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.