The facts are out there; the truth is in your head

I have been reading Michael Frayn’s The Human Touch, a collection of philosophical meditations about everything. Frayn admits that it is not a philosophical work, but more a commentary on philosophical problems. I have read several short dismissive reviews by philosophers, Colin McGinn in particular. However, Frayn, a novelist and playwright, writes engagingly, and it is worth a glance.

The book questions how the world is both independent of us, and constructed by us. I cannot avoid thinking about the slogan from the X-Files: The Truth Is Out There. Is it? Would it be better to say the facts are out there? Whether we discover them and arrive at true propositions is another story. There is plenty of slip betwixt cup and lip. There cannot be truth without the proposition, the proposition does not exist without language, and language does not exist without people who construct and use it.

I recall the controversy surrounding the Lancet study about the total number of casualties in Iraq. Undertaking a statistical study of this sort is notoriously difficult. The chaotic situation in the country, the challenges of sampling, and poor record keeping conspire to make the confidence interval rather large. I understand the Lancet technique was used in other countries experiencing war and civil unrest, so it is not a priori flawed as some claim.

What I find interesting and disturbing is the claim that the researchers did the study with a political agenda and motive. I could understand these kinds of suspicions if the researchers had merely posted the study on the Internet instead of in a highly respected peer reviewed journal. In addition, the researchers clearly put their work out there for expert scrutiny of methodological concerns.

As far as I can tell, the officially published government statistics underestimate the number of casualties. Those gathering the statistics admit there are casualties that they do not count. The facts are out there, maybe lost in the mist, but all we can do is construct a partial truth from the ones we find.

The carnage has been significant enough to ask certain questions. What if we could ask the dead this question: Would you support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein if you knew it would eventually lead to your death or the death of your family members?

Whose opinions count most when discussing the Iraq Occupation? Some would say the Iraqi people. Surveys continue to indicate that the majority of Iraqi’s feel they are less safe with the US military in Iraq.

We have a situation in two supposedly democratic countries, the US and Iraq, where the majority of the people want US troops to disengage from the conflict. Those who support the war have the very generous situation of heads they win, tails they win too. You can call it what you want, but that is not democracy. The facts do not support calling it democracy and neither does any reasonably constructed meaningful proposition.

Many scoff at evaluating the Iraq Occupation on practical or utilitarian grounds. If you do, many on the Right consider you a radical leftist, and many on the Left consider you a piss poor excuse for a leftist. Be that as it may, the collective rule of the sovereign citizens should be obeyed in a democracy unless it violates agreed upon rights and freedoms of the individual. Those who support the Iraq Occupation have no special right or freedom to keep US troops in country in violation of the wishes of the citizens of both countries.

Of course, we continue hearing President Bush’s bogus claim that the country will become a haven for terrorist attacks against the US. The irony here is that there was no al Qaeda operating in Iraq before the war. Saddam, with his usual ruthless efficiency, made sure of that. Some still deny the fact, and construct castles in the air with their counter claims.

When you go to Iraq, do not forget to pack your rose-colored glasses.

Published in: on March 29, 2007 at 11:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Transgression

KimDotDammit nails transgressing into the forbidden with her Jesus Makes Me Hot. It is not only the forbidden that makes me hot, but the inaccessible too. I have been lately obsessed with both, at least within boundaries.

The woman I really want, yet cannot have, for some reason known only to her mind, perplexes me the most. I know I want her precisely because she eludes me. She pains me, and I like that too. The pain associated with the futile chase makes me feel alive like no other experience.

Some might say I should put my energy and thought to better purposes and activities. I do not know how to do that. I suppose it is because prudence is a virtue, virtue is a habit, and I have never developed the habit. Aristotle would wag his finger at me. Or would he?

It is one thing to write about ethics and virtue, yet another to live a life of virtue. The students at the ancient schools went to learn and actually live a life based on philosophy. We no longer do that, or at least most of us do not. Maybe, the world is less forgiving of the pure philosopher, the one who lives her life based upon her beliefs.

In many ways, I live a life of exquisite hedonism, for one, because I can at least for now. For two, I have lost all sense of time horizon. I cannot see myself ten or twenty years from now. I suppose that is partially due to living alone for a long time. I can no longer imagine a regular guest such as a girlfriend in my place even though the memories of that haunt me.

I might add somebody to my list today to make up for the one I cannot have. In fact, even though I have not met her, I received a phone call from her last night. I was introduced to her a week and half ago on the telephone. They tell me she is attractive and nice. They say if I gave her a gentle nudge, she would fall right over. Oh well, she called me rather than the other way around.

In the meantime, I will remain obsessed with this other woman; for I know, it is just a matter of time before she is on my list. Patience, perseverance, and persistence have paid off in the past, so why not now?

I know what I am doing, whether painful or pleasurable. Lynn, this is not a philosophy, you say. To which I reply, want to bet. There are all kinds of important disputed questions such as transgression. I am gathering empirical evidence being the rank materialist I am.

Published in: on March 28, 2007 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy Birthday, Cuppa


Happy birthday, Cuppa! I’m sorry this postcard is a couple of days late. It sounds like you had a good one. Thanks for being a special blogging friend.

Published in: on March 27, 2007 at 8:17 am  Comments (2)  

Real Colored Postcards

I bought some crayon markers. Then I sent out some real postcards kind of colored. It was fun. Spring has arrived and everything ought to be colored in pastels—even postcards. Now it is not even midnight and I am not tired. What next?

Published in: on March 26, 2007 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dawdling with Riemann

A beautiful spring day. Dawdling over a math problem seems the best thing to do. Meditating on the primes less than any given number fits the mood even though I could never resolve it on my own. Yet the problem fascinates. So many puzzles; so few answers.

Published in: on March 25, 2007 at 1:05 pm  Comments (2)  

Strange Brew

Write one postcard each day. Let them accumulate in a stack. Then after several years, read them. Try to find the sense and sinew. Some days you laughed, on others you cried. You churned melancholy and haughtiness into a strange brew.

Published in: on March 24, 2007 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Fog in every direction and all the way

The wind and sun might blow and burn away the fog. What I really mean to say is I cannot believe she sleeps with him instead of me. Either she has no taste, or she is afraid of me. I feel sorry for her. Oh well, the fog is clearing.

Published in: on March 24, 2007 at 9:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Paris, 1946

From my window, I watch the woman with the pink umbrella as she walks down the street in the rain. She heads south. Shortly thereafter, she strides north. I imagine her in Paris, 1946 drinking cheap wine. Now, she is gone. The city swallowed her.

Published in: on March 23, 2007 at 11:04 am  Leave a Comment  

What Does a Postcard Do?

A postcard should impregnate rather than be pregnant or fully formed. Economy rules yet you should leave a trace of your voice while filling all the space. A poem takes years to write, a postcard takes minutes, yet adrenaline and wonder fuels them both.

Published in: on March 22, 2007 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  

As Ever

I looked at her face closely: the way it creased, folded, and sagged—all the little things I neglected before. Her smile and eyes shone as brilliantly as ever. When I kissed her and pressed my cheek next to hers, her face was soft and exiting.

Published in: on March 22, 2007 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Anton

I spent the better part of the morning reading Chekhov’s Ivanov. For the life of me, I cannot say why. Things like this happen to me frequently—activities with no discernable motive or objective such as this stupid diary entry.

Published in: on March 21, 2007 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  

A bloody nose and tears

When I was a boy in small town Iowa, I got into a fight with my best friend and gave him a bloody nose. It was the first time I ever gave someone a bloody nose. I cried. Our friends wondered why I was crying, for I had won. I’m still proud of that. Crying that is.

Published in: on March 20, 2007 at 10:26 am  Comments (3)  

Can’t get them off my mind

There is this young French woman in post World War II Paris, and a young American journalist who looks exactly like my Dad. And what are Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre doing with them? Why do these people haunt my imagination all the time?

Published in: on March 20, 2007 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  

David Hume and Getting Along

Some thinkers write books where one can remain submerged for a lifetime. David Hume’s A Treatise on Human Nature does it for me. I believe skepticism is a virtue. Hume helps me in the exercise. Of course, I realize others do not need a great book to get along just fine.

Published in: on March 19, 2007 at 10:35 am  Leave a Comment  

A Letter on Iraq, Denial, and Gambling Addiction

I would like to be hopeful that some good result will come from the Iraq Occupation, but events do not create confidence that anything will. Those who propose to stay the course communicate no plans that provide the cost in money and casualties, realistic objectives, or timeframe. I am sure plans exist and they are not attractive given majority opposition to the current state of affairs.

President Bush leads the faith-based group of Iraq deniers. The denial comes from two beliefs: faith will carry the day and it is their god given right to do whatever they please. If The US just keeps sending in more troops, something good will eventually happen.

President Bush is part of my generation. Some of us learned that we cannot have everything we want. He is part of the group that never learned that. I know that sounds like folk psychology, but folk psychology is not entirely a bad thing. After all, it is essential to our daily survival.

Iraq deniers fail to see how so many of us could oppose the war and see President Bush in a bad light. Subtract out all the politics and it remains this simple. Iraq is a project gone badly. Bad projects need either to be set aright or stopped. The denier camp considers themselves above obeying the rule. Trust me they are wrong.

We also see the unsubtle shifting of the burden by those who support the war onto the shoulders of those who have opposed it from the beginning. The fish are not biting. The Iraq problem lies squarely on the shoulders of those who want to be there. They cannot have it both ways. Either take responsibility or get the hell out of the way.

When you do a risk/reward analysis on the situation in Iraq it comes out looking badly. The faith-based crowd does not think it matters and that it is just number crunching. Well you had better do some good number crunching when fighting wars. Once again, the deniers do not possess any special privileges when it comes to what the numbers say. If I were to say that I was taking my life savings to Las Vegas next weekend to get fabulously wealthy you would think me crazier than you already do. Yet we see those who support the Iraq Occupation take exactly that attitude.

Long term, we need to find a way that mistakes like President Bush’s Presidency and the Iraq disaster do not happen. In the meantime, show me the money or get out of my way. I was not born to support your gambling addiction.

What we see with the Iraq Occupation is that some people clearly have a gambling addiction. As long as those who oppose the occupation keep supporting the addiction with lives and money, they will remain addicted. The last election was supposed to help break the vicious cycle in which we find ourselves. As I predicted, the new Congress has not done a damn thing to help. Trusting the Democratic Party is no better than trusting the Republican Party. Until the country moves clearly into the libertarian/leftist quadrant, nothing good will happen. Things are that broken.

Published in: on March 19, 2007 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Postcard from the Ozone

I just got home after breaking my drinking record and other merry activities: lost in the ozone again, as the song says. I am glad Amateur Night comes but once a year.

Published in: on March 18, 2007 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Amateur Night

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, or as I like to call it Amateur Night. I don’t usually go out on St. Patrick’s Day. Too many amateur drinkers crowd the bars. In fact, rubbing shoulders with them tarnishes my reputation as a professional drinker and full-fledged member of the drinking culture. However, I have company who think they want to drink.

We’ll see who the last man standing is tonight. I am betting on me. I figure after a good night’s sleep I am good for a fifth of whiskey and twelve beers if anybody wants to match up with me.

Published in: on March 17, 2007 at 4:46 am  Comments (2)  

New Day

The time when you wake up at 3:30 and wait until the sun comes up feels like a long time, especially when you think about all things you wanted yesterday that you could not have. When the sun comes up, you start wanting all over again.

It’s a new day.

Published in: on March 16, 2007 at 3:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Falling to Normal

The temperature rose into the low seventies yesterday, so I went to North Avenue Beach and sat in the sun for a couple of hours. The rest of the day, I drifted and dreamed of love. Now, it is overcast and the temperature will fall to around freezing—sort of like my dreams.

Still, it was nice for a change.

Published in: on March 14, 2007 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Dang Me

Dang me. They ought to take a rope and hang me.

Roger Miller

Spent the whole weekend carousing pure and simple.

Published in: on March 12, 2007 at 10:54 am  Comments (2)  

Personal Cards: Part 2

I am still trying to figure out what to print on my personal cards. How about this?

The real deal, the total package, 100% U.S. prime—Chicago’s premier geezer.

Or is that being too modest?

Published in: on March 8, 2007 at 12:00 pm  Comments (4)  

State Street Exposed


A view of State Street from my balcony. Just another cold crappy day in the city.

Published in: on March 7, 2007 at 12:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bigger Than Me

A question plaguing me recently is why the universe is so much bigger than I am. I know there is no answer to the damned question, but I really want to know anyway.

Published in: on March 7, 2007 at 12:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bar Flirting

The Chicago Tribune produces the Redeye—a free newspaper designed for the young professional on the go and who does not have much time to absorb all the news. However, when they get to the office, they at least know enough about what is going on in the world, in general, to hold a conversation.

A few weeks ago, they ran one of their typical articles about bar flirting. I was intrigued because when I am in the mood I love to bar flirt. I was very pleased that I knew all the tips they gave away. I did not need to read the article to learn them.

Practice, practice, practice, and three cheers for bar flirting.

Published in: on March 7, 2007 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Poetry

Why is it we turn to a few poems for consolation when they do not console? It must be the rhythm like the throbbing of a heart broken yet still alive. Even our tears cannot replace a poem.

Published in: on March 7, 2007 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment