War weary, whip out cash, and dead people

Even I, who thought he’d never grow war weary, at least from opposing them, have become numb to the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, people have woken up to the fact that big wars cost big money, not just lots of lives–lives that count far less to some than the paltry tax dollars they may have to pay to support the wars.

The thing that perplexes me most is that these so called wars of nation building were in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were supposed to be the paragons of USA capitalism and democracy? (I won’t stoop so low as to answer that question with an analysis. If you can’t do it for yourself, you are hopeless.)

If you want to know where your money went, follow the dead bodies.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

NFL Update – Rush Limbaugh edition

By now, we’ve all heard or read the news that Rush Limbaugh was kicked out of the consortium trying to buy the St. Louis Rams.

Word on the street is that he had to pass a quiz the consortium gave him and he flunked.  He didn’t know what NFL stood for.  He couldn’t spell touchdown and didn’t know how many points you got for scoring one.  He thought he was buying the Los Angeles Rams instead of the St. Louis Rams.  He flunked Phys Ed all six years he was in high school.  He said his beverage of choice in the Sky Box was Shirley Temples.

Can you believe all the sniveling and whining coming from certain macho right wingers over the news ?  Just shut the fuck up and go back to playing with your Ken and Barbies.  And every now and then wipe the stains off them.

Published in: on October 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm  Comments (2)  

The Gist

I don’t follow mainstream politics much anymore.  The gist of the story comes all too easily.  President Obama bails out a lot of rich failed corporate executives.  And the economy for Joe and Jane Average sucks.  The lunatics in the Republican Party vilify President Obama as a Communist even though he rescued their precious “free market” system better than they ever could.

Meanwhile, more troops die in Iraq while everybody goes to the shopping mall not giving a damn.

Don’t bother me with details.  Just top line it for me.

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Welcome to your bailout: “it’s your money–don’t you know

The conservatives just won’t let it go.  They insist President Obama is a socialist.  They forget that leftists, like me, think he is a centrist neo-liberal.  Whether he will return the US economy to a place where there is a broad middle class that shares in the real growth of the economy remains an open question.  Many leftists remain very skeptical.  Include me in that group.

Let’s leave all the political labels out of the discussion though.  Let’s concentrate on what has happened to the US auto companies.  When the economy turned down sharply.  The auto executives did not waste much time getting into their private jets, flying to Washington, and asking Congress for bailout money.  Some of capitalism’s finest hours occur when mighty corporations start to go broke.  They claimed they needed the money to stay competitive in the global economy.  What wasn’t mentioned is that we are in a global recession and all car companies profits are down.  If you can’t afford a Chevy, you can’t afford a Toyota either.

The car companies have gotten their bailout.  However, the Obama Administration has had the gall and temerity to take a stakeholder position in how that money is used even up to globally restructuring the industry.  Geez, that the taxpayer footing the bill for the auto company bailouts should have a stakeholder position via their elected officials consists of nonsense to conservatives, yet a supremely equitable arrangement to the rest of us.  Some us like to have some control over where our tax dollars go and want someone who is accountable for seeing that it cures the ills of those who get the money.

If I buy shares of common stock of General Motors I get voting rights with that stock.  I can also vote with my fingers and dump the stock with a few clicks of the computer keyboard.  Of course, for the small shareholder those voting rights are a sham since those votes don’t carry much weight, but at least it is something.  Let’s take the large institutional investors instead.  When billions of their dollars are at risk, you can damned well bet they’ll step in and take control of the Board to assure whatever restructuring needs to be done will be done.

Conservatives always have convenient memories when it comes to the rules of capitalism.  The rules they glory in when the cash is flooding into the coffers during the boom times change when spigot shuts off.  The simple matter regarding the auto companies is that the US government, hence, the US taxpayer is now the major stakeholder in those companies.  Asserting stakeholder rights and demanding accountability is prudent financial management.

In the words of President Bush, “it’s your money–don’t you know.”

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Goodbye to you President Bush

Politics remains on my mind even though I have not written about it.  It seems as though I have missed the Obama phenomena.  The thing I like about the whole deal is the way conservatives have acted towards his policies.  First, they claim he is a communist.  When that doesn’t work, they claim he is the new Roosevelt.  They are either being disingenuous or showing some deep ignorance.  Who likes either?

Meanwhile, I’m still gloating over the demise of President Bush.  His economic and foreign policies have been damned by events. Thus he is damned too–he with his head in the sand.

But that is not what I really want to talk about. I merely ask some questions.

Why is it that the people like Obama who save the Capitalist system from its own excesses gather the most ire from conservatives?  And let’s add this subsidiary question: how stupid can Plutocrats possibly be?

Anyway, Daddy doesn’t care so much about adding an abortion amendment to the Constitution when Daddy is out of a job.

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Great presidential moments

I think I’ll remember two things about the Bush administration. First, the great moment of hubris just after the Iraq Invasion when he landed on the aircraft carrier in San Diego announcing to the world: Mission Accomplished. Second, his pathetic address to the world in early October this year that the world financial system was like a house of cards. He was right about his second assertion. Too bad he didn’t give a shit before the house fell down. Of course, when you are a crony capitalist, things always seem to go right for you.

Published in: on December 27, 2008 at 4:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Busted beyond repair?

The best part of the 2008 US elections are that they are over. The Republicans comapaigned on the usual issues: abortion, gun control, tax cuts for the rich, deregulating everything, toughness on terrorism, Obama’s a Commie, etc. Yawn. Obama campaigned on change. Yawn. (Just for the record I consider Obama a right centrist from my left wing orientation.) Of course, the bigger issues were the excesses and consequences of global capitalism, The Iraq War, US foreign policy, not just terrorism, and who gets the spoils from the oil fields in Iraq if the US should occupy and dominate the country for decades.

Now, that we no longer have Bush, the worst president ever, what will happen? After eight years of Republicans breaking everything, what can be done to fix some of them?

Published in: on December 26, 2008 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bailed out?

The quick and complete unraveling of the financial markets has been painful to watch, yet fatalistically fascinating too. Poor President Bush. This is the second time he has been the doe caught in the headlights of a financial panic. Whether earned or not (and I believe it to be earned) he holds no credibility when it comes to assuring the markets. It is hard to believe he has a Harvard MBA.

Be that as it may, I find it interesting that the latest bailout of unfettered and unregulated companies and the handsome compensation for the executives who ran them out of business has put President Bush and the libertarian crowd in a difficult situation, espousing as they do the notion that the government has no right to your money. Taken to extreme this is anarchy pure and simple, for without taxes there is no government. Of course, there are always cases, several trillion dollars for a convenient war or supporting multimillion dollar bailout packages for CEOs is fine and dandy. Tax dollars for Social Security, health care, and regulating the most the most egregious excesses and abuses of the economic system are not needed. The Invisible Hand will work its magic in those arenas when it comes to the common welfare of all.

However, there is no Invisible Hand. All that exists are the hands and minds of people. Those hands create financial bubbles and pop them too.

So, as the subject of taxes arises during the 2008 election, and you hear, “its your money,” watch your wallet if you have any money left in it. The beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts have been the very rich. You might be a recipient of the trickle down effect from the $700 billion bailout, but you will not need an umbrella to keep you dry.

Published in: on October 10, 2008 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

art and totalitarianism

Let us say one is an artist in a totalitarian state where the content of all art production must serve the interests of the state. The state punishes deviation from the central interests of the state and artistic freedom judged irrelevant. The artist either works within the boundaries enforced by the state or makes herself a master of irony. Masters of irony do not come our way often. That leaves the greater majority of artists creating their art out of love for art, yet subordinated to the interests of the state. Can this second kind of artist, the conventional, fettered, and dependent artist, be considered an artist?

I say she can. The artist works within boundaries and constraints, whether state imposed or not. Complete freedom eludes even the greatest artists. Take the poetess for instance. How can she avoid writing about love?

Published in: on July 25, 2008 at 11:27 am  Comments (3)  

Hanging out

I sat in the bar last night between V and my great friend Dan. Dan and I watched the Cubs game and talked baseball and politics, which is always a good time. V talked to Kevin, another good friend, about buildings and architecture.

Nothing fancy, yet for me that is a splendid evening.

Published in: on May 29, 2008 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Are neoliberal excesses the fault of democracy?

My political philosophy reading came to a definite halt several weeks ago when I became obsessed with chess. However, chess was not entirely to blame. I am disturbed that some leftists have become so discouraged with democracy that they have identified it as the cause of neoliberal excesses. Even though my reading has stopped my thinking and the search for answers to some questions continue, especially questions that arise from the surmise that democracy fuels neoliberalism.

Are democracy and capitalism correlated? If so, is there a causal direction, or maybe, some kind of deadly embrace between the two? Can there be a useful political philosophy if it is not grounded in some ethical theory? Let’s take Aristotle or Marx as examples of political theory grounded in ethical theory.

Does the United States Constitution reflect any kind of useful political theory grounded in ethical theory? Is there any hope of adding an economic bill of rights to it so as to curb capitalist excesses? Is it irrelevant given the current American political environment?

So many questions; so much to think about.

Published in: on December 11, 2007 at 11:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Iraq: just because you were fooled doesn’t mean I was

The Daily Show showed an interesting pair of film clips last night. They showed President Bush during his first term stating that the Middle East would immediately be safer and more stable once Saddam was toppled from power. During his second term he justified the Iraq occupation as an operation to stabilize Iraq and the region due to the vacuum of power left by the toppling of Saddam.

We also have the interesting new estimate coming from the Democrats about the hidden costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The Republicans charge that the Democrats are playing politics. First of all, politicians are playing politics. Golly, that’s not fair But that’s not the main point.

We continue hear the tired and inaccurate lament that everyone–yes, some people say everyone– was fooled about WMD, the political aftermath of the invasion, and the costs of the war. No, everyone was not fooled. Weapons inspectors found no evidence of WMD in Iraq. They were not fooled. Many intelligence experts doubted the claims made by the the Bush Administration, yet their voices were stifled by the Bush Administration. No, they were not fooled. Highly respected economists, including at least one Nobel Laureate, estimated, both before and after the invasion, the costs of the Iraq conflict would be over $1 trillion if the war turned into a protracted conflict. No, they were not fooled. Many experts on the region predicted the destabilization of the region in the absence of a strong effective Iraqi government. No, they were not fooled.

To those of you who say everyone was fooled about Iraq, I say, no, you were fooled. Not everyone.

Published in: on November 14, 2007 at 9:23 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)  

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  

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)  

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  

Equality of conditions: right and wrong

In the opening sentences of Democracy in America Tocqueville says this:

No novelty in the United States struck me more vividly during my stay there than equality of conditions. It was easy to see the immense influence of this fact on the whole course of society. It gives a particular turn to public opinion and a particular twist to the laws, new maxims to those who govern and particular habits to the governed.

I soon realized that the influence of this fact extends far beyond political mores and laws, exercising dominion over civil society as much as over the government; it creates opinions, gives birth to feelings, suggests customs, and modifies whatever it does not create.

So the more I studied American society, the more clearly I saw equality of conditions as the creative element from which each particular fact derived, and all my observations constantly returned to this nodal point.

Beyond giving a clue about how the book should be read and interpreted, the passage gives rise to questions about where the United States has gone since that time. The magnitude of the gambling industry provides a clue. During my recent trip to Las Vegas I observed casinos as the great leveler. When you stand at the craps table or sit down at the blackjack table or slot machine, you are no better or worse than the people next to you. You are all pitted against some giant corporation whom you cannot beat at their game.

The woman who bets $10 on the turn of some cards is no different than the man who bets $500. Skill, or lack thereof, and chance happeneth to them all. Equality of conditions hold, yet it is a wrong equality of conditions which give rise to an illusion. The United States has become a country devoted to the illusion of equality of conditions whether derived from the bland and easily manipulated pronouncements of big media or the corporations that provide our escapes and entertainment such as the gambling industry.

Right equality of conditions such as decent and secure housing, sending one’s children to college, affordable health care, and the ability to perform one’s duties as an informed citizen in the political process have disappear and have been replaced by these wrong conditions of equality. The political battle lines are drawn between how much to tax the billionaires who cannot possibly spend their fortunes in their own lifetimes. Some would like to hide the amount of governmental resources expended and required to keep those fortunes growing and intact. They say these are self made men and deserve what they have. That is the great myth of the United States; it is possible to be self made. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch; what keeps someone extraordinarily rich takes from those less fortunate such as the resources to maintain their equality of conditions.

Let us say that I begin going to the Off Track Betting parlor tomorrow to bet on the horses each day. I accumulate a vast fortune counting in the billions through a combination of skill and luck. My fortune has arisen through equality of conditions. You had the same chance I did to do it.

What of my fortune? I only want a nice condo overlooking Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago and a two bedroom condo on the beach in Kauai and season tickets and the time to attend all the Cubs and White Sox games each year and some whip out cash to gamble with some more. What should I do with all the rest of that money? What should the state do with it?

Well, it should never have gotten that far out of hand . My fortune should never have arisen from wrong equality of conditions in the first place.

