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.