Fantasy baseball and chess

The MLB season ended this week. Congratulations to the Red Sox and Rockies. My fantasy baseball season ended September 30. I won the Pippin’s league, finished second in a Yahoo public league, made the MLB.com championship round with two teams, and finished in the first division both halves of the Sporting News season. Almost every morning the first thing I did after I woke up was manage my fantasy teams. I think I will limit myself to two leagues next year.

I have been playing a lot of Internet chess and studying the game the past two weeks. As I write this I feel as if I have emerged from a cave. Even though I am a rank amateur and always will be, I really forgot a lot about the game after a five year layoff. Some things, however, are coming back to me.

The mix of enjoyment, anxiety, and escape I get from playing games on the Internet probably deserves further analysis, but it is a nice day and must go out and enjoy some of it.

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Published in: on October 30, 2007 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Notes on the drinking life

I was told on good authority by a wonderful friend to put this post back. So here it is.

I think about the old days when I drank alone. That may have been best, for at least I was honest. Everybody who drinks hard really wants to drink alone.

Published in: on October 26, 2007 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Iraq Costs: Hypothetical or inconsequential

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations at $2.4 trillion over the next decade. For you kids keeping score at home, that’s $8,000 per U.S. citizen. The White House dismissed the estimate as hypothetical. I take “hypothetical” as a code word for inconsequential.

Watch you wallet.

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 8:52 am  Comments (2)  

Chess

About a week ago, I accepted a challenge from a friend to play him a game of Internet chess. I am not a good player, but there have been several times when I have gone overboard studying and playing the game. It has happened again. Now, I have many leisurely games going on at once and I am playing against my chess computer too. Even my fantasy sports and sports betting have suffered for it.

I would write more, but it is my move in one of the games and I must get back to the board.

Published in: on October 23, 2007 at 7:40 am  Comments (2)  

Iraq: freedom, anarchy, and democracy

The invasion of Iraq changed that country from a dictatorship to an anarchical state. I wonder how many Iraqis would gladly trade anarchy for a dictatorship more benign than Saddam’s. A period of relative safety and peace joined with some economic improvement might tempt many people.

The injustice of creating a state of anarchy for the Iraqis through blind ambition, ignorance of the work and time it takes to build a democratic state, and incompetence and corruption on a massive scale ought to leave its mark on the minds of Americans. I wonder if it will though. Saying you are for freedom and democracy masks more convenient motives such as assuring your own economic interests are taken care of and creating a state of fear that bodes well for your own political aspirations.

Let us assume the future for Iraq remains bright; that is, Iraq will pass from dictatorship, through anarchy, and then democracy. A question that ought to be asked is whether there was a better way, a way where the toll of human misery was greatly lessened. Or will the mistake be repeated whenever the convenience for an outside conquerer coincides with democracy building?

In one sense the U.S. has created the ultimate in freedom for Iraqis–anarchy. You cannot get anymore free than that.

Published in: on October 16, 2007 at 7:50 am  Comments (1)  

Bridges

OK, I admit I am watching Bridges of Madison County on TV at almost midnight on Sunday. Leave me alone. I am from Iowa for golly sakes. Besides, the movie is better than the novel. And yes, I’ll probably cry at the end of it.

Published in: on October 14, 2007 at 11:53 pm  Comments (1)  

The universal ability to do political philosophy

My intellectual interests have returned almost entirely to reading and thinking about political philosophy and politics. One might ask whether I possess the competence to assess concepts and arguments within political philosophy and judge policies based on the beliefs I derive from my study. I exclude political science from this since I am in no way competent to participate in that academic field.

One school might say that I most certainly possess the competence. Political philosophy is based upon concepts and arguments derived from common experience. Philosophizing about politics is an activity that belongs to all of us. It would seem that a requirement for political equality and universal suffrage is the ability of everyone to do political philosophy whether that be their inclination or not. Otherwise, we would have people with suffrage who could not possibly judge practical policies and programs based on political principles that are understood rather than accepted through ideological indoctrination. In the absence of the ability of some to do political philosophy universal suffrage becomes problematic.

Another school of thought takes an opposite view. Political philosophy is not for everyone since either by nature or circumstance they do not possess the requisite intellect or skills to do it. That strain of thought has always run through the ideas of oligarchs, aristocrats, and conservatives. I am confident I am not making a normative judgment when I say this about them, rather I am merely echoing the ideas and arguments of those folks.

My commitment to study and think about political philosophy outside institutions and organizations designed to do that almost commits me to making a choice between considering myself favorably endowed to do it where others are not, or deciding I have the ability to do it by a common nature we all possess. We all possess a common set of ethical concerns. To the extent that politics is a natural extension of these common ethical concerns means that political philosophy is as important and common as deciding what is right or wrong, good or bad, etc. in our personal lives.

I come out on the side of common and universal nature that is suited to the study of political philosophy. We all can do political philosophy whether we choose to or not. Whatever my attainment in the study of political philosophy it is not necessarily a fruitless or hopeless exercise of my intellect.

Published in: on October 14, 2007 at 1:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

War and anarchy

World politics exists in a primitive anarchic state. The lack of world governing bodies and institutions that aid in obtaining rights, equality, and justice in the political and economic spheres make it so. We should not be surprised when events show that it is a war of all against all.

Published in: on October 13, 2007 at 10:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gringo tour guide

She’s back after three weeks in Mexico. She sent me a postcard, one she picked up at the casino where I stayed in Las Vegas. She wants to quit her job, move to San Miguel, and be a gringo tour guide.

I volunteer to be one of the gringos.

Published in: on October 13, 2007 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is the Iraq War really about the oil?

Jim Holt explores an interesting thesis about the cause of the Iraq War in his article It’s the Oil in the London Review of Books. Bush and Cheney may have gotten exactly what they wanted from the Iraq War. It goes like this. Iraq may have as much as one quarter of the world’s oil reserves, reserves that are easily exploited. At today’s prices, it’s worth $30 trillion dollars. The current Iraq oil revenue sharing plan guarantees that most of the profits will go to U.S. oil production firms.

Further, the U.S. is building military super-bases within the country to protect the oil fields. These bases will remain for decades.

On the geo-political front, U.S. control of Iraq oil fields negates the power of other oil producing nations such as Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia. With one quarter of the world’s oil under its control, the U.S. becomes a price setter rather than a price taker. China needs a continued source of cheap oil if it is to continue its economic growth and fund its military buildup. If the Chinese ever decided to dump the large amount of U.S. debt they own, the U.S. has the ability to retaliate by denying them cheap oil.

On the domestic front, is there anything more docile than an American with cheap gas in the tank of his car?

Holt cites Alan Greenspan:

Alan Greenspan, in his just published memoir, is clearer on the matter. ‘I am saddened,’ he writes, ‘that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.’

Sad indeed. And in case you did not know, Alan Greenspan is no liberal or socialist, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Published in: on October 11, 2007 at 12:01 pm  Comments (2)  

Pretension

An acquaintance, an intelligent well read man actually, walked into the bar, stood next to me, saw the book I was reading, The Common Sense of Politics by Mortimer J. Adler, read the opening paragraph, and then said to me that he no longer reads my blog because my writing is pretentious. He said I should write more angrily and reflect the real me. He also said I should write my own book, or something like that. Then he walked out without even ordering a drink.

Let’s assume my pretension camouflages my anger. I suppose I should curb my anger before worrying about the pretentiousness, or I could just not worry about it.

Published in: on October 10, 2007 at 7:28 am  Comments (2)  

A new breed of conservative

Let us assume the Constitution of the United States is in letter and spirit a conservative document. Further, let us set that beside the approval many conservatives in the U.S. have given surveillance of U.S citizens without court issued warrants. This kind of surveillance seems contrary to the Fourth Amendment right of Americans to be secure from illegal searches and seizures. It would seem that conservatives would join ranks with those on the left in opposing illegal search and seizure outside judicial and legislative review. Illegal search and siezure is one of the defining characteristics of a tyrannical regime that has no regard for basic liberties that might be used to oppose the regime.

In fact, what people who oppose the Bush Administration on this issue want is the restoration of a court that operates in secrecy in overseeing secret executive agencies. This in no way impedes the government’s attempt to discover and apprehend suspected terrorists. Yet it does provide at least some check on unbridled executive power and a preventive for abuse.

On the other hand, surveillance without warrant or judicial review opens the door to loss of liberty and the creation of a despotic police state. To be secure in one’s papers is to be secure in one’s property, for our papers are one of our most important properties. One of the central tenants of traditional conservatism is respect and protection of personal property.

However, what we have now is a new breed of conservative, unmindful of traditional liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and who do not care if those liberties are protected by vigorous action from the Executive and the courts. A long time ago, during my conservative days, I would never have believed such a breed would have come to call themselves conservatives.

Times have changed.

Published in: on October 9, 2007 at 3:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

The consolation of gambling

The Diamondbacks swept the Cubs from the playoffs in three straight games. This is the morning after, the time when grim reality seems exactly as it is. I look at it this way though. Tottenham vs. Liverpool is being broadcast on my TV. I need Liverpool to win as part of a four team English Premier League parlay bet. The focus on the new game arrests the morbidity associated with remembering the Cubs’ terrible series.

One of the nice things about gambling is that it keeps you occupied with winning today and tomorrow rather than reflecting too much on past losses.

Published in: on October 7, 2007 at 9:22 am  Comments (2)  

Girlfriends: how would I know?

After a couple minutes thinking about it tonight, I decided I really, really want a new girlfriend. But she cannot be somebody I meet and go out with and slide into the it’s-time-to-see-each-other-again thing. The next one must be the one whom, upon sight, I must I really, really want to see again all the time.