Published in: on September 25, 2007 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Projects always deferred

I watched a fair amount of the Petraeus and Crocker testimony before the Senate yesterday. With many Presidential candidates jockeying for position on Iraq on the committees, the questions and answers were quite tame. Petraeus may have been answering questions posed by a future boss.

What I find interesting are charges that political leaders use Iraq for political purposes and gain. I do not understand why they should not. Iraq, for instance, is the defining event that determines the nation’s domestic and international agenda and its capabilities and limits. The nation, as a whole, is deeply divided about what to do. How else can one gain the requisite power to change the policy in Iraq if one did not use the issue for political support and gain? Is that not what practical politics is all about? Lamenting the fact that partisan politics exists is like lamenting politics exists. Politics does not mean eschewing sober analysis and deliberation. But, come on, politics is about power and how to wield it for the common and universal good.

However, politics is also about projects which always seem deferred. Political projects are never completed. Their end time is always on the horizon, a horizon that remains elusively distant. I have been rereading The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers, and Democracy in America. The Constitution and the Nation itself are projects chronically and habitually deferred. Any partisan, no matter what party, can note areas of progress and regression.

As part of the first wave of baby boomers, I look back at what was accomplished politically by my generation. It is an embarrassing and humbling set of reflections. The sum total of my life seems to be encapsulated in this computer on which type and the iPhone that stands beside it. I have come far. My parents didn’t even own a TV until I was about seven or eight years old.

Now, the good things about the Constitution in its original intent and formulation are under assault, the social programs that helped create prosperity are being rolled back, job security is a thing of the past, and our approaches to international affairs create never ending states of exception and emergency.

Conservatives are wont to call liberals of my generation spoiled indulgent brats. If we on the left are so, then the conservatives of my generation are every much so too. What’s that expression from the Eighties? “He who has the most toys wins.” You can imagine it coming from the mouth of conservative as easily as you can a liberal.

Whatever, the American project was supposed to be at the beginning of my generation, it is definitely a project deferred. In fact, I am hard put to see it on the horizon.

Let’s say that politics has grown more rough and tumble during the past two decades, an assertion I doubt. (I remember Nixon and Watergate.) So what? Maybe it is time that a new generation got more engaged and combative. Blatant partisanship might show that the nation still has a soul worth fighting for.

Maybe, some deferred projects for the nation’s general welfare will show some progress instead of vanishing over the horizon. Let the ranks of the partisans swell.

P.S. I might note that some who appear as the most extremely partisan are merely money making tools. I grant Ann Coulter that honor. I leave it to my conservative friends to provide appropriate names of those on the left, for there are many to choose from.

Published in: on September 12, 2007 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Iraq: the problem without a good solution (or children behave)

The Petraeus testimony was a yawner. What else could it be given the hype it has been given for so long. He guardedly claimed that the Surge might work. The troop presence in Iraq will stand at 130,000 this time next year, the number before the surge. After the surge, we have returned to the status quo. Some call that progress.

At the same time, the BBC/ABC/NHK opinion poll of Iraqis indicates that Iraqis feel less secure since the surge began and are more pessimistic about their futures. Yet some claim the Surge is working. We have progress even though the dead and displaced indicate a large humanitarian crisis.

Pulling all the troops out of Iraq is not a pretty solution. Things might get worse. Just how much worse is the question.

Letting Iraqis determine their own fates is not considered progress by some, for Iraqis are children and need the protection and splendid guidance of the Bush Administration to help them. The U.S. Surge strategy is supposedly a humanitarian mission. That is paternalistic politics at its finest, not to mention imperialism. Calling the Iraq Occupation a humanitarian effort at this late date merely obfuscates the geopolitical maneuvering and face saving policies.

Pulling troops out of Iraq and providing real humanitarian aid to Iraqis are the best solutions even though the bloodshed will not magically abate because of this. Nobody has a solution for the violence. That’s for the Iraqis to decide.

Published in: on September 11, 2007 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Should we stay or should we go?

George Packer’s article in The New Yorker, Planning for Defeat: how should we withdraw from Iraq?, provides a chilling and sobering assessment of the Iraq situation. If there is a solution, nobody knows it.

My take is many more will die no matter what happens. That bet is off the board, since there could not possibly be any takers for the contrary side.

Published in: on September 8, 2007 at 12:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Too corrupt and sectarian for survival

Suppose an independent report stated that the Chicago police force was infected with corruption and sectarianism. So much so that it needed to be disbanded and started anew. Chicago residents would rightly be much disturbed and ill at ease with the prospect. All other pronouncements about progress in taming and containing violence would ring hollow. Yet when the same is said about the Iraqi police forces, it comes as just another sound that does not quite register in perception or imagination.

One grasps for a life jacket when the boat is sinking. Finding a life jacket does indeed seem like progress. The real problem persists: the boat is sinking. In fact, it is the passengers and sailors who have cracked the hull.

Is the analogy between Chicago and Baghdad apt? If the goal is impressing a U.S. style democracy and economic system on Iraq, then it is entirely apt. If the U.S. is to bear the burden and brunt of security for Iraq, twice the number of troops need to be there for an indeterminate time. How long does it take for sectarian violence to burn itself out? More than a few months or years.

However, the burden lies on Iraqis to provide for their own security. Iraqis despise the occupiers yet call for soldiers to stay and die trying to protect them from sectarian violence. The demand does not reconcile with the hatred.

The hope is always that murderous religious fundamentalism will mutate into a benign strain of belief. The hope is not warranted. Violent religious wars exhaust themselves. The will to kill and die remains after the body tires and can no longer do it. A decade or two from now, when the body is exhausted and impotent, there will be peace. Until that time people will be the victims of their most cherished religious beliefs.

For the religious skeptic that is just not good enough.

Published in: on September 7, 2007 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Another crock; buy some at half price while they last

From the NYT: Panel Says Iraqi Forces Not Ready.

However, there is good news for the gullible. Even though the whole Iraqi police force needs to be disbanded because of rampant sectarianism and corruption, the US might be able to change mission and reduce forces next year.

What a crock. I might have to adjust my over/under of US troop presence in Iraq upwards. Oh well, that is just what happens when you gamble.

Published in: on September 6, 2007 at 2:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wagering on the number of the soon to be dead

I have tried to reduce my opinions about US politics to betting propositions. I have not been successful in doing it, but I consider the exercise an interesting chore–one worthy of continued pursuit. Despite that, I am still an unrepentant leftist. The only concern I have about being such is that it may indicate an unconscious bias. (My conservative friends consider me an unrepentant radical leftist by the way.)

The biggest political betting proposition remains the war in Iraq. How many US troops will be killed or wounded in Iraq this month? What’s the over/under? Even though I have no influence on the result, I still get to play the game in my mind as if I were in Las Vegas betting on the turn of a card or the roll of dice. It’s a grim and repulsive thing to bet on, but getting killed or wounded in Iraq is a grim and repulsive event. How many Americans deal with the Iraq war caused dead and wounded everyday in the normal course of events in their lives? Not many I imagine.

Another interesting betting propositions is how many Iraqi casualties there will be in the course of a month. You cannot bet on that though because accurate statistics are not kept about it. For good or ill, the one precious thing we have is our short life on this earth. You would think that in the welter of statistics we keep our lives and deaths would be the most accurately kept. But it isn’t. I get better numbers on my fantasy sports teams than institutions keep on Iraqi war and occupation related deaths. That’s more ghoulish than my desire to bet on it.

I wonder how our perceptions and decisions would change if we fully realized we are gamblers pure and simple. How many grand theories and narratives would disintegrate to dust? Would the classics of political philosophy remain such, or give way to something else. A close rereading might be in order.

State Street, you are an addicted gambler. Yes, and damned proud of it. Life leaves me no other choice.

Published in: on September 6, 2007 at 2:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tours of Duty: the betting proposition

When I was in Vietnam in 1967-68 a tour of duty was one year and twenty days. You were only required to serve one tour of duty. With the Iraq occupation, people are required to serve multiple tours of duty and they are longer.

That leads to the question as to how many troops will be in Iraq at this time next year regardless of the situation. Everyone agrees the US military is at its breaking point. As an opening proposition I would say the over/under for number of troops in Iraq next Labor Day is 80,000–half the current number. Of course, 2008 elections will play their roll in setting the number of troops.

You have to be an optimist to think the situation in Iraq will be appreciably better at this time next year. Even the people who want to stay and fight it out such as McCain say the US needs more troops not less. The question is where those troops might come from. McCain says that Americans will rally to the cry if called upon to volunteer. Hmm? That would be another interesting betting proposition.

Don’t you just love gambling. There’s no better place to encounter reality up close and personal.

Published in: on September 5, 2007 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment