the first Amendment on this one. Regrettably, there are some pretty unsavory characters that claim to fight on Ms. Parks' behalf.

Via USAToday on Yahoo News

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Cocaine toothache drops (1885).

An end to the Intifada?

This certainly looks like progress, however marginal it may be:

Residents of a small Jewish settlement said Sunday they reached a deal to move to a village inside Israel, becoming the first community to agree to be evacuated under the government's Gaza withdrawal plan.

The agreement, confirmed by a top official, gave an important boost to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites), who faces staunch opposition from settler leaders to his plan to pull out of the Gaza Strip (news - web sites) and a part of the West Bank next year.

Who would have know that it would be a Hawk like Ariel Sharon(The Bulldozzer) who would push for the removal of settelments?--settelments which, as an historical fact, he once helped fortify. Give history a chance to surprise you.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Daily Dish

The crew over at The American Scene, a tightly penned blog, is guestblogging on during the holidays. Needless to say, the content is good. Of particular note is Ross Douthat's post on the disappearing Hawks, in which he states:

What's more likely, I think, is that the media coverage has shifted since the end of the election, and that people's attention patterns are shifting accordingly. A lot of conservatives howled that the press was playing up bad news from Iraq in order to take down Bush, and there were probably some cases where this was true (the Al Qaaqaa kerfluffle, at the very least, seemed like an attemped media "October Surprise"). But in the larger scheme of things, what really happened during the election sprint was that the political coverage drove the Iraq coverage off the front pages -- which meant, in turn, that most people stopped paying attention to the news from the Middle East.

This would explain why attitudes toward the war were largely frozen in place from primary season, really, until election day (check out Drum's chart) . . . people simply weren't thinking about Iraq, except maybe as a campaign issue. Now, however, there aren't any more stories about Bush pressing the flesh in Ohio, or the Swift Vets coming out with another ad, or Kerry flubbing the names of Red Sox players -- and so Iraq is once again the country's biggest news story. And the more people pay attention to what's happening there, I suspect, the less the war seems like a good idea.

Marshall's take is similar to Douthat’s yet somewhat more nuanced:

In any case, I think what has happened is that the end of the campaign season has departisanized the war -- at least to a measurable extent -- and folks who were emotionally and intellectually committed to reelecting the president (just as there were people on the other side with similar commitments) are now freer to see the situation in Iraq a bit more on its own terms.

My own feeling is that the expectations game was played rather poorly by the Bush Administration. Heading into a guerilla war with inadequate troop levels to secure even marginal stability, the Administration had to have anticipated a gradual backslide in opinion as the reality of the war diverged from the rhetoric. Though, it's difficult to see the American electorate supporting a war pushed on low expectations.

Does failure in Iraq mean that the war was a bad idea? I’m not sure that should be the case. I began supporting the War when it was-- prima facie-- a bad idea to do so. I was persuaded primarily by this June 2003 piece in Macleans on Michael Ignatieff. I’ll articulate my position more fully another time, but that article should suffice.

Things We Learned About Blogs

Time has this interesting fact sheet about the phenomenon that is blogging. What I found strange, though now understand because of general demographics, is that women blog more than men. Also, Josh Marshall at TPM pulls in 5g's off ads each month.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Move On

I caught a wiff of this earlier on in the day via Yahoo News and have now stumbled across it again over at Balkinization, via The Los Angeles Times. Apparently, and in an attempt to appeal to a larger swath of the electorate, the Dems may be on the precipice of a civil war over abortion. According to the article,
After long defining itself as an undisputed defender of abortion rights, the Democratic Party is suddenly locked in an internal struggle over whether to redefine its position to appeal to a broader array of voters.

The fight is a central theme of the contest to head the Democratic National Committee (news - web sites), particularly between two leading candidates: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (news - web sites), who supports abortion rights, and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, an abortion foe who argues that the party cannot rebound from its losses in the November election unless it shows more tolerance on one of society's most emotional conflicts.
Firstly, I find it incredibly counter-productive that Dean is even being considered as a viable replacement for Terry McAuliffe. Here’s why: As the insurgent candidate during the Democratic primaries he, if unintentionally, pushed the current of the debate further to the left than was necessary. Yes he ignited the liberal base of the party; and, yes he did draw youthful participation to the electoral process; but, ultimately, only %17 of people between the ages of 18-29 actually came out to vote.

Don’t get me wrong: I too was swooning over the prospect of a Dean presidency, until I had the chance to hear him speak outside of the universe of the sound-bite. He’s stiff, diminutive and churlish—an impression I got months before the Iowa meltdown, and the preceding series of gaffes that would prove fatal for his candidacy.

Kerry’s tendency for nuance notwithstanding, Dean, by pushing so stridently for the removal of US troops from Iraq, placed Kerry in a tight and contradictory position which unfortunately led to the inconsistency of voting for the war-- or rather the authorization for the use of force--and voting against the $87 billion supplemental for Iraq. What followed was inevitable:Kerry was pilloried for his inconsistency towards the threat that faces America.

Whether one agrees with the threat or not, and whether one considers it a political construction, it exists as a reality for the American electoral—this is evidenced by the fact that International Affairs (The War on Terror and The War in Iraq) were more of a concern for voters, 2/3 of them, than were “values” . Therefore, the Dems will find themselves hard pressed to convey a robust and articulate message on defense policy if their next National Chairman was the “Anti-war Candidate”.

That being said, Dean’s position on abortion doesn’t run contrary to my very own epistemic inclinations. Roemer, on the other hand, is a pro-lifer who by dint of his Red State credentials believes that democrats have to 'fight for 50 rather than 20 states' in 2006 and 2008.

Further, on the specifics such as whether late term abortions are legally permissible—barring dire health complications that endanger the mother’s life, I feel they shouldn’t be legally permissible; from my own moral understanding of the variables, of course—whether State governments fund these procedure, and whether medical counsel be mandatory, the Democrats have room to moderate their rough edges. The article goes on to say:

Party leaders say their support for preserving the landmark ruling will not change. But they are looking at ways to soften the hard line, such as promoting adoption and embracing parental notification requirements for minors and bans on late-term abortions. Their thinking reflects a sense among strategists that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and the party's congressional candidates lost votes because the GOP conveyed a more compelling message on social issues

This seems reasonable if and only if the fundamental principles that underlie there support for abortion aren’t vitiated, principles like equality and freedom of choice. On this score, Jack Balkin offers a cogent assessment:

Abortion rights are a matter of sex equality. They are a matter of sex equality because laws against abortion compel women to become mothers against their will, with all the duties and responsibilities that go with parenthood. Given that women will most likely bear most of the responsibility for child care (particularly if the father is absent) laws against abortion put women in a very different position than men; they require them to devote substantial portions of their lives to raising children, forgo opportunities in the public world of work, and undermine their equal citizenship with men.

If, despite this, one feels it important to restrict abortion because of the overwhelming interest in potential human life, one must attempt to remedy the problem of sex inequality in another way. Pro-life Democrats can work to lessen the stigma of surrendering a child for adoption, but that stigma is unlikely to fade soon no matter how earnest the effort. Far more important is support for social programs that help working women with the burdens of child care and with the costs of raising children, including nutrition programs, educational programs, subsidized health insurance for mother and child, and subsidized child care. A child's life does not stop after it leaves the womb; and if one really wants to be a "pro-life" Democrat, one should be pounding the table for protecting born children as well as unborn ones, as well as protecting the equality and equal opportunity of the women who gave birth to them.

Therefore, the debate over abortion, as with the debate over 'values', rests on a few assumptions Conservatives and Republicans rarely recognize. The economics of facilitating a generous social system for these unborn, and soon to be born, children requires a far more redistributive mode of government. Likewise, issues like poverty, homelessness, and income inequality are all, I think, indicative of the value and respect we hold for human life, and demand, again, a far more redistributive mode of government.

As suspect as one must remain at the thought of unnecessary governmental intrusion, self-reliance as the sole life strategy (Conservatism) operates as a theory only: History has shown its practice wanting. We are a social animal, and politics is the art of compromise.

January elections.... hmmm...
Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Shah is Dead

I truly think it's about time to introduce the readers of this blog to Limited, Inc.--an exquisitely written, lucidly engaging and thought provoking alcove of commentary. Just yesterday, I occasioned on a post that spoke of the Straw men liberal hawks construct to flog what they see as a soft fringe left--more concerned with the rehashing of punitive historiography of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

As I so often do when I'm made to reflect more subtly on a particular issue, I responded with a flurry of comments--of which related to the narratives interested parties frame around both their understanding of historical antecedents and their reaction to immediate contingencies.

This passage from the author's post was the impetus:

The dirty secret about the ‘war on terrorism’ is not that poverty causes terrorism, or the war between Israel and Palestine causes terrorism – no, we can be much more specific than that. We have the history, if we want to look at it. The terrorist network was set up, physically, financially, intentionally, by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan in the eighties. It was a specific, long range operation, with a specific goal in mind: defeat the atheist infidel. Because, in the U.S., the triumphalist school of Cold War scholarship has prevailed, a very blind eye has been turned to a very dirty history. Thus the curious silence that has surrounded, for instance, the first attempt to blow up the WTC, which had the spiritual seal of approval of a blind Newark mullah who came to the U.S. on a visa signed by a CIA officer after having had his travel bills paid for by the CIA in their jolly attempt to move the wogs against the nasty Russians. Payback for Vietnam was the theme back then, and damn the consequences.

To this, I replied something to the effect that realpolitik is necessarily a pragmatic strategy that, as an instrument of statecraft, is as essential, if not more so, than diplomacy. Only with the judicious and banal methods of realpolitik do we truly appreciate our contingences-- unencumber from the doctrines and dogmas of floating ideologies.

Perhaps by using my actual words some clarity may be gained:

Agreed! But what is your point then? Should "we"-- by we I mean to say the project of Western Civilization-- disengage our ties with unsavory bedfellows-- in so doing relinquishing any realist mode of IR? The material corollary of which finds “us”—again, I understand the nomenclature is used too loosely—in a ridiculously untenable international order.

Though, to be fair, not much about the particular state of play in International Relations inspires any confidence in stability, but the circumstances could, nem con, be much worse.

The problem with Pakistan and by extension the ISI (the most nefarious intelligence organization in the world today, next to professional spammers and the CIA) is that the geopolitical viability of the Afghanistan wars now and then is nil. I’m loathe to engage in Hitch style rhetorical sleight but if the responsibility lies in these hands, then can’t an effort at least be made to repair what has been broken, as disingenuous as it will most certainly be perceived.

Clearly an uneasy alliance governs the stasis of morally unpalatable relationships; yet, I fail to see who’s supposed to be keeping score, and by whose metric failure should be ascribed. I despise myself for sounding like a reader of the New Criterion, but the terms for which the debate can be framed need be stated clearly, it seems likely we’ll talk circles around each other—points well made on each side

The monsters we fight today create the monsters we’ll fight tomorrow. I’d be the first to sign up to the most pristine, blank slate strategy of absolving all the sins of our fathers, but being a rootless pragmatist by disposition makes me disinclined for such doctrines, if they were to actually exist.

The war inside the left will, I think, be determinative of the, dare I say, nuance vital in characterizing the threat from with in (foreign policy, in general, institutional ideologies, specifically) and the threat from with out (Islamic Fundemtalism and Asymmetric terrorism). I’m not exactly sure if I have a point to all this, though I’d be interested know what type of strategy needs to be deployed; whether or not a more agreeable strategy exists; or if this talk of strategy needs to be dropped altogether since the dialectic will unfold as if should?

The author then gave an abridged version of where he thought this dynamic, as regards Iraq, is headed. Today, the author posted the extend version. Measure for measure, it is possibly one of the most intelligent posts I’ve read this year. This is how it opens:

Chess came to Europe through Persia. The pieces were re-configured, the moves changed, from the Indian original. Europeans also inherited the phrase, check mate, from the Persian phrase ‘the shah is dead’ – Shakh mat.

LI has no inside information, but we believe that Sistani, at one time, must have been a hell of a chess player.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Birds of a Feather

It's about time, I think, that the concept of wingman-- or wing person, what have you-- has entered the pop culture lexicon. For me, the word was first introduced in that 90's cult classic Swingers. Vince Vaughn’s character, T, asks one of his boyz, Sue, to play wingman while he goes and tries to pick up a girl he's been eyeing.

My understanding of the concept, and also my own practical experience, regards the term to mean a person who plays interference on the woman's friends while you engage the woman you're interested in meeting.

Not a tough concept to follow.

Unless you're in high school or are incredibly and shamefully awkward, under no circumstances should the wingman hook you up. The message will invariably be confused if a friend goes to do your dirty work. You always hook yourself up. The wingman's job is to, through witty conversation, urbane charm, and guileless humor, coax the girlfriends in the group who'll necessarily have a tendency kill your game. It's not an easy job because when girls go out in groups, the ‘decision by committee’ generally leads to the girl with strongest personality shutting down your chances—rather than you entirely making a fool of yourself.

