Baseball Season 2005

Every year, during Spring Training, I bet the Cubs and the White Sox in the baseball futures. I had the White Sox at 30-1 this year. My winnings from that wager is funding my football wagering this season.

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Published in: on October 31, 2005 at 9:50 pm  Comments (1)  

Full Disclosure Monday

I won one and lost two on football wagering this weekend. That puts my season record at 5 wins and 4 losses.

We’ll get ’em next weekend.

Published in: on October 31, 2005 at 11:59 am  Comments (1)  

My First Valium

I have a friend who hangs out at my local bar. Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at the bar with her and watching the football games. Several years ago she was hit by a car and has remained partially paralyzed since then.

I told her about my run in with the SUV on Wednesday. She gave some valium and other pills from her prescription stash. I took a valium at the bar. It was my first valium ever–Boy Scouts honor. I walked home. I ate a light dinner, and tried to stay awake. I fell asleep on the couch at 10 and didn’t wake up until 7 hours later. I don’t think I moved a muscle while sleeping.

Being comatose certainly makes me more mellow.

Published in: on October 30, 2005 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Truth, Clinton, Fitzgerald, and the Dogmatist

I thought about truth while walking to get my haircut yesterday. I thought about how I use the concept of truth in my routine everyday practical affairs. The question of truth nagged me all the rest of the day, and is still on my mind this early AM as I wash a load of laundry.

I use an unsophisticated and naïve concept of truth almost unconsciously in my everyday affairs. I have a belief, make a statement based on that belief, and my statement either accords or does not with a reality that contains a matter of fact about the matter.

When I am particularly perplexed about a matter of fact, I turn to a naïve coherence theory of truth. I consider my opinion an hypothesis, try to discover how it fits with the things I know, and insert it into my belief system or not depending on its consistency with other beliefs. I modify my beliefs sometimes because I believe my hypothesis is true. I try to make my belief system consistent. This method does not work as well as the correspondence theory when I have to think on my feet and on the spur of the moment.

When correspondence and coherence fail, I turn to a naïve pragmatic theory of truth. I decide what is important for me to believe and what is not—those things to which I do or do not have an emotional attachment. I believe this is my method of last resort, but I know that this is the point where applying truth to statements and beliefs rests on dangerous ground.

I know that beyond my naïve beliefs about truth lie powerful unconscious frameworks and world views that condition what I believe. When I am confronted with a fact I find disagreeable, I tend to discard the fact rather than perform archaeology on my belief system to discover whether some of my strongly held beliefs are false in light of the new fact.

I turned on C-Span’s BookTV when I arrived home from getting my haircut. They were broadcasting live from the Texas Book Festival in Austin. Former President Clinton gave a lecture I found very interesting. I always find Bill Clinton interesting.

I thought about the press conference Patrick Fitzgerald gave the previous day on the Libby indictment while I was watching and listening to President Clinton. A reporter asked Fitzgerald whether the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice were not minor since Libby was not charged with outing Valerie Plame Wilson. Fitzgerald made it very clear that telling the truth to a grand jury was at the heart of the U. S. justice system. He commented that without the requirement for a witness to tell the truth to a grand jury, he might as well hand in his job.

That is what got President Clinton into so much trouble—lying to a grand jury. I concluded that impeachment proceedings were justified against President Clinton given Fitzgerald’s disquisition.

President Clinton concluded his presentation with a few choice words about the Religious Right. He calls them the people of the nine commandments. Golly, which commandment is missing? He said that people who did not want to take the Religious Right head on, needed to find something else to do besides politics. I was energized by the comment. I can’t wait to see how Senator Clinton will do with this strategy during her Presidential run.

The truth, in all it’s complexity, matters. There are people who firmly believe that the truth has been delivered once and for all time. Too many people feel the truth doesn’t matter if a falsehood doesn’t touch them personally.

A dogmatic and doctrinaire belief system is always accompanied by inconsistency and hypocrisy. Many people have suffered and died because certain groups want to suppress any dissent from dogmatic and inconsistent sets of beliefs. Democracy and rights are supposed to be a curative for this happening. American history is replete with abuses to both democracy and rights.

Protecting the pursuit of truth ought to get more attention in American politics than it does. Some people care about the truth; others find it odious when it doesn’t fit their need to control everyone’s lives.

It is always a good time to play good old fashioned smack down with those who think they own the world and truth. The heart of a coward and intimidator beats inside many a dogmatic soul. Running roughshod over them without remorse is often the best policy.

Published in: on October 30, 2005 at 9:48 am  Comments (4)  

Full Disclosure Friday

Here are this week’s football picks.

Dallas -9.5 home vs. Arizona
Cleveland +2 away vs. Houston
New England -9 home vs. Buffalo

I hope I win.

Published in: on October 28, 2005 at 6:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Real Wages and Compensation Down

This disturbing report from the Economic Policy Institute:

For the first time in this employers’ costs report, the BLS presented these values adjusted for inflation. Both wages and compensation are losing growth in real terms, down 2.3% and 1.5%, respectively, as slower nominal wage growth is colliding with faster inflation. In both cases, these are the largest yearly real losses on record.
. . .
Yet the wage and compensation results show that this growth is failing to show up in hourly earnings. This has two implications. First, the view that increasing labor costs are pushing up prices is clearly not supported by these data. There is no evidence of an over-heating labor market that needs to be cooled by Federal Reserve rate hikes. Second, the resulting stagnant hourly wages will make it hard for working families to truly get ahead.

Read the whole article. It’s short.

Tune in to C-Span to listen to your favorite Republican Congress person lobby for more trickle down economics.

Published in: on October 28, 2005 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bad News. So What?

The political analysts are all commenting about how this is a bad week for President Bush. I’ll admit to enjoying it a little in an ‘I told so’ sort of way.

That doesn’t really satisfy though. It would seem a lot more meaningful if there was a Democratic Party that was pushing an aggressive policy agenda. I have pretty much given up hope it will happen anytime soon. The Democratic leadership is waiting for the next problem to arise so as to gain some mileage from the news cycle. I doubt that will get the job done during ’06 Congressional elections.

Issues such as the Iraq War, the deep economic problems raised from the hurricane disasters, and the blatant attempt by the Religious Right to set the agenda for sexual rights and politics get a little lip service during the evening news sound bites, and that’s it.

People say the Democratic Party is out of tune with the American public. You can’t be out of tune when you are playing no tune.

The Democrats could win next year’s elections on the Iraq War alone, but they need to crank up the volume now. Nobody is buying the ‘stay the course’ rhetoric except the firmly entrenched believers, the President, and Congress.

I reread the Iraqi constitution this morning. In light of all the glowing words contained in it, the U. S. policy seems at best cynical. U. S. troops staying in Iraq after valid elections in December will make us look even more hypocritical.

Published in: on October 28, 2005 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Learning to Walk

I taught myself how to walk on two very sore legs yesterday. I even walked around the corner to the convenience store last night, and bought some popcorn. Once home, I settled into the easy chair and watched The Ninth Gate starring Johnny Depth. I rather enjoyed the movie because it wasn’t particularly gory and had just enough mystery to hold my attention.

Today’s goals are to take a shower and walk slowly to the grocery store for more Advil and some chocolate donuts. Why make the slow painful walk if I don’t buy something absolutely hedonistic?

Published in: on October 28, 2005 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  

A Follow-up to Gloomy Thoughts

Curtis at a-sdf has taken me to task about my gloomy economic outlook. His thoughts are always well worth reading. I have responded with a few comments to his post there.

Published in: on October 27, 2005 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gloomy Economic Thoughts

The Bush economic program has not produced results as originally advertised.

Poverty has increased. The distribution of income continues to favor the few at the top. We have large domestic and foreign twin deficits. Health insurance, educational opportunity, adequate housing, and other elements of a secure economic life are increasingly becoming the preserve of the rich.

The list goes on. What used to be considered excesses of the system have become the norm for doing business: crony capitalism, lying, cheating, stealing, insider trading, illegal tax shelters promoted by the big accounting firms, and the unwillingness to take care of those whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by disaster.

We also have a war that will continue for years because Congress does not have the wherewithal to end it. The war has unsettled the oil market and nothing will bring it back. The cost will exceed a trillion dollars.

High interest rates to fight inflation will attend already low investment and savings rates. The unwillingness of foreign countries to hold U. S. debt has the potential to increase interest rates and to create a financial debacle should they decide to dump our debt.

What the conservative economic thinkers don’t quite understand yet is that the resiliency of the U. S. economy has a limit to the shocks they have imposed on it. The undermining of social cohesion by current economic policies will accelerate during the next down turn. When things turn bad, those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale will not sit idly by waiting for a handout on the street corner.

This is beyond the understanding of many people. Only a grade A disaster and melt down catches the attention of some. The interesting part is that so many people think they are immune from the disasters that have befallen other Americans.

I knew in the back of my mind that if I walked around downtown Chicago long enough, I would eventually get hit by a driver in an SUV talking on a cell phone. It happened to me yesterday.

The Bush administration economic policy is much like that driver in the SUV talking on the cell phone. It keeps running the intersections at full speed mowing down the pedestrians in its way.

Regulating people’s sex lives and birth control choices won’t seem socially important to those who lose their comfortable jobs, their health insurance, and houses. The poor have a lot less access to acceptable sexual relations. Abstinence is an easy vow to keep when nobody wants you. People will have more important things on their minds when the social fabric tears, like finding a good street corner from which to beg.

I still remember the stories my parents told me about the Great Depression. I take them seriously.

Published in: on October 27, 2005 at 2:34 pm  Comments (3)  

Run Over

I was almost crushed yesterday by an SUV that drove into me at the corner of Oak and State. I did not make a big thing about it with the woman who hit me because I felt OK. I did not even get her license number.

This morning I have a very sore left knee that I can’t put weight on and a strained right calf muscle. I can’t walk.

I suppose I better order some crutches delivered.

Published in: on October 26, 2005 at 9:17 pm  Comments (2)  

The White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have won 10 out of their 11 playoff games. They are one win away from the Worlds Series Championship.

Surreal and kind of eerie.

Published in: on October 26, 2005 at 5:41 am  Comments (4)  

Sherlock Holmes and Nightmares

I woke up in the middle of the night and could not fall back to sleep. I was very fortunate that a Mystery Theater Sherlock Holmes episode was starting on PBS.

At the end of the story Dr. Watson got married. Sherlock ate a bon voyage dinner with the happy couple. Sherlock was being abandoned to his own devices, like maybe the free use of his hypodermic syringe.

It was so sad that I immediately fell asleep at the end of the show. I had nightmares. Then I woke up refreshed. Nightmares always refresh me, and give me a brighter outlook on the world and my place in it. They are worth the price.

Published in: on October 25, 2005 at 10:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Merry Christmas, 1968

I reported to Camp Pendleton in California three weeks after I arrived home from Vietnam in 1968. I had expected good news when I arrived. My friends from Vietnam who had arrived state side before me had received good duty stations and early release from the United States Marine Corps. The war in Vietnam was winding down. We were being replaced by the U. S. Army. The Marine Corps no longer had any use for such a large force that the Vietnam war had originally demanded.

I was much surprised to find that I was assigned to work at the Camp Pendleton Brig after my arrival. My surprise soon turned to disappointment.

When I arrived at the Brig, I was assigned to stand guard in one of the watchtowers on the graveyard shift. The California air had turned cool by that time, the towers were not enclosed, and there were no chairs in which to sit. The nights were long.

The Brig was surrounded by tall chain link fences topped by concertina wire. I was instructed to shoot any prisoner who was persistent enough to scramble over or through the wire. Of course, I was supposed to alert other guards first, then shoot warning shots, and only if that did not work, was I supposed to fire my shotgun at a prisoner.

The irony did not escape me at the time. I went from someone who was supposed to kill somebody trying to break into my base while in Vietnam to someone who was supposed to kill somebody who was trying to escape from my base. I was fortunate that there were far easier ways to escape from Camp Pendleton if anyone had a mind to do it. My chances of shooting somebody was a very low probability event.

I served my time for a few weeks through the holidays and beyond in the watchtower until I was reassigned to the check-in hut.

The check-in hut had two purposes: one, to fill out the necessary paperwork on a prisoner, and two, to begin to instill good old fashioned Marine Corps discipline on newly arrived prisoners who felt they had nothing left to lose.

I lacked the ferocity for check-in duty. I’ll leave it there, except to say that my lack was not lost on my peers. I am sure that multiple complaints by them about my passive attitude led to my reassignment to the Brig supply shed.

Shortly after that I was promoted to the exalted rank of Sergeant. My promotion came shortly before my twenty first birthday, and less than three years in the Marine Corps. I felt vindicated about my worth when it happened and it meant more money and bennies.

Then I started the long wait to get out and begin the rest of my life. But that’s another story for another time.

Published in: on October 24, 2005 at 7:43 pm  Comments (1)  

My Cure for the Blues

An abandoned auto court in the San Berdoo foothills; Buzz Meeks checked in with ninety-four thousand dollars, eighteen pounds of high-grade heroin, a 10-gauge pump, a .38 special, a .45 automatic and a switchblade he’d bought off a pachuco at the border—right before he spotted the car parked across the line: Mickey Cohen goons in an LAPD unmarked, Tijuana cops standing by to bootjack a piece of his goodies, dump his body in the San Ysidro River.

Opening paragraph,L. A. Confidential, James Ellroy

When night dominates the day in Autumn, and the cold rain seeps into the bones while walking home in the middle of the night, and minor winter depression creeps back into my soul, then I read a James Ellroy novel to get back on track.

In a James Ellroy novel heroes and villains are barely distinguishable. Idealism masks greed for power and money. Those who suffer and die are the victims of their failure to negotiate a treacherous world rather than the victims of their character flaws. Every victim also rides in a posse, and lynches with the mob. Fine moral distinctions are exposed as justifications for the control of another’s body and wherewithal. The notorious and sensational merges seamlessly with the mundane and banal. The true believers in American justice are merely unwitting fools and squares, who, if confronted with the real, will be exposed at best as hypocrites and assuredly no better than the rest. Crimes are not about the act, but whether you get caught. The great moral and metaphysical question is who is to dominate, for only winners and losers inhabit the world.

The Ellroy novels appeal to the dark soul as a sort of satanic fantasy, but they also scrape away the thin façade of houses made from shit. Words used in polite society don’t exist in an Elroy novel. The novels answer questions about control and domination, and the answers are not disguised in pretty words. The losers never accept being called misguided by their enemies. The moral universe is eventually seen by everyone for what it is. The prey possess no illusions about their predators. The privileged man in power merely uses the prey as holes to be filled for his own gratification. The prey know they are being fucked. The prey are never misguided. The boss with his slippery poses and rhetoric decides what life is. Right to life means what is amenable to the boss’s life.

The moral universe when exposed this way comforts me. Just saying it makes me feel better already. I feel I can get on with things.

Published in: on October 24, 2005 at 9:49 am  Comments (2)  

Football Wagers

I won two out of three wagers. My season record stands at 4 wins and 2 losses.

That’s a good enough start.

Published in: on October 24, 2005 at 12:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Freud, Darwin, Dreams, and Cognitive Science

Freud in his The Interpretation of Dreams claims that the content of a dream contains components from the previous day’s events.

No doubt, too, my reader will recall the three characteristics of memory in dreams, which have so often been remarked on but which have never been explained:

(1) Dreams show a clear preference for the impressions of the immediately preceding days.

(2) They make their selections upon different principles from our waking memory, since they do not recall what is essential and important but what is subsidiary and unnoticed.

(3) They have at their disposal the earliest impressions of our childhood and even bring up details from that period of our life which, once again, strike us as trivial and which in our waking state we believe to have been long since forgotten.

. . .

This seems to be the appropriate moment for tabulating the different conditions to which we find that sources of dreams are subject. The source of a dream may be either–

(a) a recent and psychically significant experience which is represented in the dream directly, or

(b) several recent and significant experiences which are combined into a single unity by the dream, or

(c) one or more recent and significant experiences which are represented in the content of the dream by a mention of a contemporary but indifferent experience, or

(d) an internal significant experience (e.g. a memory or a train of thought), which is in that case invariably represented in the dream by the mention of a recent but indifferent impression.

Chapter V, The Material and Sources of Dreams, The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud

As it turns out, he was correct, but, maybe, for different reasons than he supposed. Consider the following:

With the evolution of REM sleep, each species could process the information most important for its survival, such as the location of food or the means of predation or escape—those activities during which theta rhythm is present. In REM sleep this information may be accessed again and integrated with past experience to provide an ongoing strategy for behavior. Although theta rhythm has not yet been demonstrated in primates, including humans, the brain signal provides a clue to the origin of dreaming in humans. Dreams may reflect a memory-processing mechanism inherited from lower species, in which information important for survival is reprocessed during REM sleep. This information may constitute the core of the unconscious.

The Meaning of Dreams, Scientific American, August 2002, Jonathan Winson.

And this:

Consistent with evolution and evidence derived from neuroscience and reports of dreams, I suggest that dreams reflect an individual’s strategy for survival. The subjects of dreams are broad-ranging and complex, incorporating self-image, fears, insecurities, strengths, grandiose ideas, sexual orientation, desire, jealousy and love.

Dreams clearly have a deep psychological core. This observation has been reported by psychoanalysis since Freud and is strikingly illustrated by the work of Rosalind Cartwright of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago.

. . . In the ordinary course of events, depending on the individual’s personality, the themes of dreams may be freewheeling. Moreover, when joined with the intricate associations that are an intrinsic part of REM sleep processing, the dream’s statement may be rather obscure.

. . . These associations are strongly biased toward early childhood experience.

The Meaning of Dreams, Scientific American, August 2002, Jonathan Winson.

And this:

For reasons he could not possibly have known, Freud set forth a profound truth in his work. There is an unconscious, and dreams are indeed the “royal road” to understanding it. The characteristics of the unconscious and associated processes of brain functioning, however, are very different from what Freud thought. Rather than being a cauldron of untamed passions and destructive wishes, I propose that the unconscious is a cohesive, continuously active mental structure that takes note of life’s experiences and reacts according to its own scheme of interpretation. Dreams are not disguised as a consequence of repression. Their unusual character is a result of the complex associations that are culled from memory.

The Meaning of Dreams, Scientific American, August 2002, Jonathan Winson.

Thus, we see the intricate interplay between Freud, Darwin, and the research of the modern cognitive sciences. Freud and Darwin continue to be expanded into sound, complex, integrated, and rigorous scientific theories.

My appreciation of Freud and Darwin continues to grow. They are models on how to avoid scientism and obscurantism. People say they do not tell the whole story. So what? If anyone knows the whole story, I’m listening.

Sweet dreams.

Published in: on October 23, 2005 at 8:15 am  Comments (2)  

The World Series in Chicago

The White Sox won the first game of the World Series: Chicago 5, Houston 3.

The White Sox have won 8 of their 9 playoff games. The season has an air of inevitability I would not have imagined. Where is Nemesis? Or is Fortuna sitting in the dugout with Ozzie Guillen?

Published in: on October 23, 2005 at 5:38 am  Leave a Comment  

World Series

The 1959 Chicago White Sox

The first World Series game in 46 years is about to played in Chicago tonight. And it is raining.

Darn

Published in: on October 22, 2005 at 4:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trivial thoughts about two books


I think the two most important books of the past 150 years are Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. I must take them into account, for they have influenced thinking far beyond most other books since written. They are the beginning of a different way to see the world and myself.

One remarkable thing about both books is that both authors have an agreeable and readily understandable prose style. Both writers lead me gently through their extended ideas and arguments. I read them and find my reading experience enjoyable and fulfilling.

I am fortunate to have made their acquaintance. If you have the chance, I highly recommend both books.

Published in: on October 22, 2005 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Full Disclosure Friday

Here are this week’s pro football wagers.

Cincinnati 0 at home vs. Pittsburgh
Washington -13 home vs. San Francisco
Chicago -1 home vs. Baltimore

I hope I win.

Published in: on October 21, 2005 at 8:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Wrestlers



When the hero or the villain of the drama, the man who was seen a few minutes earlier possessed by moral rage, magnified into a sort of metaphysical sign, leaves the wrestling hall, impassive, anonymous, carrying a small suitcase and arm-in-arm with his wife, no one can doubt that wrestling holds the power of transmutation which is common to the Spectacle and to Religious Worship. In the ring, and even to the depths of their voluntary ignominity, wrestlers remain god because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a Justice which is at last intelligible.

The World of Wrestling, Mythologies, Roland Barthes

Published in: on October 20, 2005 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Forty Years Ago

Forty years ago I would not have written this and you would not have read it. That may have been better, but it does not feel that way.

Published in: on October 20, 2005 at 6:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Really at the Library

I went to the library. About 1 o’clock when my eyes were getting bleary, I decided to take a break. I was walking through the stacks when I saw Jodi Dean’s Aliens in America, a book I have been meaning to read.

I went to lunch with the book, started reading it, and never got back to plan A. It’s a really good book.

Published in: on October 20, 2005 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

TV Choices

I really want to watch some TV tonight. My cable company keeps whittling down my choices, but I refuse to pay extra for the premium stuff. I will pay extra once I have nothing but shopping channels, but not a minute sooner.

Tonight Dances With Wolves and Julia both start at the same time. I really like both those movies.

I have 12 minutes to decide. One of my strategies in life is never to make a decision unless I have to.

12 minutes is excruciating. Now, it’s 11 minutes. I’m perspiring from the stress.

Published in: on October 20, 2005 at 5:45 pm  Comments (2)