Torturous

Regardless of the ethics of the Bush Administration, you can usually count on their incompetence when executing policies and programs. The experts on prisoner interrogation speak (from NYT).

WASHINGTON, May 29 — As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods — possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda — are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history.

The science board critique comes as ethical concerns about harsh interrogations are being voiced by current and former government officials. The top commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, sent a letter to troops this month warning that “expedient methods” using force violated American values.

In a blistering lecture delivered last month, a former adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “immoral” some interrogation tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon.

But in meetings with intelligence officials and in a 325-page initial report completed in December, the researchers have pressed a more practical critique: there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.

Published in: on May 30, 2007 at 9:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Hitchens in the basement

Christopher Hitchens’s new book, God Is Not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything, has been much in the news, as it is the latest popular book espousing militant atheism. In fact, it tops the NYT nonfiction bestseller list. You can imagine my surprise when I was at the North Michigan Avenue Border’s bookstore today and did not see it on the shelf with their other discounted bestsellers. They did have it stocked in their atheist section downstairs, but not at a discount even though that is what they advertised on their web site.

Good business sense would place a number one seller in the place of highest traffic in the store. I wonder why they have chosen not to do this with the book. I hope it is not from fear of offending some religious sensibilities.

Published in: on May 28, 2007 at 7:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mysterious Postcard

I found a postcard amongst the detritus on my desk yesterday. The front of the card is a recipe for Texas chili courtesy of the Lone Star Brewing Company. On the back, it says this:

Tejas was as wonderful as expected. Its (sic) off to Detroit this week and Madison next. Ecuador for 2 mo’s after that! Woot Woot

The card is unsigned and sends merely to Lynn without a street or city address. The handwriting is familiar, yet I cannot assign a name to it.

I am sure there is an explanation as to how it found its way to my desk, but I’ll be damned if I know how.

Published in: on May 28, 2007 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Meta-man

You cannot cure the mind of philosophy without using philosophy.

Arthur C. Danto

I take this to mean that philosophy traps us unless we refuse to do it as in “just say no to philosophy.” Is it possible to say no? Even the rudest of us wax philosophically in our more unguarded moments such as when we have had too much liquor. That is no problem unless we want to philosophize well.

Many times, the only philosophical question that interests me is what philosophy is. I feel the same way about mathematics—what is it? The same goes for me—who am I? Meta-theory and meta-questions count for more in my world. Most likely, they arise from my “haughty indolence” and laziness than anything else. I yearn for the view from nowhere. I want to transcend and stand outside the world, knowing full well, it is impossible.

Love is the same way. “I want to know what love is,” rather than experience it.

Yet on this beautiful spring morning, the world in her particularity embraces me and completely enfolds me in her arms. The world forbids me, in this way, to spend the entire day trying to answer meta-questions and escape to the place where the view is from nowhere. Gazing at the trees in full leaf or meeting the new woman who will lightly tap my arm to make her point and kiss me on the cheek when she says goodbye seem far the more important thing to do.

Debris of Life and Mind

There is so little that is close and warm.
It is as if we were never children.

Sit in the room. It is true in the moonlight
That it is as if we had never been young.

We ought not to be awake. It is from this
That a bright red woman will be rising

And, standing in violent golds, will brush her hair.
She will speak thoughtfully the words of a line.

She will think about them not quite able to sing.
Besides, when the sky is so blue, things sing themselves,

Even for her, already for her. She will listen
And feel that her color is a meditation,

The most gay and yet not so gay as it was.
Stay here. Speak of familiar things a while.

Wallace Stevens

Published in: on May 28, 2007 at 8:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Dawdling through the universal holocaust

What should you do when the universal holocaust comes? Grab a book of poetry. Read until death comes. Let it remind you that the dream of reason is merely that. Let the book rot beside your rotting flesh.

Published in: on May 25, 2007 at 10:43 am  Comments (2)  

The Stranger Adrift

The Motive of Metaphor

You like it under the trees in autumn,
Because everything is half dead.
The wind moves like a cripple among the leaves
And repeats words without meaning.

In the same way, you were happy in spring,
With the half colors of quarter-things,
The slightly brighter sky, the melting clouds,
The single bird, the obscure moon—

The obscure moon lighting an obscure world
Of things that would never be quite expressed,
Where you yourself were never quite yourself
And did not want nor have to be,

Desiring the exhilarations of changes:
The motive for metaphor, shrinking from
The weight of primary noon,
The A B C of being,

The ruddy temper, the hammer
Of red and blue, the hard sound—
Steel against intimation—the sharp flash,
The vital, arrogant, fatal, dominant X.

Wallace Stevens

We went to my place after the baseball game on a beautiful evening. We were sitting on my balcony drinking espresso, for I had no alcohol at my place. I rarely drink at home or alone anymore, and usually I am home alone, exactly the way I like it, since my place functions as a place to sleep, write, and read.

The essence rather than the particulars of our conversation went something like this.

“Lynn, you appear not to think the way I expect you to think and want you to think,” she said.
(beat)
“You do not say the things you used to say. You do not say the things I want you to say.”
(beat)
“You do not do the things you used to do. You do not do the things I want you to do.”
(beat)
“I suppose I have changed. I am not the person I used to be or knew,” I said.
(beat)
“I don’t think I like the new you,” she said.
(beat)
“Maybe, that is not fair. I don’t know you anymore. You might be alright, but I just don’t know,” she added.

I had no rejoinder. I have changed during the past five years. On many days, I do not even recognize myself. The difference now is that I no longer dwell on the stranger within. No matter who he is, I am stuck with him with no expeditious way to evict him.

I am the sum of my doings, experience, and memories. My days consist of writing from before sunrise until the sun has passed its zenith. Then I read for a spell. What can I say about the experience? I can say nothing. Even if I had something to say, it would be boring—boring exactly like what I am writing now.

However, in fairness to those who have not witnessed or who did observe the changes in me, I should tread lightly when around them. I am a stranger to them even though I often do not feel as if I am. I do not want to make my friends uncomfortable.

I have reached a state in which I always wanted to be. I am unanchored and unmoored. I drift upon the sea. Some days, such as this, the weather is calm and fine. When the storms hit, then it is simply scary. The storm does not cause fear: being alone in it does. To say that is merely to say something as banal as life is what it is.

I can tell you one thing though. I would not trade this placid day of drifting upon the sea even though I had to kill the old me and let a stranger onto the ship to enjoy the day.

Published in: on May 25, 2007 at 9:52 am  Leave a Comment  

From where does the pride of certain Christians come from?

One of the things perplexing me about certain Christians is how proud and congratulatory they are about their beliefs or newfound faith. When I slid into religious skepticism from being a Christian, I felt no such exaltation or elation. I matched the propositions of Christianity and religion in general against religious skepticism and arrived at the conclusion that religious skepticism had much the better arguments for its propositions. It was no big deal. I was relieved that I had resolved for the moment some doubts and conjectures, but that was about it.

Of course, as a religious skeptic, the belief in prodigies and miracles that attend religious belief mystify me now, but I am not talking about that.

I can see where if someone proved a difficult mathematics theorem one might feel proud of having done so. Yet religious faith and belief are so mundane, ordinary, and common I cannot understand why people feel that they have come to some radical conclusion of which they should be proud. The child is rightly proud the first time she ties her shoes by herself, but afterwards it is no big thing.

Given the banal ordinariness of religious faith, I do not see why one should be anymore proud of it than say walking about the world on a normal day.

From whence does this pride come from when one is running with the pack and doing what many others are mindlessly doing?

Published in: on May 24, 2007 at 11:57 am  Comments (2)  

Persuade Me

For the rabble, such as me, philosophy seems more a matter of temperament and sentiment. Which philosophers from the Western philosophical canon do I regard the most? David Hume for one. Why? I find his writing and empirical skepticism the most agreeable. I agree with Kant that our minds condition our notions of causality, etc., yet Hume’s skepticism always seems a prudent first step when analyzing propositions that leave one feeling uneasy about their truth—ah, the truth and its arguments.

Philosophy is partially about answering important questions. Regarding one’s preferences for answers as matters of temperament and sentiment seems antithetical to the philosophical enterprise. I wonder if it is unavoidable. I do not believe in projects of pure rational inquiry. Passion guides us in selecting those problems and writers who engage us into thinking about answers.

The debates over the distinctions and objectives of continental versus analytic philosophy make me cold. They are two sides of the same coin. To me philosophy should promote persuasive dialogue and argumentation. Yet we find in both schools, continental and analytic, an arid analyticity. I view Aquinas as the paradigm example of persuasive dialogue. We have disputed questions. We have the best arguments for and against. This seems more informative and compelling than the treatise that does not present the other side of an argument.

Philosophy is a collection of disputed questions. One may feel that one has arrived at a probable certainty about them, yet the questions remain in dispute, for others have not arrived at your position.

I lament the sorry state of political discourse in the U.S. Disputed questions abound; persuasive dialogue and argumentation are scarce. I want to know the truth, but I also want someone to persuade me of it. That is the human connection. It turns a foe into a neighbor whom I respect.

Informal logic and persuasive dialogue are nearly nonexistent. These days, to dispute a question automatically is to become the enemy of many people. Affirmation and refutation are merely matters of pronouncing propositions true or false depending on sentiment.

This returns us to philosophical preferences and the sentiments that give rise to them. What guard is there against the danger of philosophy being merely sentiment and agreeability to one’s prejudices? Informal logic, persuasive dialogue, and critical argumentation are the key. One of the cornerstones of a good education is the productive ability to participate in persuasive dialogue and critical argumentation, yet there are few classes teaching the subject. What would Aquinas think of our current state of affairs?

I know there are many who do not believe in the efficacy of rational discourse, or at least that is what they claim. Their opinion often evaporates when they want to engage in persuasive dialogue and their opponent will not engage in the practice or rules. Then we often hear much lamenting about their opponent’s unwillingness to play fair and by the rules.

Persuasive argumentation does not prevent the more egregious kind of violence we expect from tyrants and bigots. Violence in return is sometimes unavoidable. However, resorting to violence as a first step in every disagreement rather than attempting to persuade or negotiate is a fatal mistake.

When one disputes a question and still disagrees with one’s opponent, then at least one can say more than “I disagree.” One can say, “I am not persuaded.” The emotional impact is significantly different between the two statements. This distinction is mostly lost on many people. In politics, we have the hopelessly ideologically committed. No amount of logic or evidence will move them beyond those commitments.

Some people think that the current state of U.S. politics has grown more shrill and unforgiving. History shows that it is not. What has changed though is that there are fewer people willing to engage in persuasive dialogue. People merely assert answers, propagandize for them, and close issues to disputation. The media aids the process. What can be more entertaining than watching two emotionally motivated opponents violently battle it out, whether on The Jerry Springer Show, Fox News, or CNN? At the end of it all, disputants accomplish nothing.

Maybe, persuasive dialogue seduces me like a well-narrated myth. However, for now, if you want to convince me, then logically persuade me. I will do my best to return the favor. Otherwise, just put your gun to my head. I will assent to about anything when that happens.

Published in: on May 24, 2007 at 10:19 am  Comments (2)  

The Christian Left: why apologize for the Christian Right?

Rajiv Chandrasekaran documents the doings of the Coalition Provisional Authority in his Imperial Life in the Emerald City (Amazon). The book does an excellent job of exposing the errors and faults of the CPA and the causes of those mistakes.

One of those faults lay in the staffing of the CPA. Loyalty to President Bush was a necessity for obtaining a job. What is even more disturbing is that sharing the religious beliefs of the Christian Right was enough to land a job. Experience in crisis management, technical skills for the job, and previous experience in wartime reconstruction did not matter. What is particularly disturbing about this is the hiring of Christian right-wingers with no qualification for their jobs.

Recently, some on the Christian left have downplayed the threat of the theocratic Christian Right. Either these Christian leftists do not see challenging the Christian Right as a priority or they provide apologetics for them by their over sensitivity to critiques of religion and its excesses.

Make no mistake though. The Iraq experience shows exactly how damaging the dogmas of the Christian Right truly are. Faith not only trumps truth, but also trumps expertise, experience, and dedication. With the lives of our troops and the lives of hopeful Iraqi’s on the line, the Bush Administration chose religious loyalists over those with the competence and expertise to do the job.

We will risk many more lives and lose many more lives until we confront and neutralize the more pernicious dogmas and excesses of the Christian Right as exemplified by President Bush.

The Christian left does not do a good job policing the more militant in their ranks, especially when it comes to political beliefs. Its politicians too often compromise life-affirming spiritual values. Too often, we hear apologetics for excesses. We too often hear reportage such as the fawning eulogies of Jerry Falwell broadcast across mainstream media.

Holding a religious belief is one thing. Aligning that belief with politics is quite a different matter. Leftists should not forget there is an all out struggle with the Christian Right for political control of the country. To forget that is to lose and live an impoverished spiritual and material life.

Published in: on May 23, 2007 at 3:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Desire: the voyage

I meet people who yearn for someone new or different in their lives. Yet when they find the new person and the new person confronts them, they return to the established way. It is as if they want to sail across the ocean, yet they cannot step aboard the ship taking them out to sea.

I wonder how many people repeat this endless cycle of yearning and desire. I wonder if the desire itself is self-fulfilling and meets a real emotional need and goal—desiring for the sake of desiring.

Then there are those who never venture to the shore even though they live in a wasteland that destroys any chance they have for happiness and well-being. They cling to the memory of the person who has abandoned them. What does one say to this sort of person when one chances upon them? They are deaf. What does one do to help them? They do not process rational argument. How does one steer them from misguided passions? Their stubborn misguided passions are self-fulfilling—passion for the sake of passion.

I know these are all surface level observations. I wish I possessed the requisite curiosity and energy to pursue these reflections further. I doubt if I do.

Published in: on May 22, 2007 at 8:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Paul Wolfowitz: ethics 101 for the confused

Most large organizations have codes of ethics. Let us not be cynical, at least for the moment, and say that they are developed in good faith to check the more egregious and self-serving errors of their employees. Nobody likes scandal; even scoundrels want to be counted as just. Along with these codes of ethics comes a list of appropriate punishments for ethics violations. One of those is dismissal from the organization.

Enter Paul Wolfowitz whom violated World Bank ethics by rewarding his girlfriend with outsized compensation and promotions. The World Bank asked that he resign rather than go through the routine firing. My experience in the business world is that this is entirely consistent with standard business codes of ethics. Nothing about this routine case warrants the kind of ink it has gotten.

Yet the defenders of Wolfowitz claim that it is politically motivated. Ethics violations they would not accept in their own organizations they freely accept in the case of Wolfowitz. However, he violated World Bank ethics. That he is the leader of the World Bank makes it even less acceptable since he should embody the ethical standard for his organization.

Either an organization can have a code of ethics that leaders fairly administer and enforce, or it can have a code of ethics that is a sham and mockery of fairness. Those who claim that the World Bank has unfairly castigated and dismissed Wolfowitz might reflect upon the codes of ethics and the standards of fairness they would like to have in their own organization. How would they feel if the leader of their organization passed them over for a promotion and a good raise because the leader gave those rewards to someone with whom he is romantically attached?

Some defenders of Wolfowitz claim to apply an absolute, unqualified, and universal moral standard to everyone while suspending those requirements for cronies or those whose politics and ideology they find agreeable. This is a rank piece of hypocrisy. If there is logic to morals, it is also inconsistent.

In short, either organizations have fair enforceable codes of ethics for all, or they do not. You cannot have it both ways.

A note in passing: Woflowitz is getting a lucrative severance package. World Bank employees are outraged. This happens more often than not. We should not feel sorry for Paul Wolfowitz on this score. He will be able to make ends meet.

Published in: on May 21, 2007 at 7:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Baseball, Romance, and God: this weekend’s edition

I have been busy this weekend watching baseball, performing an amateur psychological analysis on the personality of a woman I know, and thinking about the nonexistence of god in light of all those people who still believe in god.

The Cubs have taken two games from the White Sox so far this weekend. I am a Cubs fan; thus, I am happy about that, while admitting that the White Sox have self destructed in the late innings of both games.

As far as the amateur psychological analysis goes, its origin begins with a certain woman who has rejected my advances, even though she admits I am cute, smart, and at times kind of fun. My original take is that she a person of low self-esteem who feels she is not worthy of my attentions, but that, upon reflection, seems a little harsh and mean-spirited on my part. Fortunately, it does not matter, for I tend not to dwell these days on women who will not have me. I am a geezer; life is short. Part of the fun of the chase is to test limits and possibilities rather than set high expectations for success. The chase was, in general, fun although frustrating at times. Yet I am lucky in that I still consider myself custom made from head to toe even though that alone will not always carry the day. One must always take into account the other person’s desires, limitations, etc. when it comes to romance or sex. In particular, one should think no less of a very nice person no matter what the outcome.

Militant atheism is much on my mind these days. In what cases should a skeptic be militant or passive based on a belief that religion seems to arise naturally in humans? I do not feel that persuasive argumentation converts many from a belief in god. As I have said before, it is not that kind of thing. This means conditions must be put in place to prevent the spread of the more virulent and destructive forms of fundamentalism and dogmatism. Does secularism by itself provide the prophylactic? The answer most likely is no—not by itself. A combination of persuasive argumentation at its best, secularism, and a new rhetoric designed to create a passionate and meaningful humanist spirituality is necessary.

Oh well, the day moves on rather quickly and I will devote it to watching today’s Cubs vs. White Sox game and hanging out with some out of town friends, which is always has a very interesting dynamic creating interesting situations.

“Win or lose, after game, we all go out and eat pizza.” Or in my case get a little shit-faced.

Published in: on May 20, 2007 at 7:34 am  Leave a Comment  

The ebb and flow of the examined life

I am going to the Cubs/White Sox game at Wrigley Field this afternoon, which, of course, will be fun. However, I will miss my writing and philosophy reading time today. They have become important to me again.

These things ebb and flow. What remains constant though is that the unexamined life is indeed not worth living.

Published in: on May 18, 2007 at 8:07 am  Comments (1)  

Hitchens Eulogizes Falwell

Very topical since I plan on buying Hitchens’s latest book, God Is Not Great, this afternoon.

Published in: on May 17, 2007 at 12:22 pm  Comments (4)  

Presidential Election 2008: special State Street betting edition

As you well know, we do it at State Street so you don’t have to.

Here are some of the more interesting odds on the 2008 Presidential election at my Internet sports bookie.

Rick Santorum 80-1, good grief! Don’t sell your Bibles just yet. It could be the law of the land.

Alberto Gonzalez 100-1, come on, baby, tap my wire.

George W. Bush 200-1, isn’t that illegal? Maybe, there will be a Presidential signing order changing it.

Bill Clinton, 300-1, if Dubya can run, then why not Bill?

Laura Bush 500-1, can she keep George corralled on the ranch?

Bill O’Reilly 750-1, he’s been leading some people by the nose for years. He’s certainly qualified.

Michael Moore 1000-1, he can make a movie, Burnin’ Down the House.

Pat Robertson 2000-1, Michael Moore has more betting action than he. He must be livid.

Published in: on May 17, 2007 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Toxic Political Blogs

I do not read the toxic political blogs. What is a toxic political blog? One, it contains lots of barely disguised or blatantly undisguised name-calling. Two, reason, logical argumentation, and tips of the hat to experience and reality are mostly nonexistent. Unfortunately, the majority of political blogs, whether right or left, are of this variety. Three, they are always busy demonizing political leaders; they forget the wise injunction to know thy enemy. To correct their factual content or remark on the unsoundness of their arguments automatically makes you suspect or one of the bad guys.

Anger and vituperation do not turn me on no matter from where it comes. (I struggle to avoid them when I write this blog.) I do not understand why people enjoy reading these blogs. Is there a ready to hand psychoanalytic explanation for it? Would I enjoy them if I were not primarily interested in political philosophy and its relation to current political affairs?

I feel that anyone who engages with a toxic political blog does so at his or her own peril. She or he will either validate their own ignorance via popular approval, or engage in angry and irreconcilable disputes. Some people write merely to dispute, no matter what the point, or are completely disingenuous. The best thing is leaving them to their own devices rather than engage with them.

I enjoy the political blogs where discourse and persuasive argumentation takes place in a productive environment regardless of the politics of the author. I just say no to toxic political blogs.

Published in: on May 16, 2007 at 11:01 am  Comments (4)  

Just say no to Middle East conflict

Edward Luttwak challenges the conventional wisdom about the Middle East. From The middle of nowhere in Prospect (link via ald):

Western analysts are forever bleating about the strategic importance of the middle east. But despite its oil, this backward region is less relevant than ever, and it would be better for everyone if the rest of the world learned to ignore it

Just say no to Middle East conflict. It’s much too practical; it’ll never work.

Published in: on May 16, 2007 at 8:05 am  Comments (1)  

Hugo Chavez: some logic please

One of the favorite epithets some on the right throw at Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is that he is a dictator. However, Chavez is a democratically elected leader—not to mention very popular in his country. (President Bush must be seething.)

Democratically elected leaders are by definition not dictators. Don’t blame me; blame the concept and its definition.

Published in: on May 15, 2007 at 3:12 pm  Comments (6)  

Who is the dupe?

The results of the Iraq Occupation came out exactly the opposite the Bush Administration desired. Let’s briefly review some of them.

Terrorism: Iraq is the new recruiting and training ground for al Qaeda. Getting them out will be near impossible.

Democracy: The Iraqi government is a hostage in the Green Zone. The only forces in Iraq who care about protecting them are U.S. troops. The chance for democracy in Iraq is gone.

Thriving Economy: The Iraq economy is shattered even though it sits on top of one the world’s great oil reserves. The middle class has fled the country. Nobody cares about the so-called wonders of free markets when there are no electricity, water, or health services. Unless you are in the defense or security business, you will not invest there, and maybe, not even then.

Peace and Security: Sectarian violence reigns supreme.

Yet none of the failed policies and strategies has changed. The Bush gang will try the experiment all over again given the chance. One cannot excuse a failed ideology by claiming the goals were well intentioned.

One of the favored strategies of some on the right is to discredit leftists by charging them with supporting dictatorships or at a minimum being dupes of dictatorships. However, supporting dictators sympathetic with U.S. interests has never been much of a problem for them.

The charge of being a dupe irritates the most. In light of Iraq, who is the dupe?

Published in: on May 15, 2007 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Venezuela/Soviet Union Analogy: does it hold water?

Some people, such as sonia-belle, do not like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or his attempt to setup a socialist state based on democratic principles. However, we must remind ourselves that Chavez is wildly more popular within his country than President Bush is in his.

Opposition to and critiques of Chavez take several different forms. Some people create an analogy between the current Venezuelan state and the Soviet Union. Analogies are nice when the economic and political conditions, circumstances, and actions are the same. What we have here is an analogy that does not work on any of those levels. It would appear that those who use the analogy are trying to create a polemic that causes fear in those who do not have a surface level understanding of either event—the creation of the Soviet Union and the rise of Chavez. The reactionary attitude that eschews all observation and evidence as the basis for premises in an argument against Chavez is self-defeating for those who wish to demonize Chavez. Let us say that Chavez is a demon, a point I grant only for the sake of persuasive argument. Not understanding and acknowledging the conditions that give rise to his popularity and his socialist program will do nothing but enhance his chances for success unless one feels that misunderstanding and rancor will carry the day despite their almost universal shortcomings.

Every large-scale experiment with regime and economic change is dangerous. The Chavez experiment is much less so than most. First, Chavez is playing off the global economy for Venezuela’s own purposes. Being an oil rich country he has the wisdom to sell it to the highest bidders rather than let neoliberal regimes bribe and corrupt him, and exploit the Venezuelan people. This bone sticks in the throats of neoliberal/neocon throats. Global trade is always wonderful right up until the point you are not the obvious winner.

Chavez is also building a grassroots participatory democracy to enhance local and regional economies. This has also made him very popular with the Venezuelan people.

The global capital game is played by bribe, corruption, unfair trade practices, and assassination if need be. This is another point that grates upon those who hate Chavez. Thus far, the Washington Consensus folks have not corrupted him nor deterred him from establishing a different kind of socialist state where the worker’s interests hold top priority.

We can expect all manner of scare tactics when it comes to Chavez. The Soviet Union analogy is the one that holds no water.

Published in: on May 13, 2007 at 10:24 am  Comments (2)  

Tailor Made for Drifting & Dreaming

Another glorious day in the city: the kind of day tailor made for drifting and dreaming, or rather, writing, for what good is writing if it is not partially drifting and dreaming. Sorry, but all this blog is good for today is a postcard. But I think of you often & fondly, Reader.

Published in: on May 10, 2007 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Boot Liquor: Dial it Up!

Recall the virtues of Boot Liquor alternative country radio on somafm.com. You can learn everything you need to know about love, romance, and drinkin’ there. The music is totally smokin’ too. Dial it up!

Published in: on May 9, 2007 at 12:26 pm  Comments (2)  

Rebellion, Please

The present interest of the problem of rebellion only springs from the fact that nowadays whole societies have wanted to discard the sacred. We live in an unsacrosanct moment in history. Insurrection is certainly not the sum total of human experience. But history today, with all its storm and strife, compels us to say that rebellion is one of the essential dimensions of man. It is our historic reality. Unless we choose to ignore reality, we must find our values in it. Is it possible to find a rule of conduct outside the realm of religion and its absolute values? That is the question raised by rebellion.

The Rebel, Albert Camus

According to Camus (The Rebel) to rebel is to confirm a positive and universal value. One can rebel against oppression merely for personal reasons and from self-interest; however, the rebel more often views her revolt as part of a larger revolt in the name of the all humanity. Altruism overrides egoism.

His notion has an air of humanist spirituality to it. Revolt is not merely a negative act against oppression, but a positive yes to certain positive universal values. Rebellion asserts the spiritual values of love and reverence for, and trust in humanity.

U.S. foreign policy fails to grasp Camus’s essential point. Other countries and societies have rebelled against U.S. foreign policies. Many have denied this, scratched their heads in bewilderment, or branded the rebellions forms of evil.

Some illusory rebellions are authoritarian fundamentalist religious reactions that deny universal rights including freedom of conscience. They deny human value and positive spirituality despite cloaked in religious values. We see this dangerous trend in the U.S. These are not true rebellions, but forms of resentment, and promote the interests of the few at the expense of the many.

Some popular democratic rebellions, such as that underway in Venezuela, affirm positive values, and promote a different road to democracy than the shallow democracy building policies espoused by the Bush Administration, which has brought the tragic and bizarre spectacle we witness each day in Iraq.

What drives many of Chavez’s detractors crazy is that his popularity has grown since he was first elected. President Bush should be envious if he is not. His popularity does not arise only from a more equitable distribution of oil wealth, but also because he is pushing Venezuela toward a grassroots participatory democracy (see open democracy).

U.S. foreign policy is too often based upon acceptable collateral damage. The value of human life is debased to zero by it. Many view the U.S. as the oppressor. Whether the U.S. is the oppressor or not, we must accept how others view the U.S. and how it views itself. Contrary views abound. The U.S. does not appreciate its own Bill of Rights. Why should others? Seeing people as collateral damage is the rhetoric of the terrorist. “Calling it your job doesn’t make it right, Boss.” Until the U.S. participates in positive rebellions, many will view it as the problem rather than part of the solution.

Just say yes to rebellion, please.

Published in: on May 9, 2007 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  

The Queen and I

While sitting in the bar yesterday, I learned from a friend one must take a course in etiquette before meeting Queen Elizabeth.

Prior to yesterday, I dreamt I was to meet the Queen. Some royalty, sexy women, came to teach me the appropriate etiquette. I did not learn a damned thing, as I was distracted and aroused. I did not mind. (As I recall, one of the women liked me too and found me attractive.)

How odd to have anticipated that piece of information in a dream. Or did I learn it before I dreamt and chuck into the basement out of sight?

I can still see the royal woman who struck me most (the one who liked me, of course): thirty-something, tall, dirty blonde hair, green eyes, and an impish smile that hinted big trouble. Three cheers for big trouble.

Queen who?

Published in: on May 8, 2007 at 11:37 am  Leave a Comment  

I think of her often and fondly

Thinking as she slept, she thought that she would never again be able to sleep this way, and she began to sob in her sleep, and she slept sobbing, without changing position on her side of the bed, until long after the roosters crowed and she was awakened by the despised sun of the morning without him. Only then did she realize that she had slept a long time without dying, sobbing in her sleep, and that while she slept, sobbing, she had thought more about Florentino Ariza than about her dead husband.

Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Sometimes, the recollection of a book comes unbidden and seemingly from nowhere. Such is the case with me and Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, which documents Florentino’s Ariza’s long unrequited love for Fermina Daza, and his complete immersion into sensuality to compensate for it. It confronts as a paradigm of the erotic, existential, and spiritual.

This morning, I yearn for a woman who long ago passed from my life. I feel a thread connects me to her. She is the one with whom I could have happily spent the rest of my years. I am free to choose whether to cut the thread or leave it attached. I choose the thin and fragile attachment.

The popular expressions “get over it” and “move on” are pieces of silliness masquerading as pithy wisdom. Whenever I hear them, it grates mightily upon my soul. Getting over a heartbreak one brought upon oneself is overrated. I must dwell upon the past to be open to the future, for the future is a strange mix of fate and personal choice informed by past failures and successes.

This post is so banal and boring, yet it is all I have to offer this morning. I have grown habituated to publicly wearing my heart on my sleeve. That is what happens when the need to write overwhelms reason.

However, I have learned recently that reason is not all it claims to be. Without passion, reason never leads anywhere. I have read the opening section of Hume’s An Inquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals many times. He discusses his controversial statement in his Treatise that reason is the slave of passion. He dials down the volume of that statement in the Inquiry by approaching morals through his experimental method and lets observation tell us what it will. It took me a long time to embrace the notion that passion plays as important a role in life as reason. I read the opening section now and it finally speaks intimately to me.

I can scarcely believe I have lived my whole life with a blind trust in reason alone. It is not that I have acted upon the trust, for somewhere in my soul’s basement, out of sight, passion has overruled reason on more occasions than not. I am just damned lucky that it has worked out well many times for me.

Avoiding heartache when it comes to love is not necessarily all for the best. It comes with the territory. It is the price of admission to gain the attention of the one you feel you love.

Of course, there are all the other women out there who would not mind dialing it up with for a little while. One of them might be the next good thing in my life. Life must contain something more than whiskey, writing, indolence, and idle paltry philosophizing. Or did I irrevocably miss the one good chance I had with an exquisite woman?

She would be upset with me if she knew I was writing about her this way. However, I can say I love her still. This is not a base revenge. I always close my letters to her with “I think of you often and fondly,” the truest words I have ever spoken.

She just happens to be the object of my love on this warm spring day. It is merely a strange blend of fate and freedom.

Published in: on May 8, 2007 at 9:32 am  Comments (4)