This happens more than woman would like to admit: Groupthink decisions against your hook-up possibility. Therefore, the wingman just works the girlfriends: if the girlfriends are neutralized, your in a better position. Wingmen are always friends since trust in their ability is predicated on a wealth of personal history and shared experiences.

Although, now it seems that you can actually rent wing people for the night. This article on Yahoo News struck me as silly. Apparently, people are placing personal ads for wingman and women to accompany them out to bar in hopes that their chances of hookin' up with that special someone will be increased. Call me old school, but whatever happened to personal volition? Why not save the money and do it yourself. Better still—go out with friends who'll, naturally, do it for free. Sadly, this form of hook-up inanity isn't confined to the United States:

Jay O'Sullivan, a 28-year-old software developer in Montreal, can attest to the advantages of having a wingwoman along, especially with a group of guys.

"When you throw a woman into the mix, guys get competitive and try to be funnier," he says. "So the whole night just sort of takes off."

When O'Sullivan was planning a birthday party for a couple of co-workers last month, he posted a query on Craigslist, a popular online bulletin board, looking for wingwomen. "We just need some responsible girls to help keep the drinks topped up, the lines to the clubs short, and the cars idling. We are NICE GUYS who like to party hard," the ad read.

He had three responses and ended up choosing one of the women, who — for $100 Canadian and free drinks — helped the two birthday boys mix with the crowd.

"Ultimately, they didn't seal any deals, so to speak. But it was a good time," says O'Sullivan, who plans to use the wingwoman concept again sometime.

There is something profoundly pathetic about paying someone to hang out with you—especially if they don’t even help you ‘seal the deal’. What a waste. Why not just pay for a prostitute? At least that way your money is going to use.

Thus, the universal maxim with respect to the concept of a wing-person is that they be a friend—of some genuine stature. And lastly, of course, hook yourself up. If you're interested in that striking brunette standing at the bar, pensively fidgeting at her blouse, have the initiative to go introduce yourself. Make sure you have a couple of wingman to swoop in and entertain her friends.


I'm a fan of the Onion-- however, the satire in this piece is of a questionably vile sort. Although some crucially relavent points are forwarded on the likely political instablity in Nigeria, I still can't force myself to find the humor in this. It's odd to find such a prescient piece of commentary in America's finest statrical periodical. As to the likelihood that Iraq will fall into the dark abyss of genocide, this is said:

Radhiya added that Iraq was ruled out because the country is unlikely to exist three and a half years from now.

January elections: Please!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Same-Sex Marriage

At around 10 am today the Supreme Court of Canada is going to give, it is believed, a favorable ruling for Same-Sex Marriage in Canada. More Blogging later. First, check this.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Guess who I'm related to?

Abiola of Foreign Dispatches makes a point that can't be made enough:

The "simple fact" he's referring to is of course the coalescent process. What's important about this quote is that most attempts to draw conclusions about one's identity by tracing one's ancestry rapidly become little more than exercises in fantasy the further back in time we look; if person X is "Jewish" because he had a Jewish ancestor who lived some 500 years ago, then pretty much all of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East is "Jewish" by said criterion, rendering it of dubious value.

The same goes for any other ethnic group one wishes to name: there's almost certainly a little bit of Chinese, Arab, Jewish, Hindu, Roman and everything else that's been around long enough in me, you and every average Joe walking down the street. All that really differs is the weighting of the various pieces.

Selling out the Cause

So I decided to make my way down to the front lines to touch the people, connect viscerally with ambient sounds and smells, and generally get a feel of the atmospherics. It had been about 15 minutes, standing pointlessly at the steel barriers, looking aimlessly at the overall ambivalent police officers, talking desultorily to the self-styled journalists, so, not seeing any reason in wasting good energy, I went into Chapters--the one on Rideau street, just steps away from the steal barriers from whence I was pointlessly standing.

I had the intention of only being a few minutes, since the rumor was that the presidential motorcade would be swinging by that intersection. Ambling into the Chapters, I caught the last words of a heated exchange on the inexcusable war crimes of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara.

Two employees, in between cleaning counter tops and brewing inexcusably expensive coffee beans, fumed. In an attempt to be honest with the characterization of the exchange, I’ll preface, first, by saying that the argument was prompted by a red flag, clearly visible from the large bay windows, of Guevara being waved furiously against the brisk gale winds.

One employee, a verbose, smallish brunette woman, inveighed thusly: “He was responsible for countless mass killings”. To which the other employee, a demur, portly redheaded woman, queried: “So you want to live under an imperialistic, capitalistic, fascistic dictatorship?” (I’m assuming she was talking about the West). It was clear-- there was far more action here. I waded my way into the debate, if only momentarily, saying coolly and rather sedately, “it’s all debatable, all pragmatic, really”.

They both looked at me blankly.

I then asked if I was selling out the cause—wasn’t necessarily clear what the cause was, didn’t get the memo this morning—by being in Starbucks; being in Starbucks enjoying a hot chocolate in the warmth and comfort of apocryphal jet-setting protestors. They glazed over with bemusement. Actually, I think the brunette was feeling me, though that may only be a little revisionist history.

Nevertheless, I got my hot chocolate, whip cream and all, and sat down to enjoy, at that point, the sufficiently lame protest rally. It was only moment later, after engaging into superficial talk with two foreign and extremely attractive professional protestors, that a teeming mass of reinforcement protestors began marching westward up Rideau street. Insofar as I was warm—I was cozy, in fact—I was also trembling. Not of any particular chill, but rather because the formation of new protestors seemed to push the clouds closer against the descending sun. It felt as though darkness was walking down Rideau on a collision course with the police, who were now, naturally, but somewhat unexpectedly to me, dawning full riot gear.

I joked aloud, “gees, I forget to bring my gas mask—I was wearing a tie. I begrudgingly decided to leave the two worldly ladies with whom I had been exchanging idle prattle to go up to the second floor for a better look. As I made my way up, I was notified that all back doors, leading out towards the Market and, more chiefly, the American embassy, were closed. Surrounding all the windows and exits were private security personal, fully armed and in full body armor. I should remind the reader at this point, I’m inside Chapters. I was also notified that the store was now closed—no one could leave or enter. For now, I’d be stuck in Chapters.

