The Flag, Patriotism, and the Constitution

epm at Deertown Times tells us what chaps his ass raw with his Burns My Butt:

The other day I held up an American flag (3’X5′ acrylic, made in China) and a copy of the Constitution of the United States. I threatened to burn only one. Guess which one most Washington politicians prefer I burn?

The irony is, the hollow patriots have no problem burning the same Constitution they were so keen to amend to prohibit the burning of a foreign manufactured symbol of American nationalism. I think that speaks volumes for where the priorities of this congress lie.

Meanwhile, Jodi at I cite says this about her lack of Patriotism:

Perhaps, then, my lack of patriotism is linked to a sense of a lack in the country, a split in it, a division and separation. Patriotism fills this in, prevents us from seeing it, prevents us from using it as a source of criticism and escape.

Once patriotism becomes merely another form of extortion, it is valueless.

Published in: on June 30, 2006 at 9:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Critical Thinking

From the Sckeptical Inquirer (via arts and letters daily): Critical Thinking, What is it good for? (In fact, what is it?)

In short, since it is so easy to misperceive reality, a critical thinker is disinclined to take things at face value, suspicious of certainties, not easily swayed by conventional (or unconventional) wisdom, and distrustful of the facades and ideologies that serve as the ubiquitous cosmetics of social life.

In other words, critical thinkers are necessarily skeptics. Skepticism can be summarized as concisely as this (Skeptic 2005):

  1. Skeptics do not believe easily. They have outgrown childlike credulity (Dawkins 1995) to a greater extent than most adults ever do.
  2. When skeptics take a position, they do so provisionally. They understand that their knowledge on any subject is fallible, incomplete, and subject to change.
  3. Skeptics defer to no sacred cows. They regard orthodoxies as the mortal enemy of critical thought-all orthodoxies, including those that lie close to home.

[. . .]

Like the honest juror, the critical thinker is ethically committed to the concept of due process-intellectual due process-as the best way to increase the likelihood of finding the truth. This code of intellectual conduct demands giving ideas their day in court before rendering an informed and reasoned verdict. It requires such traits as these:

  • Being unwilling to subordinate one’s thinking to orthodoxies that demand to be swallowed whole-at the risk of being charged with heresy
  • Refusing to dismiss possible merits in ideas that otherwise may be deeply repugnant-at the risk of appearing immoral
  • Being capable of saying, “I don’t know”-at the risk of appearing unintelligent
  • Being willing to judge the truth value of ideas sponsored by demographic and cultural groups to which one does not belong-at the risk of being accused of prejudice
  • Being willing to change one’s mind-at the risk of appearing capricious
  • Being open to the arguments of adversaries-at the risk of appearing disloyal
  • Having an acute awareness of the limits and fallibility of one’s knowledge-at the risk of seeming to suffer from that dreaded malady, low self-esteem

In short, this aspect of critical thinking can be the most difficult of all. Subjecting ideas to intellectual due process can require more integrity, humility, tolerance of uncertainty, and courage than most of us find easy to summon. No wonder we will join a wild-eyed, slobbering lynch mob from time to time.

[. . .]

Multidimensional critical thinking is not simply a byproduct of something else. It must be taught. Well, then, what about the “critical-thinking” trend that has permeated American education across the curriculum at all levels? Are these efforts succeeding in materially strengthening the quality of critical thinking in society at large? Again, the various indicators of uncritical thought in our society suggest not. It is doubtful that what students learn from those classrooms and texts does much to alter their worldviews and values regarding the truth. A primary cause of this shortfall is the antiseptic nature of the “critical thinking” typically taught to students. Either most teachers and authors do not possess a highly multidimensional conception of critical thinking themselves, or they are reluctant (perhaps with good reason) to approach the perilous territory-way past logical fallacies and weeping Madonna statues-to which full-fledged critical thinking inevitably leads. The result is the commonplace teaching of quasi-critical thinking.

Validity and soundness are not easy to achieve.

Published in: on June 30, 2006 at 7:48 am  Leave a Comment  


As I started the engine, Wheeler said, “if you get back this way, stop in and see me. Always got beans and taters and a little piece of meat.”

Down along the ridge, I wondered why it’s always those who live on little who are the ones to ask you to dinner.

William Least Heat-Moon, blue highways

As you can tell, it’s blue highways I chose to reread. After a few pages, I am glad I did. The book is so fresh and new it is as if I had not read it before.

Published in: on June 30, 2006 at 6:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Mail opened; laptop found

Major: But, General, we can’t just stand around and do nothing.

General: Why not? It’s usually best you know.

From Lawrence of Arabia

I am notorious for not promptly opening my paper mail. I finally read this afternoon my letter from the V. A. informing me that a laptop containing my personal information had been stolen in Maryland.

Then a few hours later I read the news story that the laptop had been found. The FBI issued a preliminary statement that the database had not been opened or compromised since the theft.

Let’s see, what else shouldn’t I open?

Published in: on June 29, 2006 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Will it be 5-3 next time?

Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory lays out the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling against trying and convicting Guantanamo prisoners by military tribunal. Read The Significance of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

The vote would most assuredly would have gone 5 to 4 if Chief Justice Roberts had not already ruled in favor of the Bush Administration in a lower court ruling.

These kinds of victories won’t last long if the Republicans continue to control the Senate as Greenwald points out and is well known.

Published in: on June 29, 2006 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

The socialist/progressive divide

Some people will not join coalitions to achieve their political goals no matter how useful the coalition might prove. The case applies to the socialist/progressive divide on the left.

I am often struck by the sameness of the socialist and progressive critiques of conservative policies when I visit socialist and progressive news sources and commentaries. If presented with the raw text and no identifying author or organization, I can’t tell you where it came from.

When presented with abstract principles and a philosophy as to how to correct conservative policies, the differences appear. Things turn murky again when concrete and specific policies are proposed. Sometimes that is because no concrete or practical policy is ever proposed, at least within the current political framework we are constrained to operate under.

You, dear reader, are not going to read any long essay on this blog about the matter. However, as cases arise, I hope to point some of them out.

Suffice it to say, the conservative agenda rolls merrily along crushing everything in its path. Scoring theoretical points might be intellectually satisfying, but that doesn’t help much stopping the latest, almost daily, conservative policy victory. You can’t call conservatives incompetent when they always win.

The dam has more than a few leaks in it. Saying you will build a new and bigger damn in the future doesn’t stem the flow of water that threatens to deluge you now. You can’t build a new dam after you have already drowned.

Published in: on June 29, 2006 at 11:31 am  Comments (2)  

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here.

Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac

We are flooded with e-mail here at State Street asking how we’re doing with World Cup wagering, and what we’re wagering on in the quarterfinal round.

Well, we are about dead level so far in the tournament. But all that is about to change with our four team parlay this weekend that pays a whopping 350 to 1. (all bets are settled at the end of regulation + injury time.) Here are the picks:

France and Brazil draw
England defeats Portugal
Germany and Argentina draw
Ukraine and Italy draw

Don’t worry. We’ve only bet a million dollars on it and not our whole stake.

Just kidding! About the amount that is.

Published in: on June 29, 2006 at 7:48 am  Leave a Comment  


When memory is too much, turn to the eye. So I watched for particularities.

William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways

Published in: on June 28, 2006 at 5:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Breaking Away

Warning: This post is probably the most confessional thing I’ve done in my life. Don’t read it if confessional things bother you.

My fortieth high school class reunion was last weekend. I didn’t go; I have never gone to one of my reunions. I liked the people in my graduating class. Some of them were very good friends. You would think I’d go just to see a couple of them after all these years.

High School was not always a happy time for me. My father had something to do with that although I’m not blaming him. He’s been in his grave for over 35 years. I’ve made my own choices for forty years.

My father was about the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. He was quiet spoken and a gentleman to everyone. If he displayed his temper, it was always over the normal everyday things that frustrate us all at times.

My father was also a classic binge drinker. He would leave job and family for weeks to sit in a bar and drink away all his money. When the money ran out, he came home. He and my mother would make up and life would whir merrily along like a lull in a storm until the next time.

Despite all the fights my mother and father had when he stumbled home drunk in the middle of the night, they never came to blows. I don’t think my father ever hit anyone in his life. I did discover recently that my mother may have had a nervous breakdown when I was about six or seven years old. I remember my aunt taking care of me and my sister while my mother was gone. My aunt won’t talk about what really happened.

My Dad eventually got into trouble because he drank more than he could pay for. He passed bad checks at bars to make up the difference. The bar owners prosecuted him. He went to jail after each episode.

My father was a linotype operator for the local city newspaper. That was a union job. It afforded us a lower middle class life—the three bedroom house for a family of four in a nice enough city with excellent schools. That all went by the wayside once my father started going to jail.

Finally, he was sentenced to time in the state penitentiary. I can no longer accurately place all the dates of my father’s jail time, but I think it was the summer of 1964 shortly after I turned sixteen when he started his state time.

My mother, sister, grandparents, and I went down to the county jail on a Saturday morning to see him off to the state pen. I stayed in my grandparents car while the others went in. My act was purely teenage defiance.

My grandfather drove me to a secluded spot along the river afterwards. He tried to convince me in his rough way that things would get better. I shouldn’t walk around with a chip on my shoulder. I think, more than anything, we were both embarrassed about him having to do that. I was sixteen and real busy being a little motherfucker.

My father was a model prisoner and received time off for good behavior. He served one year. I never talked to him about the state pen. Everybody knows it’s a gruesome place to live, so what’s the point in talking about it.

My father never went back to jail. He worked for about five years at a neighborhood retail store before he died.

I remember his death well. I had gotten out of the Marine Corps that year and was home for the Christmas holiday my first year in college. My Dad’s coworkers had given him a couple of fifths of Seagram Seven whiskey, his favorite, for holiday gifts.

I started drinking highballs Christmas Eve with my Dad. That’s when I learned that my Dad’s idea of a highball was a tall tumbler filled mostly with whiskey and topped off with a dash of Seven-Up. We with both got wickedly drunk and fell into fighting as only two hopeless drunks can do. I started the fight, but over what and why I do not know. I must have wanted to impose some revenge upon him. Before it was over I accomplished my objective. The temptation to hurt him when he was at his most vulnerable was too good to pass up. I was still real busy being a little motherfucker.

My father had not been feeling well during that time. He spent Christmas day in his bathrobe and retired to bed early in the afternoon. My sister and I went to a gig her boyfriend was playing with his band.

Early in the morning the day after Christmas my mother discovered him dead in bed. As soon as I saw him, I knew he had suffered a massive heart attack while sleeping and was truly gone. I found an empty bottle of Seagram’s Seven underneath the bed, which I discreetly disposed of before the ambulance arrived. He was a month shy of his 55th birthday. The whiskey took him sure as anything.

We link today’s events and activities with those events that haunt us from long ago, whether rightly or wrongly. Anyway, I did not go to my fortieth class reunion.

However, as this post attests to, you can run, but you cannot hide.

The sun is firmly up over the lake. Time for other things.

Published in: on June 28, 2006 at 5:48 am  Comments (4)  

Harold Pinter on Politics and His Plays, 1966

From the Paris Review interview (PDF) with Harold Pinter in 1966.

Interviewer: Has it ever occurred to you to express political opinions through your characters?

Pinter: No, ultimately, politics do bore me, though I do recognize they are responsible for a good deal of suffering.

Interviewer: But you do think the picture of personal threat that is sometimes presented on your stage is troubling in a larger sense, a political sense, or doesn’t this have any relevance?

Pinter: I don’t feel myself threatened by any political body or activity at all. I like living in England. I don’t care about political structures–they don’t alarm me, but they cause a great deal of suffering to millions of people.

Published in: on June 27, 2006 at 8:19 pm  Comments (2)  

A Two Day Break in the World Cup

We have a two day break in the World Cup matches. It starts again on Friday. Germany plays Argentina on Friday. It could be a great match.

Seven of the usual suspects and tournament favorites made it into the quarterfinals. Ukraine is the exception.

France has come alive their last two matches. Could they upset Brazil? This is the last World Cup for Zidane, and Henry will be getting pretty old for a footballer the next Cup.

Published in: on June 27, 2006 at 6:22 pm  Comments (4)  

Not All That Arcane

Akhil Reed Amar points out in his recent book, America’s Constitution: A Biography, that the authors of the Constitution intended the President to exercise his interpretation of the Constitution by either signing or vetoing new legislation. President Bush has been signing bills into law and then issuing signing statements that relax their enforcement. This has led to hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the hearing.

But for Chairman Specter, who helped the White House move new powers under the USA Patriot Act through the Senate, the issue comes down to basic respect for balance of powers – and for the Congress. After personally negotiating with the White House over issues such as the Patriot Act and the torture ban, he questioned why objections would not have been raised at that time.

“Wouldn’t it be better as a matter [of] comity for the president to come to the Congress and say: I want these exceptions in the bill,” rather than asserting them in a presidential signing statement, Specter asked.

When the question was not answered to his satisfaction, he called for answers in writing. (“My office in the Justice Department is flooded,” Ms. Boardman said. “It will take a week.”

For Specter and some other Senate Republicans, what tipped the issue was the president’s signing statement of the fiscal 2006 Defense authorization bill, which included a ban on torture that had passed the Senate by a wide margin. That statement claimed the right to make exceptions to that ban.

Pressing the issue, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts asked Boardman to provide a list of laws that President Bush has decided not to enforce.

“I cannot give you that list,” Boardman said.

“No, then who can? Is there any way for the public to know the president has made a judgment that he is not going to enforce a law?” he asked.

[. . .]

“This administration has issued signing statements at an astonishing rate to express the view that it does not have to comply with the laws that Congress has passed,” added Sen. Russ Feingold (D) of Wisconsin, who has called for a censure of President Bush. “I believe that is dangerous to our system of government.”

However arcane, the debate is “part of a much broader spectrum of issues that has to do with separation of powers,” says Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

I don’t see the debate as particularly arcane. If a President disagrees with legislation before it becomes law, for whatever reason, he should announce it and veto it. If a President signs a law, then it should be enforced. Hiding your intentions does not seem honest when it comes to enforcing the law.

Published in: on June 27, 2006 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Stuff on my Bookshelves I Might Read Again

I have been meditating on what to read next. Here are some things in my library I’ve already read, but might again. The only reason being I like them.

The Blue Nile, Alan Morehead
The White Nile, Alan Morehead
The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux
Blue Highways, William Least Heat Moon
Histories, Herodotus
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig (Damn, has it already been 30 years since it was a cult novel?)
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T. E. Lawrence
The Electric Kool Acid Test, Tom Wolfe
Dispatches, Michael Herr
The Rings of Saturn, W. G. Sebald
Vertigo, W. G. Sebald
Bleak House, Charles Dickens
A Writer’s Diary, Virginia Woolf
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
The Magus, John Fowles
Poets in Their Youth, Eileen Simpson

I am sure more titles will come to me.

I just noticed that the Blogger spell checker works better in Firefox 1.5 than IE.

Published in: on June 27, 2006 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Agreement or Good Will

Occasionally, I meet people, not many, who would rather have me agree with them on every particular of their beliefs than have my good will and admiration. It saddens me when it is someone I genuinely like.

Goodbye is all we’ve got left to say.

Steve Earle

Published in: on June 27, 2006 at 7:21 am  Leave a Comment  

For Tom

Some poems from Sam Hammill’s Crossing the Yellow River for Tom.

Alone Beside the Autumn River

All spring, my sorrows grew like lotus leaves.
Now they wither as my autumn sadness grows.

Grief is as long and wide as life.
Watch the autumn river. Listen to it flow.

Li Shang-yin (813-858)

From the Heights

I drag my heavy heart
up to these dazzling heights:

this beautiful, beautiful sunset!
And then the onrushing night.

Li Shang-yin (813-858)

After Reading Lao Tzu

“One who speaks does not know; one who knows does not speak.”
Thus I have been instructed by the Old Master.

If you tell me the Old Master was one who knew, I ask,
Why did he write five thousand words to explain it.

Po Chu-i (772-846)

Published in: on June 27, 2006 at 6:39 am  Comments (2)  

Fantasy baseball and soccer

I picked up a couple of new players for my fantasy baseball team this morning. I added Curtis Granderson and Dan Uggla and dropped Luis Gonzalez and Josh Barfield.

I’ve been long overdue in adjusting my team. Being in first place most of the season has made me complacent. There is still this one guy who is within hailing distance of me. He just won’t go away.

I’ve been suffering through the injury bug too. A lot of my players have bumps and bruises that keep them out of the lineup without going on the DL.

I’ve been playing fantasy World Cup soccer at FoxSoccerChannel. I am currently in 193rd place which given where I was at last week is a very big improvement during the round of 16.

I like fantasy.

Published in: on June 26, 2006 at 8:09 pm  Leave a Comment  


I’ve only been in the mood to read fiction lately. I was going to polish off Highsmith’s Ripley Under Ground rather quickly, but I am reading it a chapter at a time before I go to bed.

Tom Ripley is another one of those protagonists who are always doing something underhanded. He kills those who discover his misdeeds or get in his way. I wonder if it is healthy to read too many novels without heroes?

I think I’ll read Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy once I’m done with Ripley.

Published in: on June 26, 2006 at 7:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Firefox 1.5

I just installed Firefox 1.5. It runs so much faster than IE 6 I’d have to say it is smokin’.

Published in: on June 26, 2006 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Big Fat ‘F’

Tom Paine reports a survey of the top 100 foreign policy experts across Republican and Democratic party lines give An ‘F’ For Antiterrorism.

[. . .]

Respondents sharply criticized U.S. efforts in a number of key areas of national security, including public diplomacy, intelligence, and homeland security. Nearly all of the departments and agencies responsible for fighting the war on terror received poor marks. Only the National Security Agency received an above-average score of 5.2, on a 0 to 10 scale, where 0 represents the worst possible job of guarding the United States. Every other agency received below-average marks. Experts gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the worst grade; its average score was just 2.9. In fact, 36 percent of the experts indicated that the newly created DHS has had a negative impact on America’s national security, and nearly one in five thought the department’s funding should be slashed. In addition, more than half of the index’s experts said that creating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has had no positive impact in the war against terror.

The index’s experts were similarly critical of most of the policy initiatives put forward by the U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush since 9/11. Majorities believe that the war in Iraq (87 percent), the detention of suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay (81 percent), U.S. energy policy (64 percent), and U.S. policy toward Iran (60 percent) have a negative impact on our national security. The index’s experts also disapprove of how America is handling its relations with European allies, how it is controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction and its dealings with failing states, just to name a few.

[. . .]

Golly, that is more severe than public opinion.

Published in: on June 26, 2006 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why is the free stuff better?

Each time I have had a major problem with a virus on my computer, I have found and fixed it with free Internet scans and free software downloads. Which makes me wonder why I should pay for a big anti-virus/anti-spyware program ever again.

In fact, my computer is running the best it ever has because I fixed a lot problems with free software the past few days.

I’m staying with the free stuff until it no longer works.

Published in: on June 26, 2006 at 10:46 am  Comments (4)  

The end of an obsession: now what?

Now that the mighty State Street computer is restored to service, I’m a little at a loss as to what to do with the rest of my afternoon. But damn it’s nice to have Biker Bar Radio playing over the Internet while I write this.

I have spent the better part of two weeks trying to fix this damned computer. At some point it became a battle between me and technology. Rationality went out the door. My stubborn streak just would not let go of the problem for even an hour. The problem even haunted me when I went to Cincinnati for baseball last weekend. At least I didn’t take the damned computer with me on the trip.

At any rate, I am much relieved knowing I won’t have to worry about fixing the problem or waste huge gobs of time trying. Life is filled with all kinds of problems that need fixing and computer malware should not be one of them.

Not many people maliciously create Malware anymore. They do it for the money. Lots of companies love getting their hands on the information malware supplies. Plus, you can raid people’s checking accounts and credit cards too.

Enough of these somber meditations.

Compute safely!

Published in: on June 25, 2006 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  

A day of celebration

I zapped the piece of malware that ruined my computer with a free spyware program from AVAST. I had forgotten how well my computer works when it is healthy.

Along the way I zapped a lot of other problems on my computer, and learned a little about spyware and rootkits.

For awhile, I thought I would have to wipe my computer clean and reinstall Windows, so you can imagine how happy I am.

Published in: on June 25, 2006 at 10:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Congratulations Ghana

Ghana beat the USA 2-1 today to eliminate them from the World Cup. Ghana advances to the next round.

I heard on the news today that Ghana is the 98th richest nation in the world. They cut industrial electricity in the country so there would be enough to power the TV sets for people watching the game.

I am really happy for all the folks in Ghana and wish them all the best the rest of the tournament.

Published in: on June 22, 2006 at 10:14 am  Comments (2)  


I picked up Sam Hammill’s new translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching last week. I was inspired to do it because of Hammil’s brilliant Crossing the Yellow River: 300 poems from the Chinese.

The Tao Te Ching has interesting and enigmatic things such as this:

Between Yes and No
there is how much difference?
Good and Evil can be compared.

What others fear
becomes our wilderness of fear.
Oh, it is endless.

People joyfully feast, laughing
as if climbing the springtime tower
to view the terrace.

I alone remain unmoved,
a child not taught to smile,
exhausted, forlorn,
a child without a home.

Everyone has plenty.
I alone am left wanting.
I live in confusion like a fool.

Even ordinary people can be brilliant.
I alone grope in the dark.
The insights of people escape me
as I drift placidly along.

Oh, they know ocean depths
and sea winds aimlessly blowing.
They believe they all have purpose.

The old Taoist alone, the stubborn rustic,
knows Tao itself makes him different.
He’s nourished at the Great Mother’s breast.

I don’t know what that means, but it resonates on a day like today.

Published in: on June 22, 2006 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  


I haven’t found a way to clean up the nasty piece of malware/grayware on my computer even though I have PC-cillan and tried all the stuff they recommend including HouseCall.

But I must soldier on. So I’ll be posting again and using my computer even though it is painful to doe so.

Published in: on June 22, 2006 at 9:36 am  Comments (2)