Pop

We have been reading about the housing bubble and the consequences when it pops. Dean Baker says it has started: The Coming Housing Crash at Tom Paine.

[. . .]

The exact course going forward will depend to a large extent on how rapidly interest rates rise, but the basic plot is easy to see. With housing construction still far outpacing the growth in households, there will be a further build-up of inventories. In addition, many people who had been holding homes in anticipation of price rises will rush to sell, now that the market is headed downward. The supply of housing will be increased further by duress sales by people who cannot afford the jump in monthly payments on their adjustable rate mortgages. In addition, the rapidly rising foreclosure rate means that many financial institutions will be auctioning off repossessed homes.

The increase in mortgage delinquencies and defaults is likely to put considerable pressure on financial institutions that are heavily involved in home mortgages. Given the poor quality of many recent loans, some collapses of major financial institutions are virtually inevitable.

The decline in housing prices will sharply limit the extent to which people can borrow against their home to support their consumption. This will cause savings to rebound from their current negative rates to more normal levels—at 6 to 8 percent of disposable income—but will be associated with a sharp falloff in consumption.

Together these effects virtually guarantee a recession, and probably a rather severe recession. Even worse, there is no easy route to recovery from a recession that results from a collapse of a housing bubble, just as there was no easy route to recover from the stock crash induced recession of 2001. Greenspan used the housing bubble to recover from that crash, because he saw no other mechanism. Unless Bernanke can find some other bubble to inflate, the recovery may be a long slow process. It took Japan almost 15 years to recover from the crash of its stock and housing bubbles.

Read the whole thing. It is short.

Published in: on July 31, 2006 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sunday Morning Geometry

I studied Mobius geometries in the extended complex plane this morning. I enjoy getting my mind around some mathematics every now and then. Any mathematics will do, whether just right, too difficult, or too easy. The difficult sometimes resolves itself into the obvious and the obvious often exposes unexpected difficulties upon reflection.

I view mathematics as art and imagination. It’s all of a piece with poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and such. I must write down what I mean by that someday.

Published in: on July 30, 2006 at 11:17 am  Comments (2)  

The Republican Coalition and Perpetual War

I have been thinking about the strange alliance between big business and the Christian right forged by the Republican Party. On the surface, it seems as if it is weird soup. Capitalism has no stake in the goals of the Christian right since capitalism is a force of instrumental values rather than ultimate values. Capitalism uses science and deploys technology, two things the Christian right is deeply suspicious of. Capitalism does not care about religious or cultural norms in and of themselves, particularly when it can make a profit by stepping outside those norms.

Related to this, I found interesting this article by Fred Block, who weighs in on The Domestic Side of the Iraq War at Longview Institute. The whole article is worth reading.

Frances Fox Piven published an important book in 2003, The War at Home. After reviewing the standard explanations for the war, she asked:

“Why the turn to preemptive war and relatedly, the cavalier treatment of the painstakingly constructed multilateral arrangements of the past half century? I don‚’t think the question can be fully answered if the war in Iraq is regarded solely as a foreign policy strategy. The war is also a domestic strategy, rooted not only in calculations of America’s global power, but in calculations geared to shoring up the Bush regime’s domestic power and its ability to pursue its domestic policy agenda.”

[. . .]

The point is not that the Bush Administration launched a war simply to reap domestic electoral advantages. Rather, the way the war was fought, with the highly problematic emphasis on being feared rather than loved, was rooted in domestic political considerations. Furthermore, some of the key figures in the Administration believed that war would help them realize several of their most important domestic objectives: staying in office, building a durable Republican electoral coalition, and centralizing power in the Executive Branch.

To understand this one has to go back to the extended battle in 2000 over the results of the Presidential election. While the Supreme Court decision to halt the Florida recount left liberals and progressives deeply traumatized, the effects on the incoming Bush Administration of the electoral tie were almost as severe. Their view was that George Bush had run a brilliant campaign by successfully camouflaging himself as a moderate and ‚“compassionate conservative.‚” They also reaped huge advantages from the Republican money machine’s capacity to outspend Gore and by their ability to capitalize on Gore‚’s personal awkwardness that was off-putting to many voters. Yet even so, more voters had chosen Gore, indicating that public opinion was trending against the Republicans.

They recognized this as a potential break with recent electoral history. The Republicans had won the Presidency in 1980, 1984, and 1988 with clear majorities of all the votes cast. To be sure, Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 and 1996, but in both cases, he won only a plurality in a three way contest that included Ross Perot. One Republican commentator wrote in The National Review: “Al Gore and Ralph Nader got 51 percent of the vote between them, the best showing for left-of-center candidates since 1964.” (April 16, 2001)

In a similar vein, Fred Barnes, the conservative commentator, wrote immediately after the election in The Weekly Standard:

“But it’s now clear the end of the Republican lock on the White House was not a function of Bill Clinton‚’s strength. Rather, the GOP lock was a product of the Cold War and the conservative backlash against the 1960s. Absent those factors, it‚’s gone.” (Dec.4, 2000)

Concerns about the end of the Republican lock were intensified by dangerous rumblings within the Republican coalition. Since the mid-1970’s, the Republican ascendancy had been organized on the basis of an unusual alliance that joined business conservatives with religious and social conservatives. Business conservatives, including most of the Fortune 500 corporate elite, contributed vast amounts of cash and received unconditional support for their agenda of lower taxes and less regulation of business. Religious and social conservatives provided the shock troops for the Republican Party and in exchange, the Party adopted their anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-big-government agenda.

From the start, there were always strains in this coalition. Big business is unrelentingly internationalist, committed to the process of turning the whole world into a single marketplace, while religious and social conservatives are deeply parochial and highly suspicious of global institutions. The platform of the Texas Republican Party still calls on the United States to withdraw from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. Business is also committed to continuing scientific and technological advances, while many religious conservatives prefer creationism to Darwinism and are highly suspicious of technological change. But, the Republican leadership has been extremely successful in papering over these tensions and focusing both sides on their shared distrust of the liberal and progressive agenda.

The coalition reached its high point with the “Contract for America‚” that allowed the Republicans to take control of Congress in 1994. It was then that Tom DeLay organized the K Street Project to take advantage of business’ dependence on government action to extract even larger sums of money from business lobbyists to fund the entire infrastructure of the Republican Right.

With this Congressional victory in 1994, the balance of power in the coalition shifted towards the social and religious conservatives who were increasingly militant in pressing their agenda. While they had been bought off in the Reagan and Bush I Administrations by some lower level appointments in cabinet agencies and by periodic presidential declarations of complete support for the right-to-life cause, they resolved that when the Republicans recaptured the Presidency, their views had to be represented at the highest levels of the government‚—shaping both its foreign policy and all of its judicial appointments.

In sum, the Bush Administration recognized that they faced a situation not unlike the one that Lyndon Johnson confronted between 1964 and 1968. At that time, the New Deal Democratic coalition was growing old and rickety and Johnson‚’s challenge was to prevent open warfare between two key pillars of his political base. As it happened, the conflict between African-Americans and more conservative white Democrats ultimately broke apart the New Deal Democratic coalition. For the George W. Bush Administration, the parallel threat they faced was that open conflict between big business and the religious right would coincide with the declining electoral power of their coalition.

The most likely arena for such a conflict to play out was in foreign policy. The Administration faced the awesome task of balancing the needs of big business with those of its increasingly assertive right wing base. The former needs the U.S. to project its power internationally and support economic globalization. The latter have grave doubts about ‚“free trade” and are deeply hostile to U.S. participation in the international organizations that are necessary to manage an increasingly interdependent global economy.

Block points out that a perpetual war on terror cements the alliance between big business and social conservatives because big business is too timid to critique the Bush Administration given their penchant for unrestricted Executive power and reprisals against those who leave the fold. Big business needs big government to survive. The business that bucks the system will lose big goverenment support.

In light of the need for a permanent state of war to keep the party faithful in line, Mr. Bush’s announcement this weekend that the Lebanon crisis was part of the broader global war on terror was entirely predictable. The Fall election strategy by the Republican Party is to show why they are needed now more than ever to keep the war going. As Block points out, it has worked twice in the past.

We also see that seeking to solve the root causes of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict does not serve the Republican Party’s interests in keeping their base together. We will see an escalation in violence in the Middle East by all parties. That suits the Republican Party leadership just fine.

Published in: on July 30, 2006 at 5:25 am  Comments (2)  

What will it take?

The Iraq War ended quite some time ago. What we now have is the Iraq Occupation. That is a basic fact that eluded me for quite awhile. It still eludes many others.

Let us review the situation in Iraq to prove the point:

1) Saddam Hussein has been toppled from power and is on trial for his life in front of a duly constituted Iraqi court.

2) There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq at the time we invaded, despite the pathetic attempts of some to convince everyone that the few artillery shells filled with gas and left over from the Iran/Iraq War are weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to the United States.

3) Iraq has a popularly ratified democratic constitution.

4) Iraq has a duly elected government in accordance with the Iraq constitution and international monitoring.

5) The majority of Iraqis want the US to leave the country.

6) The insurgent violence against US troops comes almost entirely from Iraqi religious and nationalist groups rather than al-Qaeda style terrorist groups.

Even by revisionist conservative standards the US mission has been accomplished.

Many of the conservative intelligentsia have deserted the Iraq Occupation cause. (Sorry, but the bloggers at National Review don’t count as part of that intelligentsia.) What we also notice is that so called mainstream conservatives haven’t budged an inch when it comes to thinking about the Iraq situation. Some of this comes from people who would support Mr. Bush no matter what he does. They are Bush Cultists and not really conservatives in any meaningful sense of the term. Others cannot decouple the idea that democracy is a good thing from the Iraq Occupation.

When a country occupies another country possessing a democratic government against the wishes of the people of the occupied country, the occupied country is not really a democracy until the occupying power leaves. One thinks of the American Revolution, but many can’t think that far.

When all the stated objectives of war are accomplished as they have been in Iraq, yet when many people still demand the occupation by the invading force, one wonders just what objectives and interests are being served. Mainstream conservatives have set a moving target that even the best sharpshooter can’t hit.

Too many mainstream conservatives use arguments containing false premises. Anyone who opposes the Iraq Occupation is in favor of dictatorships. Anyone who opposes the Iraq Occupation would rather see Saddam Hussein still in power. Anyone who opposes the Iraq Occupation is a coward. All three propositions are patently false.

Corollary to the Iraq Occupation issue is the mainstream conservative support for the erosion of freedom, equality, and democracy within the United States. Once again, we have seen the defection of the conservative intelligentsia from Mr. Bush’s domestic projects, yet many mainstream conservatives have yet to think about the Bush legacy for democratic institutions and laws.

Let us review a few other false propositions.

The US is reconstructing Iraq. The daily reports of corruption and mismanagement refute the proposition.

The US is building Iraqi security forces so they can take over for us. The daily reports of escalating and unrestrained violence refutes the proposition.

If the US leaves Iraq it will leave a vacuum of power in the Middle East. Sorry, but that is already a fait accompli unless the US plans to stay there for decades. The American public has already gotten wise to that notion and expressed a distaste for it.

The US is fighting terrorism. No, the US has created more terrorists than it ever hoped to kill or capture in Iraq. Along the way the US has made enemies of those it hoped to persuade to its side.

The mainstream conservative argument for the Iraq Occupation is stunning in its simplicity:

Democracy is a good thing.
The Iraq Occupation promotes democracy.
Therefore, the Iraq Occupation is a good thing.

The argument rests upon a tower of hidden and false premises trotted out at convenience and rarely relevant to the issues under discussion.

One despairs of convincing the Bush Cultist, and wonders just what it will take to get the other mainstream conservatives, the ones who actually think and argue, to change their minds.

Published in: on July 29, 2006 at 8:00 am  Comments (4)  

I was wrong

I was wrong. Secretary Rice is going back to Lebanon next week to negotiate humanitarian aid to the Lebanese.

The kill ratio stands 12 Lebanese civilians to each Hezbollah militiaman. At least 750,000 Lebanese have been displaced from their homes.

But Secretary Rice will be back in Lebanon. We don’t want to look too crass do we?

Published in: on July 28, 2006 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cancel the post-game show

My local bar is not closing on Sunday. They extended their lease for another month. That’s a good thing, for the last thing I want to do this weekend is drink beer at Pippin’s.

Published in: on July 28, 2006 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

OK, Mr. Smarty Pants, you have the answer, but what is the question?

How can one resist commenting on the crisis in Lebanon? One can’t.

The New York Times reports: Tide of Arab Opinion Turns to Support for Hezbollah. Despite early criticism of Hezbollah by Saudi Arabia and others for inciting the current conflict in Lebanon, those criticisms have ceased. Fingers are now pointed at Israel as the culprit. Hezbollah has become the darling of the Muslim world. All of this was to be expected.

Secretary Rice says she will return to the Middle East when the time is right. In her words that means not negotiating for a return to the status quo. It sounds a little abstract, but what it means is that there will be no negotiations until Hezbollah’s military capabilities are completely destroyed. We who have followed the success of laser guided bombing in destroying insurgent militias expect she won’t be back anytime soon.

And that is a damned shame. However, one wonders if the US has any diplomatic credibility chips left to spend with the rest of the world. We have seen the Bush Administration rapidly dismantle international treaties, laws, and institutions, the very institutions the US took the leadership in creating. (Of course, you hear revisionist conservatives claim the UN was something thrust upon the United States against its will. The UN building just popped up one morning in New York City like some giant pestilent mushroom.) According to neo-con notions, international law is not needed to resolve disputes when the world is blessed with a good super power such as the United States to assert its moral authority and military might against the forces of evil. Corollary to this is the idea that the US will always have a divinely inspired conservative President such as Mr. Bush to make the appropriate moral judgments for the often confused American public and world in general. You can’t make international relations much more tidy than that.

The question remains as to why the world remains so untidy despite all the Bush Administration’s best intentions and actions? We should clear up one obscurantist conservative talking point before seeking an answer to the question. Conservatives claim leftists don’t have any answer to what to do about Hezbollah. Leftists should be giving two replies. One, don’t do anything to galvanize all of world opinion in favor Hezbollah as is currently being done. Two, the question in and of itself is the wrong question in the first place.

The right question is when will the most powerful democracies step in and help achieve an agreed upon border settlement between Israel and Palestine so that there will be two sovereign states recognized by one and all? This requires restoration of international law and peace keeping institutions. It also requires the US to give diplomatic resolution the highest priority.

Unfortunately, the US government is dead set against both those initiatives. Thus we are saddled with the obfuscating rhetoric about what to do with Hezbollah. The first response by neo-cons is that of Mr. Bush: Hezbollah should stop doing this shit, so the whole thing will dry up and blow away. The second response is that the US will supply enough laser guided bombs to Israel to kill everyone in Hezbollah. Just wonderful. Let’s see how that works out. All out warfare always works best while sitting a safe distance from the conflict.

The crisis in Lebanon gives further evidence for the absolute disaster called neo-con international relations strategy. (I use disaster in its factual connotation.) It goes beyond categorization as Republican/Democrat, conservative/liberal, and realist/idealist. Neo-con notions are in a class by themselves—something we can make common cause against.

Published in: on July 28, 2006 at 10:41 am  Comments (2)  

New Joe Bageant Essay

Adam Smith Meets Cousin Ronnie’s Boy is Joe Bageant’s latest essay. I always rejoice when he posts a new essay on his blog.


That ain’t no class underclass; it’s 250 million rugged individuals being pissed on.

Published in: on July 27, 2006 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bark softly when in the presence of the master with a big stick

The NYT reports that British Take Dim View of Blair’s Close Ties to U.S.

When Prime Minister Tony Blair visits Washington on Friday, he will find himself in a familiar position–—a statesman abroad, and assailed at home as what his harshest critics call America’’s ““poodle.””

[...]

Mr. Blair has long maintained that standing close to Mr. Bush in times of crisis enables the British leader to exert some influence over American actions.

But his critics are unlikely to grant him that. In an opinion piece in today’’s issue of The New Statesman, for instance, Sir Stephen Wall, a former senior adviser to Mr Blair, wrote: “The overriding reason for Britain’s loss of moral authority is Blair’’s conviction he has to hitch the U.K. to the chariot of the U.S. president.”

Maybe, Mr. Blair will inform Mr. Bush that the Lebanon affair doesn’t look as handsome as it ought. And maybe he won’t.

Published in: on July 27, 2006 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Decay

William F. Buckley Jr., idol of the American conservative movement, recently strongly criticized President Bush on both domestic and foreign policy during a CBS News interview. He also noted that President Bush would have no legacy that future Presidents would acknowledge.

A bipartisan panel of the American Bar Association has expressed concerns over President Bush’s use of signing statements and the precedent set for future Presidents. They recommend judicial review of signing statements and a report sent to Congress when a President refuses to execute the law.

Cracks in the facade sometimes show rotting timber in the frame.

Published in: on July 27, 2006 at 3:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Goodbye to Pippin’s

Memory being what it is, especially with us geezers, I remember it this way. In the Fall of 1990, my TV broke a day or two before the Michigan vs. Iowa football game. Iowa was ranked number two and and Michigan number one. So, I headed out into the city, with which I was not too familiar, to see if I could find the game. I happened upon a place called Pippin’s on Rush Street, looked in the window, and saw they had the game on TV.

I walked into the bar, got served well by Amy, and watched Iowa beat Michigan on a last second field goal. I have been going there ever since.

Pippin’s closes on Sunday for the last time. I won’t bore you with the details about my time there between 1990 and 2006. But if you happen to be around on Sunday in Chicago, I’ll be at Pippin’s saying goodbye to the folks and getting righteously hammered. You are welcome to join me.

Published in: on July 27, 2006 at 1:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Diplomacy and the Habermasean turn

The US has decided to support a military solution in resolving the recent conflict between Israel and Hezbollah instead of pursuing an aggressive diplomatic solution. We say the US because this is a nearly unanimous position taken by the President and the Congress. Secretary Rice’s current diplomatic trip is designed to smooth the way for the military policy as much as possible.

Step one is to convince the Lebanese government and people that the current military strikes by Israel and inevitable occupation of southern Lebanon is for their own benefit as much as it is for Israel. That is a tall order. One wonders if Secretary Rice is not fulfilling a necessary obligation of her post so as to get on with the new war as quickly as possible. The Lebanese people suffering from recent military actions probably won’t be persuaded that the actions are minimal and for their benefit. One can expect a Lebanese government hardened against US foreign policy advice and actions when the next government is voted into power.

The withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and Western style democratic elections in Lebanon was hailed as the triumph of US foreign policy such as the one implemented in Iraq. The old Domino Theory in reverse was taking place right before our eyes. Now, we see the whole domino metaphor was never apt in the first place.

The credibility of US diplomatic efforts is very low. The US government does not take it seriously, and the rest of world, not being as gullible as some hope, does not take it seriously either. Meanwhile, there is big money rolling into certain corporate coffers as payment for sophisticated weaponry, big contracts for Lebanon’s reconstruction in the offing, and the hope of displacing militias to some other less strategic area in the Middle East. One looks at the map and wonders just where that other area might be.

We are confronted with another failure of imagination. The result of letting diplomacy languish in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was sure to spark another round of all out warfare. This is a situation totally lost on many Americans. We have too many Americans who believe all out war is the only solution to international political conflicts. Part of this arises from the belief that one can be for war in other parts of the world, but never have to fight in those wars or pay for them. The nature of modern technological warfare practiced at its most sophisticated level lulls people into this sort of thinking.

One cannot avoid the temptation to apply a Habermasean interpretation to events. US foreign policy divorced from any belief in the efficacy of diplomacy gives the lie to claims for a belief in liberty, equality, rationality, and truth. If these claims have any legitimacy, they have universal appeal. Diplomacy derives its power from negotiation, persuasive argumentation, and the necessity for giving reasons for one’s actions. Rationality is embedded into the diplomatic process because of this. Giving reasons for one’s actions is a moral commitment besides being a foundation of rationality and logical persuasion.

The US has lost a lot of its power to steer events because of its extreme desire to seek military solutions at the expense of diplomatic solutions. Diplomacy is not a weak willed response to international relations. Letting situations fester and languish until all out war is unavoidable, is nothing to be proud of nor anything to feel secure about. Yet too many people accept this as inevitable when they would do no such thing in their own neighborhood.

Those who have rushed to take sides and call for further escalation of the conflict have no ultimate claims for rationality or morality. The support for liberty, equality, rationality, and truth comes from the ideas central to diplomacy. If the environment for giving reasons for one’s actions does not exist, then one despairs of ever seeing any real solutions to international crises other than indiscriminate death and destruction without end.

A person may say they believe in reason, but we expect their actions to embrace those things a rational person actually does to resolve conflicts before they break out in all out warfare. If one has made no attempt to negotiate, then espousing one’s grievances is merely shouting into the wind. Just go ahead and shoot instead of wasting everyone’s time with idle banter. Claims to reason and rationality have no warrant.

These notions are part of the unfinished and much disparaged Enlightenment project. Many link the Enlightenment project to justifying the actions of the ruling class. Others feel the Enlightenment is directly linked to the excesses and injustices of capitalism. Noble ideals have always been turned to advantage by scoundrels—human nature being what it is. One need not stop believing in liberty, equality, and the solidarity created by reason because of that. As much as one might try to escape the Enlightenment project, its ideals keep returning when crises intervene to negate its progress.

Published in: on July 26, 2006 at 9:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Sleep and Time

Monday morning. I slept for a long time last night–unusual for me. Is that why dawn looks pretty?

I read where sleep deprivation is a leading cause of heart disease. I must find a way to get more and better sleep.

It’s easy to obsess over a string of many bad nights when one does not sleep long or well. One spends the day thinking about how nice it would be to go back to bed and sleep.

Best of all, time passes more slowly when one is rested. Whatever the answers are to metaphysical questions about time, the brain creates time as we experience it.

Published in: on July 24, 2006 at 4:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Herodotus on the origins of the wars between the Greeks and Persians

Herodotus opens his Histories with an exploration of the original causes of the Trojan War and the subsequent wars between the Greeks and Persians. Leaving aside the historical accuracy of his account, the opening pages present a lively and entertaining account of the justifications for war.

According to Herodotus, the conflict started when the Phoenicians abducted Io, the daughter of Inachus the King of Argos, and carried her to Egypt. Thus, began the theft of women by the Greeks and Persians leading up to Alexander’s theft of Helen.

The modern reader might find the justifications related by Herodotus silly. One wonders if Herodotus might have felt the same way. However, we moderns are in no better shape when it comes to justifying our wars based on ancient gripes. And let’s face it, we are not so far removed from Herodotus’ time when it comes to that.

At any rate, the student of human nature will benefit by taking a leisurely stroll around the world with Herodotus. It might be the ultimate summer vacation beach read.

Published in: on July 22, 2006 at 8:59 am  Comments (1)  

Diplomacy vs. the Moral Calculus

The current Israeli/Palestinian conflict has already inflicted many casualties upon noncombatants. Many around the world have chosen sides.

Negotiated settlements are not much in vogue these days, so one expects many more noncombatant casualties. Great minds are already working out the moral calculus of body counts while diplomacy languishes. It is quicker and easier to use the moral calculus to justify actions than to use diplomacy.

Remaining neutral about which side to take might seem idiotic; however, one is tempted to do precisely that.

Published in: on July 22, 2006 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Thunderstorms

July has been a month of endings, goodbyes, bittersweet memories, and more than its fair share of regrets. One becomes even more dysfunctional than usual. Today’s thunderstorms relieve the tedium of it all. The coffee tastes better than usual this morning. Good thoughts occasionally come to mind like grass through cracks in the concrete. Writing would be too odious a chore if they did not.

Published in: on July 20, 2006 at 7:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Annals of Personhood: stem cell research edition

President Bush is expected to veto the new bill allowing Federal funding for stem cell research.

The whole argument against stem cell research is based on the assertion that the abandoned cells accumulating in fertility clinics are persons. Destroying them is tantamount to murder. The assertion is false. The cells are not persons. One might call them potential persons just as an egg or a sperm is a potential person. Nobody calls a woman a murderer when she passes an egg not fertilized from her body.

Despite all the misguided charges of murder and genocide, the majority of folks in the country and Congress are not fooled. We know the difference between a clump of cells going nowhere but the trash can and persons.

A person is an individual suffering from a deadly or debilitating disease who would benefit from stem cell research.

Meanwhile, stem cell research will continue without Federal funding. Once President Bush passes from the political scene in 2009, Federal funding will finally pass into law.

Way to go, Mr. President.

Published in: on July 19, 2006 at 9:51 am  Comments (1)  

You can’t beat fun at the summit

You have to love President Bush. Don’t you?

The big news this week is that he said shit while the microphone was still on. We are all relieved that he did not say mother fucking assholes or something even more unseemly such as cocksuckers. Of course, this is a family blog so we would never use words like that here.

What I found interesting though is his comment at the G-8 that he wished that his peers (?) were not so long winded because he had something to do that night after the meeting and needed to get home.

The other thing I liked was his back rub of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I am sure Jacques Chirac and the rest of the boys were relieved about that.

Published in: on July 18, 2006 at 9:26 pm  Comments (1)  

Protecting Our Long Proud Traditions and Values

I love law and order. And who doesn’t? The US government is on the case as witnessed by this report, Arrest Made in Crackdown on Internet Betting, in the NYT.

In a sharp escalation of their crackdown on Internet gambling, United States prosecutors said yesterday that they were pressing charges against the chief executive of BetOnSports, a prominent Internet gambling company that is publicly traded in Britain, and against several other current and former company officers.

Federal authorities arrested the chief executive, David Carruthers, late Sunday as he was on layover at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on his way from Britain to Costa Rica. In a hearing yesterday in Federal District Court in Fort Worth, he was charged with racketeering conspiracy for participating in an illegal gambling enterprise.

Also at the hearing, the court granted the governmentÂ’s request for a temporary restraining order preventing BetOnSports from accepting wagers from customers in the United States and requiring it to return money held in the accounts of American customers.

The traditional US brick and mortar gambling companies are the beneficiaries of this fine piece of law enforcement. Let’s not forget state governments across the country who benefit from lottery ticket sales, off track betting parlors, race tracks, casinos, and other red blooded American activities. One wonders how quickly the Internet betting laws would change should the US companies and state governments lobby Congress for the opportunity to cash in on the lucrative action some foreign companies have done quite well with.

Well, we are protected. Now we can go back to less morally reprehensible activities such as buying lottery tickets at the corner convenience store. Thank you, Uncle Sam, for keeping our traditional gambling institutions and values safe.

Published in: on July 18, 2006 at 9:08 am  Comments (3)  

On it being 100 degrees Fahrenheit

The temperature today is approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit once again in Chicago. I’m not complaining. Six months from now, I will sentimentally recall today as warm and sunny even though my spirit is presently chilled to the bone.

Funny how that happens.

Published in: on July 17, 2006 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Hook ‘Em Fire!

The football season did not end with the World Cup if you live in Chicago. I am going to the new Chicago Fire soccer stadium for a match today. The stadium opened about a month ago, I have not been yet, and I’m pretty excited.

Hook ‘Em Fire!

Published in: on July 15, 2006 at 8:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Annals of Lost Things: The Calculus on Manifolds Notebook

Category theory starts with the observation that many properties of mathematical systems can be unified and simplified by a presentation with diagrams of arrows.

[. . .]

The fundamental idea of representing a function by an arrow first appeared in topology about 1940, probably in papers or lectures by W. Hurewicz on relative homotopy groups.

His initiative immediately attracted the attention of R. H. Fox and N. E. Steenrod, whose [1941] paper used arrows and (implicitly) functors . . . It expressed well a central interest of topology. Thus a notation (the arrow) led to a concept (category).

Categories for the Working Mathematician (1971), Saunders Mac Lane

I live an untidy mostly confused life. Indolence marches in lock step with ignorance. At some point in my life I quit thinking of the situation as a moral failure. Now, I consider it something in my genes: a most convenient fiction.

When life becomes too chaotic because of my nature, I turn to mathematics as a way to escape. Mathematics works as a sedative for me. I will not chronicle all the mathematics books I have seriously tried to master when the going got rough. One example suffices. I have been on a lifetime crusade to solve or prove all the problems presented in Spivak’s Calculus on Manifolds. After thirty years, the work is almost done. I cannot find the notebook in which I wrote the results. I should cry if it is indeed truly lost. However, I don’t feel up to the emotional investment required for tears.

I have wondered what people might think of me if they peruse my mathematics notebooks after I am gone. Most likely they will say, he lived a most untidy and indolent life.

Published in: on July 13, 2006 at 9:46 am  Comments (2)  

The occupation in its exquisite purity

The first thing I do in the morning is set my fantasy baseball team lineup for the day. The second thing I do is scan the headlines on the much reviled New York Times Web site. Most often I am greeted with stories such as this coming from Iraq: Kidnapping and Bombing Add to Baghdad Turmoil. The story reports sectarian violence and death exquisite in its purity qua violence and death.

One is often tempted to ramble on about the Iraq Occupation—one way or the other. It might be better, at times, to listen to the voices of the Iraqi wounded, fearful, and grieving.

Anyway, tomorrow’s Iraq Occupation stories will be different. The names of the dead, wounded, grieving, and fearful will change. And, for some far removed, romantic notions of set piece battles against a pure unadulterated enemy in Iraq will remain unchanged.

Thus goes the occupation.

Published in: on July 12, 2006 at 9:42 am  Comments (2)  

Detainee rights, justice, and the Western hero

I was sitting in the bar last night having a few beers with two friends before we retired to one of their homes to watch last night’s baseball All Star game. The topic of justice for the detainees at Guantanamo prison somehow arose. One of those friends, an arch Republican and President Bush defender, said he thought what we ought to do to the detainees what they do to us. I responded, without thinking, “because we are better than them. And if you want to say you are better than them, you have to actually be better than them.” Of course, this is not the most reasoned response, but political banter in the bar presents even less opportunity for reasoned argument than blogging. My friend responded by commenting on how the US was fighting the so called war on terror with both hands tied behind its back, a comment I decided to leave alone since I faced a full evening of enjoying his hospitality at his home.

I think the automatic response I gave was partially due to my recent meditations on John Wayne and the roles he played in the Western movies. I once saw a snippet of an interview John Wayne gave. He was asked about his movie roles. His comment was that whatever flaws those characters may have, they are never petty or mean spirited. Thinking about his comment, I arrive at the conclusion that, in general, it is a fair assessment of those movie characters.

The typical Western hero does not kick a man when he is down nor does he torture him once he has gotten the better of him. The mystique of the Western hero arises not from his being the fastest gun or the hardest puncher, but from his strong belief in justice. It is always the Western hero who stands alone and backs down the lynch mob at the risk of his own life so as to deliver his prisoner to a fair trial.

I grew up with the Western movie and TV show as a weekly staple. However much myth might be mingled with the stories, the ideal of justice and decent behavior transcends the stories all the same.

One thing I would like to ask my friend who believes in beheading Guantanamo detainees is whether he is up to the job. Under the right circumstances, I just might ask him one day. I hope it is not when I’m feeling my liquor.

I don’t deny the traditional Western soap opera obscures the brutality of the time and the grave injustices done as Americans moved westward to take possession of the continent. First comes the myth; next comes the reality in the public imagination rather than the other way round. The remainder is an ideal of justice and a prudent and suitable behavior towards one’s enemies at the tribunal of world opinion and justice.

The first scene in the movie Lawrence of Arabia after the intermission shows the reporter Bentley interviewing King Faisal about the desert war and Lawrence. King Faisal relates how the Turks torture and kill their captives, making killing the wounded before capture a necessity. He cites statistics to show this is not the case with his army. Bentley asks whether Lawrence has had any affect on these acts of mercy. Faisal replies, “ with Lawrence mercy is a passion. With us it is merely good manners. I leave you to decide which is the more reliable motive.” Towards the end of the movie Lawrence leads his troops in the massacre of a Turkish column in revenge for the Turks slaughter of an Arab village. He does this even though Sharif Ali reminds him his military mission is to capture Damascus before the British Army. I could go on as to how this scene relates to others at the beginning of the movie about barbarity and cruelty.

I’ll stand by what I said last night. If you say you are better than your enemy, you actually have to be better than your enemy.

Published in: on July 12, 2006 at 4:11 am  Comments (3)  

How I learned about dick slapping from reading stuff in Blogland

Every now and then an event in Blogland reaches a level of notoriety that the weak willed, such as me, cannot help but comment on it. Such is the case with the Frisch vs. Goldstein case.

Either you have already heard so much about it you don’t need me boring the pants off you by retelling the tale, or you haven’t heard about it, which probably means you don’t care.

Suffice it to say I did learn something from the event. Mr. Goldstein is fond of talking about his penis. He often threatens to dick slap those who rouse his ire. As far as I know, he has not threatened to dick slap Ms. Frisch, at least not in his public writing. Does that mean he’s really a nice guy and not all that angry with her?

You can’t beat having fun in Blogland.

Published in: on July 10, 2006 at 9:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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