The crowd of protestors, now tensely facing law enforcement, began bellowing miscellaneous chants about Bush’s intelligences, Iraq, and Bush’s eponymous relation to female genitalia. The crowd turned out to be surprisingly restrained, despite the roving, non-descript anarchist decked out in all black. Thinking the action had all but subsided, I walked over to a table and turned on my laptop to write the first part of this post, not realizing that the motorcade would soon pass by, thirty yards from clear sight of the bay windows, and unnoticed by me.

Something had happened, I intuited. I walked over to the bay windows and asked the group of females gathered there if they had seen the presidential motorcade pass. Glancing out the window myself, I saw a procession of SUVs making there way down Wellington towards the Conference center. They didn’t need to answer me; I knew. Evidently, the president’s limo (replete with the presidential crest and the small American flags) had passed. I was still stuck inside Chapters. Night fell and I looked out the windows as the crowd eventually moved on to other important things.

Check out these of the photos from another site.

I live in Ottawa

Not only do I live in Ottawa, I live within a five block radius of Parliament Hill-- Canada's seat of democracy. Not only do I live within a five block radius of Parliament Hill, I have an appointment that requires me to pass through, as I do most everyday, the downtown core. Not only do I have to pass through the downtown core, through the Rideau Center actually, I have to spend a substantial amount of time in the downtown core. Not only will I be spending a substantial amount of time in the downtown core, I'll also, by the vicissitudes of daily life, be spending more than the substantial amount of time I had anticipated I'd be spending in the downtown core—but, really, enough of this sloppy parallelism.

Target of derision, scorn, and international ire, and, similarly, president of the United States, George W. Bush is making his first State/Official visit to Canada. Moving quickly to open clearer and more friendly lines of diplomatic communication, Canadian Prime Minster Paul Martin welcomes George Bush just one month after his decisive electoral victory in November 2nd's US presidential election. Anticipating a large turnout of protestors, city officials along with law enforcement have advised businesses in the downtown core to take all necessary precaution, namely, closing for the day.

The general public is also advised to avoid the downtown core for reasons dealing largely with their own personal safety. Much like the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec, expect peaceful protest, followed by jackass anarchists and/or large, paper machete puppets of various members of the Bush administration— don’t count on seeing Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

I have this sneaking suspicion that large multinationals hire strategically placed goons that intentionally engage authorities with forces, thus discrediting the already disreputable elements of the protestors and degrading the efforts made by genuine protestors— though with the malicious and furtively, vile intent of a number of shameless corporations—Merck—nothing's beyond the realm of credulity.

If I’m not caused grave bodily harm by an errant plastic bullet, or pilloried incessantly by self-loathing faux-protestors—since I’ll be dressed semi-formal—the perpetual Kierkegaardian dread of some form, or another, of terrorist attack will, no doubt, induce the adequate amount of physiological stressors to kill me before I step out of my door in the morning. I’ll let you know how today goes later tonight..

Monday, November 29, 2004


Bradford Plummer, over at Mother Jones, explains why the Bush administration has done a meager job of Democracy promotion. Specifically, and with respect to the situation in the Ukraine, he notes that the

... problem is that we're essentially seeing a reactive foreign policy here, one that responds to democracy suppression only after the fact. That Putin thought he could exert considerable influence over Ukrainian elections should come as no surprise, really -- over the past few years the Bush administration has given the Russian president wide latitude to do these sorts of things, from cracking down on Chechnya to consolidating his power at home.

In cozying up with an increasingly imperialistic--Stalinist, almost-- Russia for the purposes of Real Politick in the WOT, the Bush administration has let a gathering and, quite possibly, grave geopolitical dynamic materialize. The parallel here, of course, is Georgia. Shevardnadze was pro-Russia, implicitly pro-Putin, and Saakashvili, a University of Columbia Law graduate, was pro-Westernization.

Although the Rose Revolution ended with a relative advantage for the forces of the West, Georgia and Saakashvili find themselves in a rather precarious geographic position: Russia still has de facto territorial control. Yet, Saakashvili remains optimistic. In an editorial in tomorrow's International Herald Tribune, Saakashvili speaks to the gains being made a year after the Rose Revolution. As he says:

On the first anniversary of the "Rose Revolution," Georgians reflect on the past while setting a course toward a prosperous future and carefully watching similar events in Ukraine. A free Georgia proves that democracy can thrive in this strategic region that was once part of the Soviet Empire. But difficult days lie ahead in the grand experiment we embarked on just months ago - ensuring the inherent right of every Georgian to enjoy opportunity and liberty.

How Africa Subsidizes U.S. Health Care

Check out this interesting editorial in Wapo by Sebastian Mallaby:

(excerpt here)

It isn't a surprise that Africa is short of doctors and nurses: The continent has 1.4 health workers per 1,000 people, compared with 9.9 per 1,000 in North America. What's shocking is that this shortage is partly created by rich countries. Poor nations such as Malawi and Zambia are paying to train medics who emigrate to staff the hospitals of the United States and Europe. We should be helping Africa. Instead, Africa is subsidizing us.

Not just slightly, either. Ghana trains 150 doctors annually; five years after graduation, 80 percent have left, according to Ghanaian data reported by the World Bank. For pharmacists, the proportion is about 40 percent; for nurses and midwives, it's about 75 percent -- which is why half the nursing posts in Ghana are vacant. Meanwhile, South African doctors emigrate at a rate of about 1,000 annually. In 2001, Zimbabwe graduated 737 nurses; 437 left for one country, Britain.


And then there is another reform that applies specifically to one country. The United States must end its nutty overpayment for health care, which not only wastes billions but also sends price signals that depopulate hospitals in the poor world. Elliott Fisher of Dartmouth Medical School has demonstrated that regions of the United States with a high concentration of medics spend extra on health care without becoming healthier: This country actually has too many health workers. Meanwhile in Africa a single nurse can be responsible for 50 patients. Because of America's dysfunctional system, the global labor market is siphoning doctors from places where they are needed into places where they accomplish nothing measurable at all.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


I'm not feeling Maureen Dowd's brother:

People often ask me why President Bush inspires such passionate support. My brother Kevin, a salesman who lives in Montgomery County, Md., can answer that; here is a recent e-mail message, trimmed for space, he sent to friends:

"Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now, just as four years ago, I breathe a huge sigh of relief and rejoice in the common sense of the American voting public. Congratulations to President Bush for winning re-election in a poker game played with a stacked deck. No candidate, including Richard Nixon, ever had to endure the biased and unfair tactics of our major media in their attempt to influence the outcome of an election. ... He never complained, just systematically set about delivering the same consistent message. You may remember that four years ago, I felt physically ill watching the Democrats try to legislate their way to the presidency. ...

A very big thank you to Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Rob Reiner, Bill Maher, Barbra Streisand, Alec Baldwin, Al Franken and Jon Stewart for your involvement. You certainly energized the base. Now, please have the courage of your convictions and leave the country.

To Bob Shrum - Cut your fee.

To Mike McCurry, Joe Lockhart and Paul Begala - You don't seem quite as smart without a great candidate.

To The New York Times and The Washington Post - If Bush and Reagan were so stupid, how did they both go four for four in elections involving two of our biggest states and the presidency without your endorsement?

We do not live in a secular country. There are all sorts of people of faith that place moral values over personal freedoms. They are not all 'wacky evangelicals.' They are people who don't like Howard Stern piping a hard porn show over the airwaves and wrapping himself in the freedom of the First Amendment. They don't like being told that a young girl does not have to seek her mother's counsel about an abortion. They don't like seeing an eight-month-old fetus having his head punctured and his brains sucked out. They don't like being told the Pledge of Allegiance, a moment of silent prayer and the words 'under God' are offensive to an enlightened few so nobody should be allowed to use them. ... My wife and I picked our sons' schools based on three criteria: 1) moral values 2) discipline 3) religious maintenance - in that order. We have spent an obscene amount of money doing this and never regretted a penny. Last week on the news, I heard that the Montgomery County school board voted to include a class with a 10th-grade girl demonstrating how to put a condom on a cucumber and a study of the homosexual lifestyle. The vote was 6-0. I feel better about the money all the time.

To Dan Rather - Good luck in your retirement.

To Gavin Newsom - Thanks for all of the great shots of the San Francisco couples embracing their mates at City Hall in direct defiance of the law.

To P. Diddy - 'Vote or Die' might need a little work.

To John Edwards - Thanks for being there.

To my friends - only 1,460 days until the next election. Stay vigilant. The Democrats, CBS, the NY Times and the Post may think Hillary is the perfect antidote for all those 'stupid' voters out there.

Best regards, Kevin

Public Reason:II

Majikthise, in the first of a series of posts on Public Reason and Religon, explains why faith "short circuits" honest and reasoned argumentation:

However, if S believes that p on faith, she and I have little to say to each other. As long as S clings to faith as her reason for believing that p, she has cut herself off from any facts or evidence that I might cite against p, she has also cut herself off from convincing me of p. The situation is even worse if I have a faith-based belief that not-p. At this point S and I have reached an impasse. We both have faith, and our faith points us in opposite directions.

The p-example points to a serious defect with faith-based reasons, namely, that they cannot be "audited" in the same way as ordinary reasons. Rawls would say that faith-based reasons are not sufficiently transparent. If someone claims to believe something as an article of faith, we must simply take them at their word. By contrast, if someone asks me rationally defend a policy, it doesn't really matter whether I actually believe the reasons I give, at least insofar as justification is concerned. The reasons stand on their own. Someone else can follow my reasoning and decide for herself whether my case is convincing.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Y tu mama tambien

I just watched Y Tu Mama Tambien on the Independent Film Channel and found it a poignantly stirring film. The film follows two young boys, off to university in the fall, enjoying perhaps their last summer together. As circumstances would have it, they meet a striking, mysterious woman who reluctantly agrees to join them on their journey to a beach that doesn’t exist.

The film rarely tires to do too much, and its understated tempo gives it an ambient elegance of subtle, underlying innocence’s: It's like an elegy to the loss of innocence. I then decided to check out some old reviews of the film. I came across this one, from the Prospect, by Noy Thrupkaew circa 2002. Of the woman, Lusia, Thrupkaew writes this

[She]… captures the essence of the movie. "You are so lucky to live in Mexico," she says. "Look at it -- it breathes with life." The same is true of this film -- sometimes frustratingly meandering, sometimes electric with happiness and suffering. There are a few perfect days in one's life, the movie seems to say, and then there's the rest of it. But even the rest -- an old granny doing a shimmy, a monkey riding on a car -- has its joy. And as for the dream? Sometimes it's even more perfect for having been lost.

That’s seems about right.

The Future of Freedom

Reprinted here, at The Strawman, is an Op-Ed I wrote over at the Dominion.

Is your government in a position to profit financially from terrorism? Are you? Would you like to be?

It may have been a passing thought swirling blithely in my mind every once and again, but when I actually tried to recall if it were a real memory, objectively independent from my mind, an actual verifiable fact, I was startled to find out that it was, in fact, true.

Reported in the New York Times on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 was this bracing gem:

The Pentagon office that proposed spying electronically on Americans to monitor potential terrorists has a new experiment. It is an online futures trading market, disclosed today by critics, in which anonymous speculators would bet on forecasting terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups.

There, in plain English, and aided by the venerable research Boolean of Google, was something quite bizarre—beyond comprehension, really. Quite naturally, one’s attempt to settle this bizarre revelation still, and hold on to the withering psychosis slowing cascading through one’s mind causes you to reach for justificatory arguments as to why a futures market in terrorism wouldn’t be such a bad idea. I will return to those shortly.

DARP, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, under the auspices of DOD, had designed a program for a Policy Analysis Market (PAM). Essentially a futures market on terror or international tumult, PAM would have allowed for the

… trading futures contracts that deal with underlying fundamentals of relevance to the Middle East. Initially, PAM will focus on the economic, civil, and military futures of Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey and the impact of U.S. involvement with each.

As per the justificatory arguments, I now return. The markets have become an efficient way to aggregate information. Further, markets, as an indictor of valuation, predict more efficaciously the utility of services, products, and goods. It is with a detached sense of management that such an analytical tool may find its salutary benefits. Why, for instance, can’t the markets also let us know when, say, Hosni Mubarak will get assassinated, asks Ronald Baileyof Reason (Free Minds and Free Markets)?

Consider this scenario. Let's say PAM offers a futures contract on a pool of 50 Middle Eastern leaders and we know that on average one of them gets killed every year. If assassination is random that means that each one has a 2 percent chance of being dead in the next year. Prices that move away from 2 percent indicate that the market participants anticipate a greater or lesser likelihood that any particular leader would be killed. Say terrorists flood the market with bids on assassinating Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak so that the prediction rises to 4 percent. Why would they do that? To direct our attention away from one of the other 49 leaders that they are actually targeting? That doesn't get them a lot of misdirection. And other market participants would still be bidding on other likely candidates for assassination and would take the profits away from the terrorist bidders when Mubarak attends the next Arab summit meeting a year later.

Apart from being an incredibly abhorrent idea on its face, it should also lead, unsavorily, to the complementary extension of a futures market on terrorist attacks within the United States and against its allies. How quickly would that proposition not even be considered? All efforts would be made to protest such a vile idea if it were proposed by anyone other than the US—and directed at the United States. This is a point that could not be reiterated with more emphasis.

On the point of personal profit as a lure for terrorists looking to disclose information, which is a fanciful notion, it has to be assumed, first, that the cause for which they kill could so easily be comprised for a cash incentive. 9/11 and Beslan prove otherwise. If wishing made it so, the problem would simply be about cash. The problem is, rather, about the United States poor human intelligence within the Middle East. It’s about the United States lack of Arabic translator, Arabic and Near-East analyst, and strategic coherence with respect to Middle Eastern Affairs. It’s about the United States realization that cultivating the seeds of genuine and engaged civic, democratic institutions in the Middle East is far more difficult with the imposition of force. It’s an understanding that effecting change will have to be, sadly, financially rewarding for interested parties.

But the dissolution of the former Soviet Union offers a probable, though long term, parallel of the political dynamic in the Middle East, with qualifications of course. As incipient and politically active dissident groups began to flourish and agitate for social and economic change in Eastern Europe during the decades preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western Europe and North America saw and engaged the opportunity to give logistical and ideological succor to these groups—Solidarity is a perfect example.

Such an organizing stratagem is no doubt far reaching and politically unwieldy, but an attempt must be made. A futures market, though I’m sure its noble aim at acquiring secretive intelligence can be reasonably argued for, seems too much a blunt instrument for a task that requires the finesse of language and empathy.

Public Reason

Reprinted here, at The Strawman, is a comment from Majikthise discussion on Creation myths, evolution, and public reason. I think it’s good. I think this because I wrote it. I’m not sure if that’s a Cartesian joke—I wonder.

* * * * *

First of all, I don't think "kids should be taught all kinds of things", that would be far too silly and, also, needlessly accepting of the validity in the Creationists’ line: If your paradigm, then why not mine? (Sorry for rhyming) It’s also not about demarcation or clever, semantic elegance that elides our collective understanding of the ultimate nature of reality.

"What evidence has Creationism brought to bear on Quantum Mechanics?" Neils Bohr’s ghost would ask demandingly. What systemized theories, that lend themselves to falsifiability by the scientific method, have been offered to the naturalistic appendages of our (or a) cosmology?

While essentially enjoying the largess of the RD efforts made by Science in our long march 'forward' to progress, religion has offered only a meta-narrative of why we are, never thorough enough to get its hands dirty with the questions of what we are.(That is to say our physical constitution, temporally.) (Though, this is not to say that the Church as an historical institution hasn’t cultivated the pursuit of Science. There is no doubt it has; though only tendentiously.) (Semantic qualifiers, anyone?)

Granted Science is a language, and, thus, is spoken with different levels of comprehension among interlocutors; but, there are rules of syntax and grammar that make it intelligible as a coherent theory—and, more importantly, it doesn’t rely on a question begging thesis to underlie its foundation.

I’m not certain, though I’m open to be corrected and/or persuaded, that Creationism can give me an alternative system to Cellular Biology, to Organic Chemistry, to Physics. What I am certain of, however, is that Creationism and/or competing cosmologies aren’t trying very hard to—through their own paradigms of systemized empirical evidence and the explication of physical phenomena—refute naturalistic sciences. They accept the consequent, have no qualms with its operational necessity in everyday, practical life, but reject the antecedent.

This is why we have the soft “sciences” of ID, New Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Young World whatever—and what have you. They understand, and concede the fact, that their theories of cosmogony have to, at least in some persuasive, commonsense way, comport to the Scientific method--or some close approximation of it, or something like it, or close to it.(Make sense?) They understand that there must be a public reason—simply beyond belief and faith without evidence—for their theories to hold sway against and/or with Science.

This, then, necessarily compromises both the underlying epistemes of their respective theories of life and the fealty they ask of those who subscribe ultimately to these theories.

When we talk about what we want to teach in public schools, we’re talking about what the default position should be: why are we? This can’t be answered in any comprehensive or practicable way—and clearly can’t be answered, at this time, in any conclusively positive way competing theories of cosmologies contend.

Though it may have tried in it younger years, Science isn’t trying, now, to answer that question, "why are we?", definitively (Save maybe for String Theory)—and operates on the assumption that the method will, in the end, tease it out. Competing cosmologies, (Religion, Creationism so on and so forth) have answered the question; no further evidence is required, no further inquiry is necessary—which explains the woolly-headedness in their epistemologies, and, therefore, by extension, their theories of anything.

What type of practical education do we want our children to have? That is the vital question. Or, more apropos, and “the” philosophical question Bush would offer, “Is our children learning?”

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Good point... somewhat

Tom Friedman makes a good point, somewhat:

I want to take time on this Thanksgiving to thank God I live in a country where, despite so much rampant selfishness, the public schools still manage to produce young men and women ready to voluntarily risk their lives in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to spread the opportunity of freedom and to protect my own. And I want to thank them for doing this, even though on so many days in so many ways we really don't deserve them.

I'm not so sure they have a choice on the matter. The demographics suggests that systemic inequality as regards socio-economic strata is very much determinative of who "voluntarily" risks their lives. Quite simply, the military--more tragically, the infantry-- is their only option.

Kerry and the Gift of Impunity

Over at the Nation Naomi Klein thinks that all the problems with America today are a direct result of John Kerry. Not unbitterly, Ms. Klein rips into the Kerry campaign for it's sins of omission:

In the name of "electability," the Kerry campaign gave Bush five months on the campaign trail without ever facing serious questions about violations of international law. Fearing he would be seen as soft on terror and disloyal to US troops, Kerry stayed scandalously silent about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. When it became clear that fury would rain down on Falluja as soon as the polls closed, Kerry never spoke out against the plan, or against the illegal bombings of civilian areas that took place throughout the campaign.

Idealism isn't lost with youth or innocence, and it sometimes, oddly enough, is reinforced with an altogether naive conception of the way we desire the world to be. What bothers me, though I agree with Klein in many important respects, is her unflinching inconsistency. She simply seems to be a contrarian on all things Americana—which actually is, on second thought, consistent. There’s more:

By buying the highly questionable logic that Americans are incapable of caring about anyone's lives but their own, the Kerry campaign and its supporters became complicit in the dehumanization of Iraqis, reinforcing the idea that some lives are insufficiently important to risk losing votes over. And it is this morally bankrupt logic, more than the election of any single candidate, that allows these crimes to continue unchecked.

Kick the man while he’s down, why don’t you. She’s kicked him before, though.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Scare Quotes

Says Ben Mathis-Lilley of Slate, inquisitively: "When was the last time you remember your co-workers, your parents—anyone except Bill Walton—talking about the NBA in November? “Never”, I answer. The “public outcry” that has occasioned last week’s brawl between a few, defenseless Pacers, of Indian, and a slew of inebriated Detroit Pistons fans has been laughable, to say the least. “Protect the fans!” they exhort, while disregarding the “players” (read: human beings) ultimate recourse: personal defense.

It seems, or at least it has become, an operating maxim that any Joe Public—and Jane, for that matter—has an inalienable right to taunt, tease, and, if the mood should strike them, toss beer cups at the animals in the cage. Any incredibly inhuman and unruly response from the animals (read: “players” or human beings) is received with moral opprobrium—save for that particular incident at a White Sox’s game when, again, drunk fans accosted and then proceeded to attack an umpire; those fans, who were soundly beaten by the “players” (“White” Sox’s) deserved what was coming to them.

Granted, Ron Artest has had numerous disciplinarily problems with the league and great difficultly keeping his wits about him, however, I’m not certain how this makes him less likely to do what he did? The fan, I suspect, knowingly threw that cup of beer determined to elicit such a response from Mr. Artest; they call that provocation in the law: it’s a statutory aggravating piece of inference that goes to motivation and intention.

So where am I going with all this idle chatter? Give me a second.

Charely Rosen, a poor man’s Shakespeare, misses the point, saying “Hey, guys: Suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fanatics is part of the job description”. Yet at some point I honestly believe that human nature must take the fore. Imagine this: cornered in the clutches of a mass of faceless, hostile fans, you attempt to extricate a wayward teammate who’s lost his cool. When, all sudden, a blast of cool, human fists begin to shower the back of your head. Do I a) stand there in the melee and suffer the slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune? or b)—as Charles Barkley so aptly put it (I’m paraphrasing here)—turn around and punch someone?

Ron Artest was out of control, the fans were out of control, and the Pacers who joined the fracas were protecting themselves—well maybe not that Jermaine O’Neil slow-mo punch; I’m not sure if they(Media Whores) actually bothered to play it in real-time.

Therefore, if it weren’t plainly obvious where I stand, let me reiterate: Notwithstanding Ron Artest’s meltdown, the fans, as well as the Piston organization, are to blame. In the opposing teams crowd, being ever so aggressively pummeled by some obstreperous fans, those Pacers that engaged in fisticuffs had every right to. So garbage like this, “Artest proved himself too weak not to fight a hapless civilian. Count Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal in the same misguided category”, which passes as journalism, is proffered out by “the” hapless punditry, with no relent. Charely Rosen should really go back to the tape and see that it wasn’t “a hapless civilian” but rather “a “few” supremely idiotic fans”. The defense rests.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Some promising news on the Darfur crisis today:

Sudan's government and southern rebels vowed on Friday to end Africa's longest civil war by Dec. 31, signing a pledge in front of 15 U.N. Security Council envoys who flew in from New York to demand the fighting stop

After the signing ceremony, the Security Council, meeting away from its Manhattan home for the first time in 14 years, unanimously adopted a resolution promising political and economic support once Sudan ended two wars that have left millions dead in the south and in Darfur in the West.

Let us now hope that there will be the political will and conviction to sustain the peace. What worries me, though, is that international attention will now wane. It is important that Governments, NGO's, and independent observers stay viglilant

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Check out this week's lead story in the Onion whch is, as always, bittingly funny.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Krazy Keyes

Alan Keyes on congratulating Barack Obama:

I'm supposed to make a call that represents the congratulations toward the triumph of that which I believe ultimately stands for and will stand for a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country," Keyes said. "I can't do this, and I will not make a false gesture

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Silver Lining

Watching the aerial shot of John Kerry's motorcade wind its way to Faneuil Hall where Kerry is to make his concession speech is plaintive. It looks too much like a funeral; and in many ways it very much is one. After promising it’s supporters that all the votes would be counted, the Kerry Campaign has conceded the election before all the provisional and absentee ballots have been counted. A passage from a Yeats poem seems apt: “The ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

The red states and the demographic dynamic appear to be an insurmountable impasse for a Democratic party that seeks to articulate a socially progressive platform. Wedge issues like abortion, gay marriage, and gun control still resonate well for the Republicans and their socially conservative base in the heartland of America. The electoral lopsidedness and strength of the Plain states, the Midwest, the Deep South, the Bible belt, and the West, with the exception of California, make the likelihood of a Republican win of the popular vote a structural inevitability. In fact, the Dems have only won the popular vote once in the last 40 years.

The only solace one has—a partisan hack like me—is in the understanding that theses past four years of tumult have damaged the brand name of the Republican Party. Iraq is George W. Bush’s war, and, though one hopes it stabilizes more quickly, the reality is that it may soon get worse. The next four years is an opportunity for the Bush administration to repair the wounds it has inflicted on the American psyche, to move America in a new direction. If the past four years are any indication, the times ahead will be heady.

A win for the Republican Party may not necessarily be a bad thing for the United States; however, a win for the Bush administration may be an incredibly fateful end for the Republican Party. Here’s why: In an August opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Niall Ferguson, esteemed Historian, posited that a Bush win may have unintended and detrimental consequences for the Republican Party specifically, and the Conservative movement in the US generally.

I would agree with such an assessment because as well functioning as the Republican machine is, at some point, social issues that play so well for the heartland voters will attenuate in their potency. Those motivated by wedge issues have voted against their own economic interest for far too long and have begun to slowly see the threadbare seems of a false Conservative argument.

Ferguson says:

It is a mistake, however, to conceive of each presidential contest as an entirely discrete event, a simple, categorical choice between two individuals, with consequences stretching no further than four years.

To be sure, there are many tendencies in American political life that will not be fundamentally affected by the outcome of November's election. For example, contrary to what Mr. Kerry claimed in his convention speech, there are profound structural causes for the widening rift between the U.S. and its erstwhile allies on the European Continent that no new president could possibly counteract. And regardless of whether Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry is in the White House next year, the U.S. will still be stuck with the dirty work of policing post-Saddam Iraq with minimal European assistance other than from Britain--which, by the same token, will remain America's most reliable military ally regardless of whether Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry is in the White House.

Nor would the election of Mr. Kerry have the slightest impact on the ambition of al Qaeda to inflict harm on the U.S. Even if Americans elected Michael Moore as president, Osama bin Laden would remain implacable.

In geopolitical terms, at least, what happens on Nov. 2 will change very little indeed. Yet in other respects--and particularly in terms of party politics--the election's consequences could be far-reaching. It is not too much to claim that the result could shape American political life for a decade or more.

Ferguson adds:

But then what? The lesson of British history is that a second Bush term could be more damaging to the Republicans and more beneficial to the Democrats than a Bush defeat. If he secures re-election, President Bush can be relied upon to press on with a foreign policy based on pre-emptive military force, to ignore the impending fiscal crisis (on the Cheney principle that "deficits don't matter") and to pursue socially conservative objectives like the constitutional ban on gay marriage. Anyone who thinks this combination will serve to maintain Republican unity is dreaming; it will do the opposite. Meanwhile, the Dems will have another four years to figure out what the Labour Party finally figured out: It's the candidate, stupid. And when the 2008 Republican candidate goes head-to-head with the American Tony Blair, he will get wiped out.

So all is not lost, things happen for a reason, one door closes and another one opens, insert the insipid clichés here. One scary thing to note is that Republicans have the presidency, both houses of Congress (the House of Reps and the Senate), a majority on the Supreme Court, a majority of the Governorships, and all the dogcatchers in every county. So all may really be lost, but the upside is that all responsibility lies with the Republicans. In the end, governing parties are more prone to beating themselves than losing elections.

Monday, October 25, 2004

End of Days

Via Majikthise:

James Dobson of Focus on the Family is stumping for Republican Senate candidate Tom Coburn. It's nice to see that Dobson putting his own constructive, loving, Christian stamp on the campaign.

Dobson said that Democratic candidate Brad Colson is a liar whose pro-gay agenda would doom humanity. He was careful to note that he was not "attacking the personhood" of the Democratic candidate.

"Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage," Dobson said.

"It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth."
Dobson went on:

"Patrick Leahy is a 'God's people' hater," Dobson said.

"I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people."
Coburn said that he respected Dobson and that he was proud to have his endorsement.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


Dalton turns 1 today.... 24th Premier of Ontario, 24th of October, Celebrating his 24 wedding anniversary tomorrow. The Toronto Star's Ian Urquhart tell us how the year went for Mr. Mcgunity.

Happy Birthday

I'd like to send a BIG SHOUT OUT to mother on her birthday today. The woman that gave me life, continues to give me support, and will always give me inspiration is turning one year older. The thing one realizes as they grow up and watch their parents become real people, is that the appreciation for family grows stronger. It was so much easier to take for granted the good, warm comfort of my mom's company when I saw her everyday; It has become harder, now, since I don't get to see her as often as I would like—and I'm sure as often as she would prefer.

But what grows stronger each day, although it's expressed in a subtler way, is the enduring appreciation and love I will always have for her. When my days are dark and my nights are bleak, I think of the strength of will embodied in my mother's spirit, that quiet perseverance that asks of other little, but gives to all much more. That quiet perseverance that struggles tirelessly, and, in the end, is rewarded tremendously. I celebrate my mother’s birthday for it is the day that made my life possible.

Thanks Mom,

Love Ron.


The execution style killing of 50 Iraqi troops is emblematic of the futility of perspective. Am I willing to stomach the daily missives of carnage and bloodshed flowing from Iraq? Or, do I disengage from this absurdity of being an informed citizen of the world. But really, within my area of influence the things upon which I can effect change seems so trifling. In me is this inflated sense of importance, as though what I write or what I do would have any impact on the diplomatic minutiae that dictates the machine of international affairs.

Yet the slow, worn path to change seemingly fools one's efforts, changing perspectives of goodness and justice. Do I unnecessarily demand of human nature what it can't express and embody categorically? Am I too optimistic, rationalizing what of the world should be a paradigm for my doctrinaire wishes? If I cannot convince the other man, persuade the other man, do I compel the other man to do as I desire—or at least what I deem human nature should aspire to? Are these histories of human nature a narrative of the only principle that inheres our ontology: Force?

Sheer physical force and the will to power are intoxicating and eternal. Force is met with force is met with force is met with force. Whether it be proportional, heinous, incredible, it never really is inhuman. To put the point crudely, as bleak as it is, dying and killing for what we believe is human.

Take that, Take that...

P.Diddy on the electoral importance of the swing states:

"If you are going to play the game, you need to play it all the way," Combs said in a telephone interview Saturday. "And if you talking about flexing your power, and you ain't flexing in the swing states, then you ain't flexing your power."

After almost going to prison on gun charges, Sean "P.Diddy" Combs has carefully crafted a new public persona of engaged, civic citizenship; in no small part due to the help from one of New York's finest public relations firms.

The real Che

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the Reviewer do not reflect those of the staff at The Strawman.

Anytime I'm in the mood for a mean-spirited diatribe from a priggish Conservative journal, I puruse the New Criterion. In a light and, at the same time, pointed piece, Anthony Daniels gives us his take on The Motorcycle Dairies, a film by Brazilian Director Walter Salles on social revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. These are the passages that stuck out as gratuitously harsh.

It [the film] relies for its effect upon the fact that audiences will all know a minimum about Guevara: for example, that he was a social revolutionary who died in the jungles of Bolivia, and never made a penny for himself. But they will otherwise know little of his actual opinions or actions, and will not have read his tedious and inflexibly dogmatic speeches and writings. It is as if someone were to make a film about Adolf Hitler by portraying him as a vegetarian who loved animals and was against unemployment.


The film clearly intends to suggest that Guevara was a youthful idealist, and that his idealism—so generous, so disarming—was the source of his later opinions and activities, such as his liberal and open-handed signing of death sentences after perfunctory trials, his support of regimes that had killed millions and scores of millions, and his wish that much of the population of the world should be immolated in a nuclear war for the sake of an alleged point of principle. The film is thus the cinematic equivalent of the Che Guevara T-shirt; it is morally monstrous and emotionally trivial.


In presenting Guevara as a romantic figure, generous and compassionate rather than ruthlessly priggish and self-centered, and by suggesting that he has anything to teach us other than negatively, the director is guilty of mendacity of a very high order. The film is an exercise in moral frivolity and exhibitionism, self-congratulation, of course, opportunism. It should sell as well as Guevara T-shirts.

Yeats on Current Affairs

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

W.B. Yeats