Maybe, things like that don’t happen. I have actually never tried it, so I would not know?

Published in: on October 7, 2007 at 1:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Utility is a good thing

It is now plain what our aims, future or actual, should be in urging, and what in deprecating, a proposal; the latter being the opposite of the former. Now the political or deliberative orator’s aim is utility: deliberation seeks to determine not ends but the means to ends, i.e. what it is most useful to do. Further, utility is a good thing. We ought therefore to assure ourselves of the main facts about Goodness and Utility in general.

The Rhetoric i 6, Aristotle

The Good is contested outside rhetoric. Or is it?

Published in: on October 6, 2007 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is thinking language?

I have never been a believer in the metaphor that thinking is language or the idea mind is structured like language. A sad event may impair my language skills, but I might still do arithmetic, draw a picture, appreciate a well played baseball game, etc. I reckon without language and refute “thinking is language” thus.

Published in: on October 4, 2007 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Protagoras

All men desire to know.

Metaphysics, Aristotle

The early days of Fall, the days when you cannot tell summer has gone: a hot spell invades the city. Yesterday, I immersed myself in Plato’s Protagoras and reflected on it in my journal. I have been at this dialogue, off and on, since Spring. This morning I feel as though I will never be done with Protagoras even though I know I must.

Today, I am back to reading Meno. Kirk’s The Conservative Mind and Deleuze and Guattari’s What Is Philosophy? sit on the table and beckon me too. I am a firm believer that one should always read several books at one time. The mind may discover new relationships between disparate ideas, and create new metaphors to link them.

Anyway, for me, these early Fall days, many times, lead to philosophy and the possibility of understanding a little more about the world. A book, a notebook, and a pen become the glorious tools used to construct grand reflections. Little does it matter that the book, notebook, and pen will one day be forgotten and lost for all time. I am a footprint on the beach waiting for the next wave to wash me away.

Published in: on October 4, 2007 at 12:49 pm  Comments (2)  

Britney and CNN: another conventional dreary story

I am watching CNN Headline news to see if there is any news of import which I should be aware. Britney Spears has lost custody of her two children. Larry King exclusively covers that story except for the hunt for a suspected child abuser.

The dreary story says a lot about us, whether you are like me, somebody who does not know the facts about Britney and does not care, or somebody else. Britney is not the dreary story, but CNN and the other networks are.

The dreary story has always been inextricably tied to the conventional. It is the cheapest way to validate our values no matter how hypocritically we may live our lives. Progress beyond the conventional seems a dream.

Published in: on October 2, 2007 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Personae and anonymity

Those of you who have never met me could find me easily if you wanted. My name, my address, my phone number, and where I hang out when not at home are easily available. I have not made a habit of giving my full name, address, or home phone number, but I do not fool myself that I am remaining anonymous by doing so. You can find them all via the information I have supplied on my blog.

Keeping one’s identity anonymous while keeping a blog seems a burdensome chore. If nothing else, it incites the curious to discover more about you than you would wish, and have them make it more public too. I cannot imagine that after three years the readers of this blog have not framed a picture of me whether flattering or not. Heck, I even posted my picture once without explicitly saying it was me. Anyone viewing it must have guessed it me from my descriptions of myself.

What might elude the curious are my personae, personae necessarily created from the act of writing. That leaves open the question, ‘who are you?’: one of the best questions of all time. This morning, I am the man with writer’s block who reads Plato’s Meno, which was open on the table by the computer when I woke, the man drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and the one who thinks about personae and anonymity and their relations.

We are by nature strangers or anonymous to ourselves. Writing is often a selfish indulgence in which we engage to discover ourselves or learn as much about our various personae as possible. The exercise runs the gamut between whining and complaining to profound introspection whose results might be applied universally to all of us.

I have a feeling, and it is only a feeling, the readers of this blog know me better than those who encounter me regularly in person. For instance, I do not know anyone who would sit still and listen to these things if I spoke them in conversation rather than wrote them. Part of that is my own doing, for I belong to a bar culture and society. I am not putting that culture down, but it is more amenable to emotion and assertions without accompanying argument. Of course, one shares books, the latest opinion of the theatre one has seen, political views, and the vicissitudes of love in that culture. But that is not this.

Each day, when we are free and at our leisure, we adopt a persona not forced upon us by daily chores and commitments. Today, my persona, or the one I fool myself into thinking I am, is the man reading Plato with my notebook and pen ready to write down the odd observation or most likely question. I cannot say what my persona will be tomorrow. That leads to just how free I really am. But I am not going anywhere with that question now.

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

The joy of being unfettered

One of the lucky things about this blog is that I belong to no institutions that might want to censor it. My only punishment for writing things people do not like is not to be read. That is a small price to pay for being unfettered.

Published in: on October 1, 2007 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment