After Chores

I spent the day doing chores rather than writing. That felt good; almost too good. Now, I have taken up The Poetry Anthology, a collection from the first ninety years of Poetry magazine. I have been idly flipping through it reading poems at random. The shock and jolt of each new poem is one of the delights of a good poetry anthology. You never quite know where you are going or what you are doing. A definite route and plan is not always the most important thing anyway on bright crisp autumn days.

I think I will read for a little longer, jot odd thoughts on the back of postcards, and dream of being in love.

It is Halloween. I will dress myself as a geezer who reads poetry.

Published in: on October 31, 2006 at 2:49 pm  Comments (2)  

A political conundrum

An interesting discussion at I cite has focused issues with the upcoming election for me.

The upcoming election is a conundrum for me. I am one of the people who would like to see the Democratic Party move leftward rather than remain Bush Cult Lite. I do not see that happening. I do not predict any change should the Democrats win Congress this time around.

Note: I am always tempted to substitute conservative for Bush Cult, but accuracy dictates otherwise. Old style conservatives are beginning to recognize that the Bush Cult has replaced their ideology with crony capitalism and crony Christianity. If you are not in the Bush Cult, then you are a leftist of some sort. Welcome to the club William F. Buckley.

Democratic politicians belong to an opportunist party. Whatever the current political climate dictates as prudent political message becomes the prevailing ideological message for them. All too often, they succumb to communicating Bush Cult Lite messages. Those messages have helped lead us to the Iraq debacle and other fine messes.

There are no alternative third party candidates for whom I can vote. Does compromising one’s vote completely compromise one’s ideals? I just do not know.

Published in: on October 30, 2006 at 11:18 am  Comments (1)  

Saturday at the Movies

I spent Saturday night sitting in a rocking chair and watching three movies on Turner Class Movies: Ride the High Country with Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea, The Westerner with Walter Brennan and Gary Cooper, and the original Scarface with Paul Muni.

Totally delicious. A movie orgy actually.

Published in: on October 30, 2006 at 12:20 am  Comments (5)  

State Street disappears from the election rolls

My voting place is next door to the building where I live. A list of registered voters is posted on the door. My name is no longer on it, which is odd since I have voted there many times. The thing that burns me is that I have to try to straighten it out for an election where the choices between candidates to vote for are few. It is like choosing between indolence, stupidity, corruption, or all of the above.

I have a feeling I will be entering a labyrinth next week to change this state of affairs. If you do not hear from me for a while, that is where I will be.

Published in: on October 28, 2006 at 10:52 am  Leave a Comment  

The Fence

The President signed into law the fence between the United States and Mexico. At least, we think he did. His abuse of signing statements never makes it clear anymore exactly what the law is. Let’s leave that issue aside and move onto the next.

Congress has not yet funded the fence. That is supposed to happen when they return from the elections, or when some of them do.

Let us now speculate on and predict what will happen when the 12 billion dollars to build the fence starts sloshing through the Homeland Security contracting system. I predict scandal, corruption, and cost overruns that will make it one of the biggest boondoggles in US history. In fact, I would not be surprised if contractors hire, either legally or illegally, Mexican labor to build it.

It is no use applying the finer points of philosophy and political economy to the immigration issue. Things like the fence and its vast potential for corruption will always take center stage and nudge substantive debate aside.

A few folks will make a lot of money off it. Everybody else will lose money. The corruption issue will replace all the substantive issues. The world will continue in its orbit.

Please, watch your wallet.

Published in: on October 27, 2006 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Try eating some prunes, Mr. Secretary

If you enjoy chaos and confusion, then you cannot beat a Donald Rumsfeld press conference for sheer entertainment value. First, you get the sense he does not have a clue as to how to fix the Iraq debacle. The question and answer session takes you beyond clueless. I like the way he attacks the questioner and their motives as a first line defense on every question.

If someone asked him what he had for breakfast, he would first accuse the questioner of trying to put words in his mouth for political motives during a political season. Then he would ramble on for five minutes wondering what breakfast really was anyway.

I would like a chance at a question. Why are things so fucked up in Iraq, how do you plan to unfuck it, and have you tried eating prunes with your breakfast cereal? Inquiring minds like mine want to know.

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

Extreme Denial

Jonah Goldberg thinks Iraq was a worthy mistake (NRO via ALD), but we ought to stay anyway. I am tempted to quote and comment on this short op-ed piece in detail. I am sure many have already beaten me to the exercise. Instead, I recommend you read it and try to find all the false assertions contained in it. Here is a first clue:

Those who say that it’s not the central front in the war on terror are in a worse state of denial than they think Bush is in. Of course it’s the central front in the war on terror. That it has become so is a valid criticism of Bush, but it’s also strong reason for seeing our Iraqi intervention through. If we pull out precipitously, jihadism will open a franchise in Iraq and gain steam around the world, and the U.S. will be weakened.

However, Jonah has a plan: a third way.

According to the conventional script, if I’m not saying “bug out” of Iraq, I’m supposed to say “stay the course.” But there’s a third option, and, funnily enough, I found it in an old column of mine (journalistic taboos be damned!). I think we should ask the Iraqis to vote on whether U.S. troops should stay.

Polling suggests that they want us to go. But polling absent consequences is a form of protest. With accountability, minds may change and appreciation for the U.S. presence might grow.

OK, let’s wait until he completes that referendum. I hope he does not expect the troops to help him. Things are tough enough for them as it is. I hope he plans on spending his own money too.

Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 8:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Iraq, Hume, and Casual Humors

Gloomy reports about Iraq inundate us everyday. President Bush added his piece of gloom at a press conference this morning. He is definitely a beleaguered man. I do not doubt he suffers from his poor and failed decisions as to how to protect the US from terrorism, and the Iraq disaster in particular. That being said, the President needs to understand that presenting more sobering reports about Iraq shortly before election time rings hollow in several respects.

The Republican strategy for communicating about Iraq this election cycle has been entirely the same as in previous elections. Republican strategists announced this at the beginning of the campaign. The Bush Administration has tried to convince people that Iraq is the cornerstone in the war on terror and that we should, “stay the course, not cut, and run.” The poll numbers show this a failed political strategy. Now, these same political strategists are scrambling to convince the public that the Bush Administration has a nimble and flexible strategy to manage the Iraq occupation.

The news media has finally noticed that the number one issue this election is the Iraq occupation. The pictures and analyses coming from big media tell another story than that presented by the Bush Administration. Multiple enemies have the US troops in their crosshairs. The civilian death toll is about as horrendous as it gets. The Iraqi government and security forces are completely impotent to do anything resembling securing a cease-fire between bewildering arrays of militias. Thank you, big media, for finally running the Iraq story.

The question remains open as to how we really got ourselves into the Iraq disaster. I will hazard a clue as to part of it.

I was rereading David Hume’s excellent essay, That Politics may be Reduced to a Science, yesterday. Here is the first paragraph of Hume’s essay.

It is a question with several, whether there be any essential difference between one form of government and another and, whether every form may not become good or bad, according as it is well or ill administered? Were it once admitted, that all governments are alike, and that the only difference consists in the character and conduct of the governors, most political disputes would be at an end, and all Zeal for one constitution above another must be esteemed mere bigotry and folly. But, though a friend to moderation, I cannot forbear condemning this sentiment, and should be sorry to think, that human affairs admit of no greater stability, than what they receive from the casual humours and characters of particular men.

However, when I look back at the beginning of the Iraq invasion I recall a government and public that cast aside their constitution and institutions in deference to “the casual humour and character” of President Bush. The United States Senate, as they did during the Vietnam War, abdicated their war making responsibilities to a President. The far greater share of the American public deferred their judgment about a risky enterprise to the President. They did not bother to distinguish or discriminate between those who assaulted the World Trade Center and Saddam Hussein. Blank stares greeted any mention of civil war and sectarian violence, or costs in human lives and livelihood, as high probability consequences of the Iraq invasion.

Since the beginning of the Iraq invasion, a hard core Bush Cult has eschewed digesting any information contrary to their beliefs about Iraq or the infallibility of President Bush. Each day millions engage in apologetics either publicly or privately. This is merely a symptom though of what has happened.

People have radically broken with Constitutional principles, laws, checks and balances, and prudent public policy decisions. The fear factor has been part of it, but indolent gullibility has played the greater part in the breakdown in the institutions that should serve us better. I recall the lyric from the Alan Jackson song about 9/11: I’m not sure if I know the difference between Iraq and Iran. Yes, I have taken that out of context, but it does reflect a casual disregard and laziness about whom your enemies really are. That laziness persists to this day.

The polls show that more people have changed their minds about Iraq. The question is whether the real lesson has sunk in. Presidents are not music or movie stars. I recall the famous line delivered by J. R. Ewing in the Dallas TV show: once you give up your principles, everything else is easy. I would also add that once you give up your principles to follow the casual humor and character of a leader, you had better hope he wakes up on the right side of the bed each morning, and has his head and ass wired together before going to work.

The United States is a country where tough talk comes cheap. Support the troops is an idle phrase when you read the horror stories about how we treat the troops when their tours of duty are completed. The homeless person you see on the street just might be the man or woman you stuck the yellow ribbon on your SUV to support. Lamentably, much of this talk comes from our elected officials.

I know I will never vote for a candidate who supported the Iraq debacle, and has not made a true act of contrition to make up for it. A true act of contrition might be something like restoring the principles and institutions that serve the country well in many cases, proving that they know how to govern prudently in times of crisis, and accounting for their bad decisions.

Until then, and as far as their casual humors and characters go, they all look damned ugly to me.

Published in: on October 25, 2006 at 11:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Cheap and frivolous entertainment

We find our delights in odd places and about matters that are vain or of little consequence. Such is the delight in watching the Republicans scramble to find an appropriate message on Iraq. They will no longer mention, “stay the course,” between now and election time.

At my local bar, the Iraq occupation has had an odd history. First, it went from a topic exciting the passions either for or against it. Then it was something not mentioned in polite society. Now, people discuss it openly, and people never venture kind words about how it is going. It warms my heart each time I hear someone dump on the Iraq situation. The more I hear it, the more I hope a majority of the people will finally hold the Bush Administration and Congress accountable for the disaster and its resolution.

Along with the change in attitudes about Iraq, I am also enjoying the prospect of the outside chance that the Democrats might win back one or more houses of Congress. This enjoyment does not arise from any belief that the Democrats will change things. Their complicity in bringing public affairs to a low estate does not allow any confidence in their abilities to put things right. However, watching those in power negotiate a precarious position does provide fun despite its being cheap and frivolous entertainment that will soon pass when Congress returns to conducting business as usual.

Despite my gloomy attitude about American politics in general, it would help if a few people such as Senator Santorum no longer graced the Senate.

Published in: on October 24, 2006 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thinking about an illusion while staring out a Starbuck’s window on an autumn day

About a week ago, I was drinking a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s early in the afternoon. I stared out the window idly thinking about Reason while an unending line of folks walked by the window and distracted me. People watching I guess people call it.

I wondered if my notion that I possess an effective reasoning power was an illusion. I certainly do not arrive at my initial conclusions about most things by using logical arguments or scientific observation. First, comes the conclusion, and then comes the argument. The argument often seems like window dressing to my emotions about something, or my desire to project myself favorably in another’s eyes. Aristotle talks about arguments, sort of, this way in his Rhetoric.

Emotion and desire are fundamental if not foundational. We often hear of emotion and desire as a retreat from reason, but they are inescapable. We would not have ideology if our emotions and desires did not allow us to create a space between philosophy and political action. We want others to accept us at the same time we want to be right. We must have a framework in which to fit the facts, and we dare not take a lot of time doing it if we wish quickly to arrive at basic political decisions. I do not denigrate ideology, for it has its place.

Reason attaches itself to the political after I have made my choices. Reason justifies my decisions rather than creates them, whether I choose consciously or unconsciously. I have read about these things in the past—Hume in particular. It is one thing to believe that reason is the slave of the passions and yet another to actually feel it on an autumn day while staring out a Starbuck’s window.

The ill consequences of conservative ideology caught my attention before I seriously inspected what was driving those consequences. The Iraq disaster, the economic descent of the working class, and the erosion of human and civil rights presented themselves for disapprobation before I have tried to discover what it is about conservatism that gets things wrong. That seems shameful to admit. Maybe, the illusion that my reason rules my passions is an excuse to be idle and indolent in my thinking right up to the point when disaster happens.

At any rate, I think there is truth to the old saying that we do not miss our water until the well runs dry. One must always guard against that lamentable situation regardless of the status of reason in our lives.

Published in: on October 24, 2006 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Love

From Sam Hamill’s translations, Crossing the Yellow River:

Letter Smuggled in a Fish

Your letter unfolds and unfolds forever.
I flatten it with my hands to read:

tearstains, tearstains and a trace of rouge
where it must have touched your cheek.

Yuan Chen (779-831)

I know you are only supposed to love people and not things, but damn I love that book. Crossing the Yellow River, that is.

Published in: on October 23, 2006 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

The Morgue

People are dying in Iraq faster than the morgues can handle. The dead woman and her dead baby girl lie outside the morgue door in the sweltering sun. They are finally free.

Published in: on October 23, 2006 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  

My Library

I have a library I like. I could try to reread all my books and die before I finished. That seems big enough to me.

Published in: on October 23, 2006 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Noise

Clouds, cold,
and the hammering and whine
from the construction sites
ruin my repose.

Mostly the noise though.

I must spend a quiet night
and a morning somewhere else—
with a passionate woman,
of course.

I must erase
these fragments
of the city
if only for a moment.

Published in: on October 23, 2006 at 8:49 am  Leave a Comment  

The next Frankenstein

The discontent within the Republican Party and the conservative ideology is much in the news. Fundamentalist Christians, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and neo-con war hawks have all expressed their dismay at the Bush Administration reign. Many claim that the Bush Administration is not truly of the conservative ideological persuasion. These charges always coincide with complaints by the disaffected that the Bush Administration has not attended to their particular political goals and concerns.

I think it is at least an open question whether conservatives did not get exactly what they deserved under the Bush Administration.

Crony capitalism has reached its zenith in American history and helped to exacerbate disasters such as Iraq and Katrina. Fiscal conservatives labor under the notion that you can have huge military adventures and crony capitalism and that it will not cost anything. In their minds, you can always take a few more bucks from the low end of the working class to pay the tab. That well is running dry in a hurry.

Fundamentalist Christians actually believe the majority of Americans want governance by a few preachers prancing and preening around a mega-church pulpit. What the fundamentalist preachers do not understand is that the folks in Washington D. C. are too self interested to give up their privileges to a bunch of folks who hate science, technology, and the hedonistic nature of global capitalism.

Libertarians still labor under the outmoded notion that you can have a large nation whose goal is world hegemony while at the same time have small government. People make fun of the dreamy ideas of Sixties hippies, but the libertarians ought to examine how closely they sound to those folks. Big time capitalism requires large government to grease the palms and wheels of commerce. Crony capitalism comes with the deal. You must have many folks in Washington D. C. to launder all that money. You have to wonder whether many professed libertarians really are what they claim. The conservative ones have been startling silent about the Bush Administration assault on rights and protection of freedoms.

Neo-cons still believe that if you drop enough bombs on Middle East civilians, they will come to their senses and love the USA. That has not worked anywhere in the Middle East. In case neo-cons have not noticed, the Iraq occupation has stretched the military to its capacity. There are only two combat ready brigades available for their next lunatic military adventure.

Disaffected conservatives have gotten what they asked for in the Bush Administration. He is their baby and the DNA proof is undeniable.

Large ideologies such as conservatism always reconstruct and reinvent themselves when they lose share of public mind. The American Conservative movement did it fifty years ago. One wonders where conservatism goes from here and who their next baby will be.

I hope it is not Frankenstein the next time around.

Published in: on October 22, 2006 at 11:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Slaughter Gone Wild

The NYT headline says, Tables Turned for the G.O.P. Over Iraq Issue. And why not?

You do not have to be a Democrat, Republican, or any other political persuasion to view the invasion and occupation of Iraq as a blood bath, slaughter-gone-wild, and bad project poorly executed. Despite President Bush’s seriously bogus claim that it is the cornerstone of the war on terror, the people see beyond that easily refuted claim.

If the Democrats win big in November, they will let the war continue for at least another two years. They will betray the people again. Some more troopers will die; some will suffer seriously from their wounds for the rest of their lives. As many as a half million Iraqi’s will be killed over the two year period from 2006 through 2008. The Democrats are as worthless as the Republicans are when it comes to doing anything right.

I have sold my soul many times, but at least I never sold it for the outside chance of a vote. I hope I live long enough to read what the history books say about them all.

Published in: on October 19, 2006 at 9:47 am  Comments (2)  

I would miss you too much, dear reader

The stack of books sitting next to the table keeps calling me. Books of philosophy, politics, physics, mathematics, poetry, and the unread novel will not leave me alone.

Then there are your blogs, dear reader, that beckon me also.

I think I need to rent a hole-in-the-wall place furnished with only a table and chair and some pens and paper to get anything done.

Most likely, I would miss your blogs too much. I would dream of reading them to the point of utter distraction.

Being the weak willed soul that I am, I cannot think of a realistic plan B.

Published in: on October 18, 2006 at 9:13 am  Comments (1)  

Exit

The first thing I thought about when I woke this morning was the Iraq Occupation and the recent Johns Hopkins statistical study of the number of civilian deaths in Iraq since the invasion. The study places the number of deaths at 600,000 plus or minus 200,000. That ranks the Iraq invasion and occupation right up there with World War II on a per capita basis. My suspicion about the horror of the conflict has been justified once again.

The Bush Administration has called the study’s methodology flawed. Experts in biostatistics have unanimously defended the survey as the best way to arrive at the facts.

The story has quickly dropped from the news cycle. The deniers go on their merry way. Meanwhile, the death tolls are increasing instead of abating.

Not only the Bush Administration, but also the American public in general has been guilty of willful ignorance about the situation in Iraq. Whether anyone likes it or not, the numbers always display their own tyranny.

I grow weary of thinking this and saying this: nothing good will come to the United States until we leave Iraq. Many have disproved all of the arguments for staying in Iraq. The most compelling arguments for leaving have not come from political hacks or activists, but from experts and those not politically aligned as Republicans or Democrats.

The hubris and willful ignorance of the Bush Administration is by now legendary. The citizens ought to know better. I was encouraged last week while talking to a friend, a staunch Republican and Bush supporter, when we agreed on an Iraq exit strategy. You pack your bags, you get on an airplane, you fly away, and you do not piss away time while doing it.

The deniers have had it all their own way. It is time for them to go to the back of the class and shut up. Too many innocent lives are at stake.

Published in: on October 18, 2006 at 8:32 am  Leave a Comment  

What I really want to talk about is me

Chicago, after playing like homemade shit in the first half, came back late in the second half of last night’s game and scored two defensive touchdowns and a touchdown on a punt return to beat the Cards 24 to 23.

Winning ugly counts too.

That is not what I really want to talk about though. What I really want to say is that this the third straight morning I have spent looking at a blank sheet of paper with my fingers paralyzed and my mind bereft of thought—except for the poetry of Ray Carver running through it like a river. I should have never spent a few hours reading him Saturday afternoon. All I ever wanted to say is already in those poems. Things such as this.

The Scratch

I woke up with a spot of blood
over my eye. A scratch
halfway across my forehead. But
I’m sleeping alone these days.
Why on earth would a man raise his hand
against himself, even in sleep?
It’s this and similar questions
I’m trying to answer this morning.
As I study my face in the window.

People ask me what I do with my time. I tell them I spend many days looking at a blank sheet of paper or a blank computer screen. This kills further conversation, most of the time.

This Carver poem comes to mind.

Company

This morning I woke up to rain
on the glass. And understood
that for a long time now
I’ve chosen the corrupt when
I had a choice. Or else,
simply, the merely easy.
Over the virtuous. Or the difficult.
This way of thinking happens
when I’ve been alone for days.
Like now. Hours spent
in my own dumb company.
Hours and hours
much like a little room.
With just a strip of carpet to walk on.

I think I will spend the rest of the day pretending I am writing a Ray Carver poem just so I can avoid reality. I cannot think of any other option.

Published in: on October 17, 2006 at 9:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Waking in the middle of the night

What does this cold rain mean to me in the middle of the night? Nothing.

When I woke, her hand was not lying upon my chest. Without that it is cold no matter what.

Published in: on October 17, 2006 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Entropy

I met an attractive woman Saturday night. I would really like to see her again. In fact, I cannot get her off my mind.

I have a feeling things would not work out. For one, I am old enough to be her father. For another, my life is very disordered right now and that would not be fair either. A high state of entropy would most likely set in quickly.

However, I am the proverbial moth drawn to the flame. I really should not let these things happen, but sometimes you just get lonely. And sometimes you want to prove you are still attractive when you meet someone you like.

Ok, here is the plan. I will do something out of the ordinary. I will think about it before doing anything more.

Published in: on October 16, 2006 at 4:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Who wants to take that long shot gamble?

Readers of State Street are not shocked to find that there is gambling going on here.

You cannot beat the bookie. The reason is simple: he does not give you fair odds. However, going into this weekend I was as close to dead even on my sports betting over the last year as you can get. I have had my share of good luck.

Even though I know I cannot win, I study the teams and the statistics as though I could. I should just pick teams at random and wait for the inevitable result.

I am crazy.

I do not bet much money though, so it is harmless good sport worth the price of admission to me. Many dreams are long shot gambles, but we could not live without them.

Published in: on October 14, 2006 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Lost

Yesterday, I was thinking about how I had not lost my credit card in a long time. Later on in the day, I lost my credit card. I feel as though there are strange unexplained forces working in the world—not all of them good.

Darn.

Published in: on October 14, 2006 at 10:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Kick down the door and carry me away

Yesterday’s scary event was the suspension of my Internet gambling account. I called up the gambling company and they said that the state of Illinois had asked them to suspend all the Illinois accounts.

This story has what might be a temporary happy conclusion. Last night, I was able to log into my account, and this morning I got down for my weekend bets: a four-team NFL parlay, a five-team NFL progressive parlay, a five-team English Premier parlay, and just to spice things up, a Mets and Tigers parlay on today’s baseball.

I suppose the police will kick down my door any moment and arrest me. At least I’ll have a little gambling action my first weekend in jail. I hope they let me take my clothes out of the drier before they cart me away.

Meanwhile, the President and Congress sit on their collective asses while hell, war, death, and destruction reign in Iraq. Oh well, they made some Christian Blue Noses happy in Podunk, USA.

I ain’t bitter. Don’t get that idea.

Published in: on October 13, 2006 at 11:33 am  Comments (4)  

That’s Jerry Lee Lewis over there

Today’s side is the Jerry Lee Lewis London Sessions 1973, which, just so you know, is totally smoking. The CD kicks of with Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee and just keeps rocking. Towards the end, you get a great version of Movin’ on Down the Line, which I dimly recall was the B-side of the Great Balls of Fire 45 single way back in around ‘57 or ’58. You would think I would know since it is the first record I ever bought, but I am not sure.

Life is always good when you rocking with Jerry Lee.

Published in: on October 13, 2006 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment