The Botereid

Sunday, October 31, 2004

two thumbs up...

Damn. From Conrad Black to Ebert, after the critic complained:

I have been disappointed to read your complaints about the former Hollinger International management. I vividly recall your avaricious negotiating techniques through your lawyer, replete with threats to quit, and your generous treatment from David Radler, which yielded you an income of over $500,000 per year from us, plus options worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and your own Web site at the company's expense.


In the light of these facts, and the many kindnesses David Radler and I showered on you, your proletarian posturing on behalf of those threatening to strike the Sun-Times and your base ingratitude are very tiresome.


Conrad Black's my new hero. And I actually like Ebert.

"Base ingratitude"? Scathing...

A Free iPod -- Really

Pyramid schemes that aren't duds can be so ingenious. For example, "Get ten friends to join and win a free giraffe!" (or something). Now the genius is in what economists call the Idiots-Who-Sign-Up-But-Never-Actually-Get-Other-People Rule. That's where they make their money. Well here's one idiot who's going through with it.

A free iPod: Check it out. You and 4 of your best friends sign up to the service, and I get a free iPod. The catch? Well, you actually have to buy something. I paid $17 for one month of When it's done, I'll cancel, and hopefully I'll have a $250 iPod for my trouble.

Bullshit, you say? Uh uh. Check out the proof -- this one's legit: Wired News, engadget, Gear Live, and Forever Greekth.

Again, sign up through my link.

Pretty please?


Ultra-accurate Redskins Poll is in! Kerry a lock for the White House!

The only thing that may derail the Pompstrosity from winning it all now, readers, is the OCTOBER SURPRISE a little birdie told me about the other day. Is it that Kerry's getting overconfident?? Well I can't let you know about that just yet...(Ok, ok. Kerry called Bush and told him he was going to lose, and Bush said, "My dad can beat up your dad," and Kerry said, "My dad's got a gun and he's going to shoot your dad.")

Oh, I just love our good people in the press. Always bringing us such useful information and all...

BBC does the math

I don't know whether I want to trust any BBC online polls:

Back in 2000 [Gandhi] topped a BBC News Online poll as the greatest man of the past 1,000 years, pushing Leonardo da Vinci and Jesus Christ into second and third respectively.

Unfortunately, my pick came in fourth.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Bin Laden Video

Eh. So he's alive.

While I've heard better news, I don't call it a cause for concern. Was this released to somehow affect the election? In the words of Edmund Burke: "Duh."* Bin Laden didn't come back from retirement for the love of the game, especially not four days before the big show itself. What's the effect he's hoping to have? Let me be frank: Um, I don't know. I don't care. People have been taking it any old way they please. Most assume that it'll harm their candidate (or at least voice that assumption), but I ascribe that to pre-election jitters. So we know there's one more blackguard out there plotting doom and destruction. That's right, "one more." Is there any doubt that there are thousands more like him? It doesn't scare me that he's still around. It's the fact that he is but one of many.

Finally, Osama, get with the times. Standing by your lonesome, wagging your finger, and rambling about the iniquity of the Western world is so 2002. I don't want to be too hard -- I know you've been cloistered these past few years and all -- but let me clue you in. If you want to play the game these days you need a mask, preferably one that makes you look like a third-rate ninja. You need a flag on the wall behind you. You need goons on both sides, brandishing shiny weapons. You might need a hostage of random nationality. Then you need to start issuing demands. What good is a video if you don't tell us what you want? Be clear. Lists are our friends. I mean, it's downright unreasonable to just rant about our evils. Now, asking us to pull out over 100,000 troops in 3 days or something like that, that's what I call being reasonable.

At the very least, issue a fatwa on our collective Western brow or something. We could all go hide at Bono's house. And maybe he could ask on my behalf for all the first-world nations to forgive my credit card debt.

Eh. It's late, in many ways, and this just doesn't matter. Go to sleep. It'll be a more judicious use of your time.

* Edmund Burke may or may not have ever employed this phrase.

oh, you precocious communication protocols...

My brother just moved out to Columbus, Ohio to take a SAP consultant job. He checked out a few apartments before going, but of course made reservations in a hotel for the first few weeks. This hotel, however, turned out to be in a seedy part of town. "But that's the problem with making reservations over the internet," he said. "The internet is innocent."

Oh really?


Michael Moore = Culture?

Yeah, if you mean the rancid kind on my week-old loaf of whole wheat. David Edelstein, Slate's film critic, is nuts. The miasmic bullshit he describes as "the vital counterculture" is far from a cause for celebration.

Air America brought Al Franken, Randi Rhodes, and other terrific radio personalities into our homes every day...

Need I say more?

And for Bush...

Ms. McArdle has made the case for retaining our presidente. She's argued her point with typical aplomb, so it's valuable reading for you who haven't made up your mind(s).

what fame!

I'm the eighth result on Google when you search for "superciliousness"! Oh, I never thought I'd make it! Thank you. Thank you for really loving me!

(Kind of looks like Glenn Reynolds in The Guardian now that I think about it...)

UPDATE: Wait a second...and I'm the very first blog to show up. Am I the very definition? Is that what you really think of me!?

Fie, fie, the two edges of fame...

Reynolds in The Guardian

Somewhere, an editor is laughing.

Why couldn't they just choose a normal picture? The Tech Central Station one for instance. I mean, he looks downright porcine in The Guardian. Is it a wink to their readers? A way of saying, "Get a load of this guy -- typical American" ?

Homo floresiensis

I've wanted for days to say something florid and moving about the Flores man discovery, but I keep stopping for lack of words. October 27, 2004 is just one of those moments when human science exalts itself through its deeds. Why can't we have more news like this?

Another for Kerry

A cacophonous endorsement.

NOTE: This post originally read "An endorsement that rings loud and harsh." Verbosen!* I say.

* Multi-lingual portmanteau: Verbose/Verboten (German, "prohibited").

Thursday, October 28, 2004

the day's quotation

John Crowe Ransom, On writing

The more literal you are, the more figurative you will be.


Jeez, doesn't Arafat look more than a bit like Kumar Pallana (Pagoda in The Royal Tenenbaums) in his Life Aquatic get-up? Who let him out of the house in that?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004



The most debilitating curse this side of Tut is broken...

Blank Verse

I asked Bloom today if I could submit my final paper in blank verse. He laughed and said, "Well, we've already come this far," which seemed, strangely enough, to refer to how long he's been teaching. And so, he's letting me do it, but on one condition: That it be "excellent blank verse." Oh, it will be worthy of the bard.

For you imperial poets, blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter -- perhaps most famous for its appearance as the meter of the sonnet:

Shakespeare, Sonnet 130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

the day's quotation

Socrates, Plato's The Apology

And if I tell you that no greater good can happen to a man than to discuss human excellence every day and the other matters about which you have heard me arguing and examining myself and others, and that an unexamined life is not worth living, then you will believe me still less.

John F. Hitchens

How come Christopher Hitchens gets to have it both ways?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Big endorsement

Andrew Sullivan's for Kerry.

This is oh so slightly different from The Guardian's epistolary campaign. (I mean "slightly" in the "hell of a damned lot" sense.)

the day's poem

A Hill by Anthony Hecht

In Italy, where this sort of thing can occur,
I had a vision once -- though you understand
It was nothing at all like Dante's, or the visions of saints,
And perhaps not a vision at all. I was with some friends,
Picking my way through a warm sunlit piazza
In the early morning. A clear fretwork of shadows
From huge umbrellas littered the pavement and made
A sort of lucent shallows in which was moored
A small navy of carts. Books, coins, old maps,
Cheap landscapes and ugly religious prints
Were all on sale. The colors and noise
Like the flying hands were gestures of exultation,
So that even the bargaining
Rose to the ear like a voluble godliness.
And then, when it happened, the noises suddenly stopped,
And it got darker; pushcarts and people dissolved
And even the great Farnese Palace itself
Was gone, for all its marble; in its place
Was a hill, mole-colored and bare. It was very cold,
Close to freezing, with a promise of snow.
The trees were like old ironwork gathered for scrap
Outside a factory wall. There was no wind,
And the only sound for a while was the little click
Of ice as it broke in the mud under my feet.
I saw a piece of ribbon snagged on a hedge,
But no other sign of life. And then I heard
What seemed the crack of a rifle. A hunter, I guessed;
At least I was not alone. But just after that
Came the soft and papery crash
Of a great branch somewhere unseen falling to earth.

And that was all, except for the cold and silence
That promised to last forever, like the hill.

Then prices came through, and fingers, and I was restored
To the sunlight and my friends. But for more than a week
I was scared by the plain bitterness of what I had seen.
All this happened about ten years ago,
And it hasn't troubled me since, but at last, today,
I remembered that hill; it lies just to the left
Of the road north of Poughkeepsie; and as a boy
I stood before it for hours in wintertime.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Anthony Hecht

I hadn't noticed until today, but Anthony Hecht passed away last week. The New York Times has a decent obituary. The best part:

[Hecht] immediately informed his parents that he had decided to become a poet; alarmed, they told him to seek the advice of Theodor Geisel, a family friend who was better known to the world as Dr. Seuss. Mr. Geisel told young Hecht to read about the life of Joseph Pulitzer, but he never did, suspecting that it would discourage him from seeking a career as a writer. After he became a success, Mr. Hecht was fond of advising young writers that they, too, could be successful if they never read about the life of Joseph Pulitzer.

The Florida absentee ballot for y'all who are interested. Posted by Hello


Wow, this is very cool. I'm doing it. I mean, I won't finish, but I love starting fool crazy stuff like this.

UPDATE: Sheeeeeeit. 50,000 words equals 1,667 a day. Damn. I mean, I knew it would be something like that, but seeing the hard number hurts. That's about 7 pages a day. I don't know if that's possible. I spend 7 days on a page at my usual pace, and that's when I have free time...

congratulations to me

I just voted for the first time ("ever," I mean, not "in this election"). My choice after the final deliberations: Kerry. Justification to follow in the next few days when I have time to write it up.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Snide French Scholar: What would be the scientific purpose of killing it?

Steve Zissou: (not understanding) Revenge...

How strange! How bizzare!

Go see the trailers. (The theatrical is better than Adventure #12, but they're both great.)

There's not a filmmaker today whose movies I look forward to more than Wes Anderson's. Charlie Kaufmann & [director of choice] might come close, but they're not quite there. They just can't beat the charm.

the day's quotation

Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies

The wisdom [Socrates] meant was of a different kind [than Plato's]. It was simply the realization: how little do I know! Those who did not know this, he taught, knew nothing at all. (This is the true scientific spirit. Some people still think, as Plato did when he had established himself as a learned Pythagorean sage, that Socrates' agnostic attitude must be explained by the lack of success of the science of his day. But this only shows that they do not understand this spirit, and that they are still possessed by the pre-Socratic magical attitude towards science, and towards the scientist, whom they consider as a somewhat glorified shaman, as wise, learned, initiated. They judge him by the amount of knowledge in his possession, instead of taking, with Socrates, his awareness of what he does not know as a measure of his scientific level as well as of his intellectual honesty.)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Magic Flute

Well, at least somebody enjoyed the show. I had heard that everyone was bashing this production, so I was quite surprised to see it called a "soon-to-be-legendary phenomenon." Higher words of praise, anyone? I'm not too big of an opera fan to tell the truth (though more ignorant than critical), but my verse professor, J.D. McClatchy, wrote the supertitles for this production. Congrats to him and Julie Taymor, who I do happen to like for her films.

Hah! From The Onion:

Tibetan Teen Getting Into Western Philosophy

LHASA, TIBET—Deng Hsu, 14, said Monday that he is "totally getting into Western philosophy." "I've been reading a lot of Kant, Descartes, and Hegel, and it's blowing my mind," Hsu said. "It's so exotic and exciting, not like all that Buddhist 'being is desire and desire is suffering' shit my parents have been cramming down my throat all my life. Most of the kids in my school have never even heard of Hume's views on objectivity or Locke's tabula rasa." Hsu said he hopes to one day make an exodus to north London to visit the birthplace of John Stuart Mill.

One note though: "exodus"? That's either completely misused or the irony is lost on this here simpleton.

IBC is full of shit. David Adesnik has the story. Follow the link, pass the suggestions, help out. Make sure to read the other posts on the topic as well. Their guidelines for casualty are horrific.

the British press

Andrew Sullivan's post on The Guardian makes me want to be a Tory. I read that paper infrequently as it is, and I don't think I'm going to touch it again.

BBC News, of which many others have expressed their digust, is definitely going in that direction, although in terms of sheer vituperation they're not there yet. Still, this "story" purporting to show how "different approaches [by the British and US armies in Iraq] have influenced the attitudes of local people towards the military," is nothing but yet another screed on the Iraq occupation. There's barely any comparison at all to the tactics used on the ground -- just a few melodramatic anecdotes, including the obligatory "not all Americans are assholes" passage, which seems particularly forced here.

What's most depressing is that I'm sure this type of article is popular. It just confirms, yet again, that the US has blundered in Iraq. Given the unpopularity of the war abroad, including in England, this is the type of piece that's probably rushed to a prominent position by the editors, with no care for actual journalism. "It sounds right," could pass as fact-checking in this case. The world's journalists should in fact thank us for the Iraq war and the world's refusal to see it as liberation: Never have so many journalists been able to get away with doing so little work. Never has such serious business been so widely seen as just another way to get a promotion, and perhaps a raise.

Friday, October 22, 2004

not a good sign

This post doesn't bode well for the Wolcott blog. When you discuss the Red Sox-Yankees game for three paragraphs before hopping over for a quick and unsubstantiated blow at the Bush admin, you need to take a breather.

I've heard people rave about the deceits of the Bush admin many a time now. Some have foundations, most don't. It doesn't help when you just start throwing ridiculous aspersions on them from any old direction, including talk about a ball game.

Note the offending paragraph:

Twice, the umpires set aside their professional egos, practiced true collegiality, erased a mistake, and did the right thing, risking the wrath of Yankee fans. Think how rare that's been in the Bush-Cheney years, admitting error and correcting it--taking the right stand after making the wrong stand. Last night the umps reminded me of a better America I'd almost forgotten we'd had, one where reason every once in a while prevails.

Let me reply from my own experiences. In the Bush-Cheney years, I've seen people accept criticism. I've seen reason prevail. I've met "men of integrity" -- I've even seen them in government. Is everyone of this mold? No, of course not. Have they ever been? No, of course not. To even imply it makes one sound ridiculous. This move from the umps to Bush is what's called an "irrational oversimplification." Longer length and it would enter the territory of "rant."

Mr. Wolcott, I've enjoyed your blog so far, so please don't let this become a habit. I'll go rent Fahrenheit 9/11 if I'm in the mood for non sequiturs.

Fodor on Kripke

I finally got around to reading the Jerry Fodor article I found through Crooked Timber the other day. I had the article open since I found it, but I kept avoiding it, pushing it back for another time. I think subconsciouly I knew better than to read it. Of course, reading it set me off into dark deep waters at the edges of philosophy for three precious hours. Fodor to Kripke to Rorty to Williams to Berlin to White to Nietzsche...I had to pull myself away. I should have known better than to try, again, to make sense of the divide between continental and analytical philosophies (not what the Fodor article is necessarily about, but that's where it led me). I'm not enough to handle the philosophical turmoil we've inherited. Where's the estate tax when you need it? I'd like to give some of this back.

traditional vs common sense

What's the difference between "traditional" and "common sense"? Too often people use the former for the latter, and I think it's wrong.

Let's assume that "common sense" is just what we accept as truth when growing up. Einstein said something to that effect, something along the lines of "Common sense is everything you believe at eighteen." Now, this isn't meant to disparage common sense. Any philosopher will tell you that it's a valuable tool. Also, just because we learn things while young doesn't make them cheap. Quite the opposite. I prize being able to read, do arithmetic, speak, etc.

But, understanding that the use of words change over time, how can we be so cavalier in our use of "traditional"? It seems the most common uses are those applied not to what has been historically the constant usage, but to what we consider it by common sense. For instance, I can say, "The traditional use of logic just meant clear thinking," while following up with "But in the twentieth century it became the study of valid inferences," or something along those lines. These statements seem to make sense.

But of course they don't. Aristotle was studying logic in very similar ways to how we study logic. For millenia people have followed him in holding it as the study of valid inferences. Isn't that a tradition? Why can't I identify with those people? Or with the tradition of logicians in the 20th century? Why is my "tradition" pegged to a certain adolescent vagueness?

Now tradition could just mean the tradition passed to us as children, but this seems like a fairly weak use of the term. (I think maybe "common" would be a good substitute.) While there are traditional uses of words, I believe that they're actually more difficult to know. After all, don't they suppose an intimate knowledge of verbal history?

The point is, tradition shouldn't be a catch-all for the personally common. It's just an incorrect use. For example, "Poetry is traditionally ignored." This is somewhat true today, and has been somewhat true for decades, but in the grand tradition of the West it is an outright error. Why should "Logic has traditionally meant clear thinking" be any different? Years from now, long after you and I have passed, people will still be saying it. Are we not part of our own tradition?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Martha Stewart

This is straight out of The Onion.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

the day's quotation

My malady continues. This'll have to suffice for today.

Shakespeare, King Henry IV, I.ii

Falstaff. And I hear, moreover, his highness is fallen into
this same whoreson apoplexy.
Chief Justice. Well, God mend him! I pray you, let me speak with you.
Falstaff. This apoplexy is, as I take it, a kind of lethargy, an't please your lordship; a kind of sleeping in the blood, a whoreson tingling.
Chief Justice. What tell you me of it? be it as it is.
Falstaff. It hath its original from much grief, from study and perturbation of the brain: I have read the cause of
his effects in Galen: it is a kind of deafness.
Chief Justice. I think you are fallen into the disease; for you hear not what I say to you.
Falstaff. Very well, my lord, very well: rather, an't please you, it is the disease of not listening, the malady of not marking, that I am troubled withal.

Monday, October 18, 2004

woe is me

Ach. Ach. I'm a broken man. I think it's the flu. That's what I get for listening to our commander-in-chief and not getting a flu shot. I should have known that I was frail and vulnerable and useless like our children and our old. I have a hell of a lot of things to post on, but I'm absolutely in no condition to be doing it. Posts to look forward to in the next few days:

     - Popper on America
     - Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers
     - Thomas Nagel's Storrs Lecture
     - Michael Oren's lecture on Israel winning their war on terror
     - My new blog (yes, another one)
     - The Yale Philosophy Society I'm starting
     - Grand Strategy

Soon, my invisible friends, soon...

attitudes for improvement

I think this is one of the most helpful attitudes you can have if your goal is improvement:

Karl Popper, Unended Quest

Schlick examined me mainly on the history of philosophy, and I did so badly on Leibniz that I thought I had failed. I could hardly believe my ears when I was told that I had passed in both examinations with the highest grade, "einstimmig mit Auszeichnung." I was relieved and happy, of course, but it took quite a time before I could get over the feeling that I had deserved to fail.

Our culture strenuously resists this kind of thinking today. We want to do our utmost to keep people from "feeling like failures." Well, guess what. It wasn't until I started feeling a bit like a failure that I really started to push myself in my work. I didn't go back to college because of that feeling; in fact, I started sheerly out of interest. But it was its emergence, the feeling of always being at least a bit dissatisfied with my work, that has put me where I am today.

Sometimes I get criticized by my family, and some friends, for how I compare my work to the work of great writers and thinkers, and come away unhappy with my own product. But how else to join them?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Independent People

I don't know whether to direct this to The Spectator or Stuttaford -- or both -- but you should read a book, or at least know something about it, before employing it to support an assertion. After all, the great irony of Independent People is how Bjartur's worldview, locked on independence, leaves two dead wives, a scattered family, and a wreckage for a life.

Despite the despondent theme, the book is wonderful, both for the Icelandic voice and the joyful humor. I strongly recommend it.

UPDATE: Laxness was actually a communist, which explains Independent People quite a bit. So, the NRO is now citing communists on their blog. What's next? Pat Buchanan as guest blogger on Kos?


Of all the columnists at the NRO, I actually like Jonah Goldberg the most. But this great observation by James Wolcott reveals him at his very worst. I think Goldberg owes an apology. Not to Kerry, but to his readers for the half-assed carping.

the day's quotation

Karl Popper, Unended Quest

I was invited to Princeton, and read in a seminar a paper on "Indeterminism in Quantum Physics and in Classical Physics," an outline of a much longer paper. In the discussion Einstein said a few words of agreement, and Bohr spoke at length (going on until we were the only two left), arguing with the help of the famous two-slit experiment that the situation in quantum physics was completely new, and altogether incomparable with that in classical physics. The fact that Einstein and Bohr came to my lecture I regard as the greatest compliment I have ever received.


sounds like a cool idea to me...

Saturday, October 16, 2004

In memory of James Harlan

I can't resist this.

H.L. Mencken, "Memorial Service"

Let us summon from the shades the immortal soul of James Harlan, born in 1820, entered into rest in 1899. In the year 1865 this Harlan resigned from the United States Senate to enter the Cabinet of Abraham Lincoln as Secretary of the Interior. One of the clerks in that department, at $600 a year, was Walt Whitman, lately emerged from the three years of service as an army nurse during the Civil War. One day, discovering that Whitman was the author of a book called "Leaves of Grass," Harlan ordered him incontinently kicked out, and it was done forthwith. Let us remember this event and this man; he is too precious to die. Let us repair, once a year, to our accustomed houses of worship and there give thanks to God that one day in 1865 brought together the greatest poet that America has ever produced and the damndest ass.

the day's quotation

Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, V.v 9

Barabas. And if you like them, drink your fill -- and die;
For, so I live, perish may all the world.

This is what goes for a "Top Story" on I hear their web editor has got a hell of a magic missile.

At least they're not talking about angry puppets making crank calls, I suppose.

deliberation day

I went to some of the New Haven Deliberation Day meetings today, and I must say that I was inspired: I watched eight 'regular' Americans discussing manifold issues, all orbiting foreign and economic policy, for a few hours in a civilized manner, every person departing with a better insight into some of the dire issues of our time. But most impressive was not any one person's knowledge -- I wouldn't say that there were any experts on these topics in the group. The vitality of the event, of the people, is what impressed me. Here were people with no vested interest besides the exercise of citizenship, congregating to discover more about the world around them. The passion to know more was gripping.

Americans are often called narrow-minded. It's deserved at times, and of some, just as many foreigners deserve it well. But it was in hiding today. Every single person was receptive and respectful, opinionated yet open. The discussions swerved from terrorism to the Patriot Act to Iraq to taxes to outsourcing to values, but with substance. People weren't there to bicker, but to learn. And everyone participated. (Well, save for one frumpy woman who seemed a tad uninformed -- but that was why she was there, wasn't it?) Topics caromed about, collecting clarity with each strike. After each question, I felt that each person in the group better grasped, if not the issue, the question.

If one sticks by the old stand-by "government by the people" definition of democracy, then these meetings were an act of democracy. If there were more of this going on, our electorate would have far more of my trust. But to tell the truth, seeing these folk today, it already has gained a bit.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The indomitable Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart on CROSSFIRE has left me shocked. He really did stick it to them. Although, to tell the truth, how hard is it really to make fun of this guy?

CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.


CARLSON: OK, up next, Jon Stewart goes one on one with his fans...


STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.


CARLSON: Now, you're getting into it. I like that.

But remember always, Stewart is but one in a long tradition.

Tip, Wonkette.

UPDATE: The video.


We have alcoholics
in the family, mom chanted
over my first drink.
The good Roman

It’s five years now
          she's dead.

Ice cube morning

life of this scotch system,
gold tranquil

as the plane descends
into San Francisco,

even you
are still as suns

set in racing galaxies.

: I just posted this to make up for that farce I posted the other day. I'm not that bad...

Team America

Quite a few people have been bewailing Team America's bashing sans partisan of the Terror War. Apparently, it's ok -- nay, more than ok -- to clearly manipulate the facts and rip things from context as long as it's in the context of defending a side -- namely, one's own. Fie, all the rotten bastards, I say. There are times in a day and in a life when you have to laugh at yourself. Kerry hit one of those at the end of the last debate and it actually resulted in humanizing him quite a bit. It's for those times that Oscar Wilde was right to say, "Life is too important to be taken seriously."

Eugene Volokh, in a post on one of the reviews, mentions the real sticking point for the left: the actors who are ridiculed for their activism. But I think it's pretty clear that active doesn't imply right. Parker and Stone's target isn't the right. It isn't the left. It's hypocrisy, and you can find that anywhere these days.

The reason I find Volokh's post interesting is for the second point, the reason for the mischaracterization of the actors in the movie. (Feel as you will, even as I do, but it is still a mischaracterization in a sense. I'm sure most of these actors support Kim Jong Il about as much as Bush desires to blow up Le Louvre.) It's simple, it's valid, but it'll never hold water in the eyes of the left. Castro always gets the break, despite his horrific record on all of the things that liberals defend here in the US. I love the irony of artists defending a dictator under whom they probably wouldn't have grown up to be artists.

It reminds me of the time I was speaking to a Cuban poet who had interviewed Tennessee Williams in the 70's. In the middle of the interview, Williams interrupted him and said, "You're Cuban, aren't you?" He replied that he was. "Then why," Williams asked, "aren't you in Cuba defending the Revolution?" I must say, it takes a fair amount of gut, and I don't mean values, to say that to a rafter (i.e. one who escapes Cuba by raft). The poet could only respond, "You realize that gays are thrown into prison in Cuba, don't you?" Williams, who was homosexual, became outraged at the very thought. No, not that it was happening, but that this Cuban could be maligning la Revolución. "I know Fidel," he trumpeted. "He would never do such a thing!"

Ah, yes, the moral clarity of today's artiste, the supposed "liberal", a stunted form of a word they do not understand.

day's poem

A RENEWAL - James Merrill

Having used every subterfuge
To shake you, lies, fatigue, or even that of passion,
Now I see no way but a clean break.
I add that I am willing to bear the guilt.

You nod assent. Autumn turns windy, huge,
A clear vase of dry leaves vibrating on and on.
We sit, watching. When I next speak
Love buries itself in me, up to the hilt.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

When they're wrong

Yesterday, Eugene Volokh wrote one of the most level-headed pieces I've ever seen on abortion. What's shocking is that it's such an obvious problem within both the anti-choice and anti-life groups.

Even someone who is otherwise libertarian, or even otherwise liberal, may reach this position [of opposing abortion] if he just accepts one moral axiom that I don't accept — that human life begins at conception — but that isn't inherently inconsistent with my other moral views.

Similarly, for all the abortion opponents out there: people who support abortion are not malicious. They believe that their position is not morally wrong.

There is a division based in fundamental conceptions of what human life is, and most people are just too volatile to think for a moment and realize it. How can you oppose a position you don't understand? Can you turn a doorknob with a closed fist?

Further, when you choose an extremist position as the standard-bearer of an opposing viewpoint, you're going to convince yourself of the whole argument's lunacy. You're going to be that less understanding of the opposing viewpoint. Eg. Michael Moore is as much the Democratic Party as Ann Coulter is the Republican.

Mr. Volokh's stance is an admirable one; it's one I share. Furthermore, his defense of it is estimable, and in it I hear echoes of one of the great philosophers, speaking about a studying a subject that he believes has "nonsensicality [as its] very essence."

Eugene Volokh
But if one does think that it's murder, or even that it's killing that's roughly the moral equivalent of slavery if not precisely of genocide, then the [abortion is genocide] perspective is right, and quite unsurprising. That isn't reason to agree with them: If one is pro-choice, then they're wrong. But it seems to me that there's nothing worthy of mockery in their view.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Lecture on Ethics"
My whole tendency and I believe the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries of language. This running against the walls or our cage is perfectly, absolutely hopeless. Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be no science. What it says does not add to our knowledge in any sense. But it is a document of a tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it.

A debate parody

Pretty funny stuff, and pretty damn long for only a few hours after the debate...

SCHIEFFER: People in the National Guard have been complaining about a backdoor draft. What's your reaction to that?

BUSH: I told you. I'm not for gay marriage.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Debate #3

First live blog, so have some mercy...

8:59 FIRST POINT! FIRST POINT! Yankees score in the bottom of the first.

Damn, this is going to be the most exciting post in the debate...

9:00 My wife, Monique, is frightened that Bush winked at Kerry when they both walked out. It was pretty saucy.

9:06 Damn, they're both opening up strong. Bush is a little better.

9:07 Good riposte by Kerry. Bad lie by Bush on not having said that about Bin Laden, and I don't think many people were convinced by the "exaggeration." Then again, maybe it wasn't a lie. He really might not have remembered that he actually said it.

9:12 "Litany of complaints." Bush was just waiting for that word (ie plan).

9:15 Kerry: You're sounding incoherent, boring, and repetitive. You really need to get back to the quick first response.

Then again, Bush's smirks aren't looking good either.

Monique just pointed out the real hidden weapon: Bush has gone to the red tie. Kerry's been doing that for weeks.

9:16 Man, Bush's "pay-go" joke blew.

Bush has been talking much, much slower. He sounds like he's trying to fit the description most liberals peg him with. You think he realized that he didn't have enough facts to fill the time the last few debates?

9:18 Monique just pointed out the spittle in the President's mouth. It's pretty disturbing. He's also looking above the camera. That's pretty strange too.

9:24 Bush is definitely yelling at us again. "Furious George" is back.

9:25 Bush is pretty good on the gay question. I mean, it's not like he can win on it, but he's doing as well as he can.

9:27 Kerry sounded like a scumbag talking about Cheney's daughter. Plus, he should've knocked that question out the park. What happened to talking about not messing with the Constitution? It certainly didn't sound like that was what he was talking about.

9:29 These are pretty good questions...straight up gay rights question to Bush, abortion question to Kerry -- about as tough as you can get on domestic issues for these guys.

9:30 Damn, Kerry kicked the ass out of the abortion-stem cell question. "Bold" was the word that came to mind, and that doesn't come to mind often when you think of this guy.

9:34 "The, Buggy...and, horse, days."

Bush looked surprised that the words "information technology" appeared on the briefing notes he brought in with him. He didn't know you could put them together like that.

9:36 Boring. These guys need to get punchier. Where's the wit?

9:39 "It's not a government plan."

It certainly seems so. I see what Kerry's saying, but that phrase still makes him sound ridiculous. Let's see if Bush jumps on it. He certainly looks like he wants to.

Note: He made much more sense the second time he said it.

9:52 I don't think Kerry's going to get the same bounce from this debate. This debate just doesn't have the wallop the last two did.

9:54 Um, that was two "secondly's," Kerry. Hell, if we go at Bush for it...

9:57 "Should we raise the minimum wage?" "Well, I'm glad you raised that question. It's long overdue that we raise it...People who are raising their families need this raise in the wage."

Where's Wonkette when you need her?

9:58 "No Child Left Behind is really a job act." (Smile.) That didn't come off well.

10:05 Kerry could have been a lot better on the "backdoor draft" question.

Bush: Our kids are excited to be going over to Iraq.

Monique: Because they don't know they aren't going to be able to come back.

10:07 Bush finally brings up Kerry's vote against the first Gulf War. Helluva rebuttal on that.

10:08 Oh shit, Kerry better hit this SALT treaty and weapons ban business out of the park...

10:11 ...and he did. Goddamn did he. (Monique agrees.)

10:13 Read, write, add and subtract early. Um...I think you need a little more than that...

10:16 Kerry's gonna bring up the Abe Lincoln quote. You heard it here first.

10:18 Damn, I got a lot more work to do on the old soothsayin'.

10:20 Monique: "Poor John McCain."

10:23 Surprise, surprise. Bush is gonna come out sounding way better on the question about women.

10:24 Oh my god. What the hell did Kerry just say? "Marry up"? Don't try to compete on the jokes!

Ok...he saved himself a bit. You gotta give in to the self-deprecation.

Kerry comes off so much better when he talks about his family.

10:26 Kerry: I-deeeerr?

10:27 Kerry's closing statement is words, words, words.

10:28 Bush begins his statement very strong and takes it nowhere. Armies of compassion: lame.

Overall. I have some logic work to do so I'm going to keep this short. It was pretty soporific. And yet...this was Bush's best debate. He sounded steady as opposed to just saying the word "steady" over and over. He was amiable, and about as coherent as he gets. That said, it was still pretty even. Kerry did what he had to do. He didn't overstretch. He didn't sound too incompetent to do the job. In sum, neither changed my opinion a whit.

Election Prediction. This debate didn't do much for either candidate. I think the undecideds, a segment that happens to be strongly against Bush's re-election, didn't hear anything they didn't know already. They'll keep sliding to Kerry. Unless there's catastrophic news in the next few weeks, this election will be the senator's, and by a fair margin.

Postscript. On Calvin Coolidge, courtesy of a better writer than I.

Well, there is surely something to say for that abstinence, and maybe a lot. I can find no relation of cause and effect between the Coolidge somnolence and the Coolidge prosperity, but it is nevertheless reasonable to argue that if the former had been less marked the latter might have been blown up sooner. We suffer most, not when the White House is a peaceful dormitory, but when it is a jitney Mars Hill, with a tin-pot Paul bawling from the roof. Counting out Harding as a cipher only, Dr. Coolidge was preceded by one World Saver and followed by two more. What enlightened American, having to choose between any of them and another Coolidge, would hesitate for an instant? There were no thrills while he reigned, but neither were there any headaches. He had no ideas, and he was not a nuisance.

And I'll tell you what, America wants another Calvin Coolidge. So, will the senator from Massachusetts step right up? That's right, you. True, you're verbose rather than pithy, but nobody's perfect. True, you've got no ideas, but you've got plenty of plans. And best of all, you won't be a nuisance. Like prostitution. Or organized crime. Hell, we may not love you, John Kerry, but it looks like we'll take you.

debatin it up

I'm going to be live-blogging this one, all you invisible friends.

Time for the pre-game...

day's quotation

This is akin to yesterday's.

Henry Kissinger

The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.

The Merchant of Venice

Just got out of Bloom's class. We covered the The Merchant of Venice. I was pretty shocked by his words about the play:

This has done much damage. This has been a profoundly evil force in the world.

He did say that this wasn't all Shakespeare's fault, of course. But he cited the case of the Nazis, who apparently forced sages and rabbis to play the part of Shylock in the concentration camps before they were killed. What a hideous example.

Bloom seemed thoroughly puzzled by the play though. At the end he said, "We have not come to any conclusions, though this should not shock me: I myself do not know where this play goes." His two main challenges on the play: (1) Why did Shakespeare break the consistency of Shylock with the enforced conversion? (2) Is Shylock comic?

We pretty much concluded with being completely baffled by (1) and agreeing that (2) isn't possible. To deal with the latter first, this may be what Bloom means by consistently saying that Shakespeare has characters that get away from him. The Merchant of Venice is a comedy. Shylock would have been played by the fool. But there's so much horror in his words that I think his comedy might have been lost somewhere in the writing of it.

On the forced conversion, I think we're all lost. How can Shylock agree to it? He sticks so adamantly to his individual history, his Jewishness, his ownership of the bond, that his submission at the end is utterly strange. I believe that Shylock would've spit in the Duke's face if there weren't need for a happy Act V. But why bring up the topic of conversion at all if it couldn't be done while maintaining the coherence of the character?

Last note: Bloom was so desperate before class about finding out the date of an upcoming book signing that I offered to call the store and find out. He thanked me profusely and said, "Just tell them that you are calling on behalf of that nasty old Bloom." So when I called I told the manager, "I'm calling on behalf of the insuperable Professor Harold Bloom." His eyes widened, he chuckled and whispered, "Insuperable!" I looked at him and he laughed again, and then, in full Bloomean mode, he said, "Perhaps insufferable!"

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Settling once and for all

I'm leaning far more for Kerry at this point -- yet I'm tired of saying, after endless hours of reading the articles and debating the points, that I'm merely "leaning." If anybody is sure, shouldn't I be?

So, I'm embarking this weekend on a series of arguments for both sides -- first for one, then for the other; against one, then the the other -- in the hope that I culminate with careful comparisons of both that will set my decision in marble. (It'll look nicer that way.)

In short, I'm so flustered about not being sure that I'm actually going to think.

"It's hard work."


Again, The Onion

This is one of those weeks when The Onion can do no wrong.

In particular, their political articles stand out:
    "Cheney Vows to Attack U.S. If Kerry Elected"
    "You Want To See Some Goddamn Optimism?" by John Edwards

The key quote:

Just know that, should you elect John Kerry, we'll be able to bounce a goddamn quarter off our border! We'll have big impenetrable gates made of gumdrops and, I don't know, gold. Whatever the fuck! And they'll magically slide open when someone pure of heart approaches and says, "Let me back in, America! My Caribbean cruise was nice, but there's no place like home!"


Is it just me, or does Robert Altman not come off sounding all that intelligent in this interview with the Onion? At first it's pretty good, but then his answers just seem to tail off into nonsense; eg.

O: Do you consider yourself pessimistic about human nature?

RA: No, I don't at all. I find myself rather optimistic. But I think you have to show the truth. The truth doesn't necessarily follow anybody around and behave accordingly. It has its own behavior. When I do a piece and people say, 'Gosh, that had kind of a downer ending,' I don't feel that way at all. I feel I've just shown a piece of the truth. I consider that a positive.

I don't mean to say he comes off as stupid, just sort of disappointing.

day's quotation

Shakespeare, Richard II, I.iii 275

GAUNT. All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens.
Teach thy necessity to reason thus:
There is no virtue like necessity.

The Great Carta

CNN: The Real Waffler.

McCreary and Pulaski county officials hung framed copies of the Ten Commandments in their courthouses and later added other documents, such as the Magna Charter and Declaration of Independence, after the display was challenged.

Shouldn't they decide between the traditional "Magna Carta" and the rarely used translation "The Great Charter"?

To be honest, I don't think they were trying to strike a happy compromise. I think their editors are just clueless.

Bactria 2 *

In the land of the Bactrian camel,
Lived a man who was working enamel.
    The Mongols came,
    took clothes and dame
And left him as one more nude mammal.

Monday, October 11, 2004


I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
     -Wallace Stevens

In Mazar-e-Sharif, the thin, white
Beards bow at the Blue Mosque, the tomb
Of Islam’s fourth caliph, Mohammed’s son:
Hazrat Ali. To the north of the city
Is Balkh, birthplace of Zoroaster, now
Home to the battle between scrubs and dust.

Yes, in Balkh there is still dust
At war, there stand white
Corinthian columns even now,
Still there is a mountain, a tomb
Called Qala Iskanderiya, the City
Of Alexander, Macedonia’s son.

Four dreadful years it took this son
To grasp this land, to shake this dust
That shakes today around the city,
Brother of golden Babylon and white
Nineveh, where each stone is a tomb
Marker, the silence that follows now.

Not even are there echoes now
From the steppes, from the Mongol son
Who also took the land and left tombs
Among the storm still flickering in dust.
But the people fled into the white
Mountains then, and carried their city.

And not too far from there, the city
Is spread. Still, it grows, and now
Blonde children, freckled, white,
Herd sickly goats. Alexander’s sons
Are as native to the mountains as dust.
In their tongue runs the Macedonian tomb.

Today, in Balkh there is not a tomb
That hasn’t run dry. The city
Houses quiet hawkers and clean dust.
All peoples are heroes. And now
Is just another past. History’s son
Has the dusky shade of bone, not white.

The white land itself is a tomb,
And neither the son, nor the city,
Rises now. All in all is dust.

BACKGROUND: I wrote this off the Alexander in Afghanistan business I posted on a few days ago. It's a sestina for a verse class I'm taking with J.D. McClatchy. Personally, I think it's fairly horrendous, but I wrote it in a about an hour with no revision, so I can't hope for any more than that. Of course, everyone in the class, including McClatchy, thought it was my best poem so far. Hmm...C'est la poésie, I suppose. Or it could just mean that I have no idea how bad my other poems have been.

day's quotation

Ecclesiastes 5:16 (KJV)

What profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?

a reason to study

Some advice for my peers: How do you know whether you should be in college? Ask yourself this: If you were prevented from going, would you be studying anyway?

Consider this passage in Karl Popper's Unended Quest about going to college in Austria in the years following the first World War:

I decided to leave school, late in 1918, to study on my own. I enrolled at the University of Vienna where I was, at first, a non-matriculated student, since I did not take the entrance examination ("Matura") until 1922, when I became a matriculated student. There were no scholarships, but the cost of enrolling at the University was nominal. And every student could attend any lecture course.

It was a time of upheavals, though not only political ones. I was close enough to hear the bullets whistle when, on the occasion of the Declaration of the Austrian Republic, soldiers started shooting at the members of the Provisional Government assembled at the top of the steps leading to the Parliament building. (This experience led me to write a paper on freedom.) There was little to eat; and as for clothing, most of us could afford only discarded army uniforms, adapted for civilian use. Few of us thought seriously of careers -- there were none (except perhaps in a bank; but the thought of a career in commerce never entered my head). We studied not for a career but for the sake of studying.

It should be no wonder that Popper contributed so much to his field.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sorry, Josh. I'm a lifelong Braves fan and that was just too sweet...

day's quotation

George Eliot, Middlemarch

...even Milton, looking for his portrait in a spoon, must submit to have the facial angle of a bumpkin.

Paul Berman's review of Che: The Wonder Years

CORRECTION: Where I got that Yglesias posted this today, I have no idea. It's from two weeks ago (9/24). I'm a hell of a blogger, aren't I?

Matthew Yglesias went off on a rant today about Paul Berman's review review of Walter Salles's The Motorcycle Diaries. Others have commented, and others have commented on the comment-commentators. And none of it is surprising.

Berman's review was bound to cut deep because he continues Slate's fine tradition of standing up to the ghosts of the left. There is nothing glorious about the life of Che. He was brutal and nasty, and probably short. Intelligent commentators across the political world know it. Even Yglesias, who's "really" about the review, doesn't say a word in opposition to what Berman is saying. So what's the problem?

Again, the ghosts of the left: I doubt very much that Yglesias would defend a movie glorifying the heady salad days of the CIA agents responsible for the 1973 Chilean coup, for example. Criticizing Che, a man who was once motivated by the plight of common people, just strikes the wrong nerve. Perhaps a movie should be made about Guevara's later brutality to be shown next to The Motorcycle Diaries -- call it a cautionary tale about the twisting of good intentions.

So Yglesias looks to hit back at this review that's irked him, and because there's no factual grounds to attack it on he attacks it in form: "Look, it's a film review that doesn't talk about the film. That's bullshit." Since when are reviews of art strictly about art though? Berman wasn't going to cover everything in his article, so he chose one part he considered important: the content. And he wrote forcefully on it. I admired his article the first time I read it, and I admire it not one bit less right now.

There is indeed a cult of Che in the United States and it's unhealthy. This movie glorifies the man and fosters the cult, and this review does us a service. Pretend that I knew even less about Guevara than I do, and I was considering seeing the movie at the behest of some even more ignorant friends. Wouldn't Berman's review actually be doing me a moral good? Another example: Leni Riefenstahl's skills were remarkable, but do most commentaries focus upon that? "Che was no Hitler!" some will proclaim. Yes, and Salles is no Riefenstahl. But neither is he Shakespeare, and there were no gallows waiting to see whether he would be critical of Che.

Ivy Arrogance

I'm going to hold off on the Ivy arrogance business for now, because I'm not too clear about my own feelings. I'm sure I'll pick it up again soon enough.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

the Yale superciliousness (wow)

I was brushing my teeth a few minutes ago and thinking about the Derrida post I made earlier, about using the word "irony." I thought about riding on a bus to Ocala about this time last year, going to a lit mag award ceremony with the Miambiance staff. The staff of MDC's paper, The Catalyst was also there. I was talking to this bright high-schooler, part of MDC's advanced high school program (bunch of smart kids doing their junior and senior years at the college and simultaneously graduating with high school and associate's degrees). I was joking around a bit and I used the word "ironic." He, perhaps getting a little tired of me, said, "That's not how you use the word."

I thought about him saying that while I was brushing my teeth a few minutes ago. I still don't think he was right. But, as Freud said, memories of sadness won't make you sad, memories of laughter won't make you laugh, but memories of embarrassment... I still felt a little ashamed when I thought about being chastened. But the unnerving part: The first thing I thought this time was, Well...I'm at Yale! Smart or not, is he getting into Yale?

Talk about shame on top of shame. I'm really one to scorn arrogance, that's why I can't help it when I'm that way. The worst part is that it's the eighth or ninth time I've said that to myself in the last six months. Do other students here feel that way? I think some must. Some must even say it. There is a bit of a reputation at some of these schools for that kind of attitude, and not all reputations are effortlessly gained. But why would I think something like that if I don't actually believe being here at Yale makes me a better person?

(And I mean that. I nearly flunked out of high school. I worked hard to get through community college while working full-time. I know how lucky I am to be here, and I'm slaving to make myself worthy of it.)

I think it boils down to appeals to authority. While thinking back to that kid on the bus, I feel the shame rise again and I look to counter it in any way. Bereft of a decent response, I appeal to the authority of Yale: "Look, Yale says I'm pretty smart. They accepted me. That must make my response better."

Now, appeals to authority aren't always wrong. If two undergrads are arguing over interpreting lab results, it probably would just take one of them saying, "Professor So-and-so said that this was the case," to get the other one to concede. It's just a way to quickly solve an argument using acceptable means; i.e. the professor's expertise. People just want to win arguments as quickly as possible, and they tend to adopt strategies that have worked for them in the past. It's why Kerry keeps mentioning John McCain and the Generals-Who-Support-Me Squad at every opportunity. He's pretty much saying, "You may abhor me, but you like those guys! They agree with me! You should to!" (But he says it without all that, hmm, vigor.)

Ugh, this post is hurting my head. I'll finish tomorrow. More then on my overweening ways.

Shaolin Soccer

Just saw Shaolin Soccer tonight. It's a near flawless parody, with many out-loud-laugh moments. I laughed so hard at one point that I drooled. I don't know, I can't explain how that happened either.

Best moment: When Mui runs into the goal post and then stands in the wrong goal. So simple, so fitting. After all the phantasmagoric antics, it was unexpected and unbelievably funny.

Derrida is dead; long live Derrida

Well, Jacques Derrida has passed on. I won't pretend to know his work well enough to substantively comment; I'll ask Bloom what he thinks on Wednesday. Nevertheless, from the bit I know I must agree that his impact is "undisputed" -- or, shall I say, significant. (Just try to find a blogger who can note this news without some irony.)

day's quotation

Shakespeare, 2 Henry IV, V.i

Worcester. Hear me, my liege:
For mine own part, I could be well content
To entertain the lag-end of my life
With quiet hours; for I protest
I have not sought the day of this dislike.
King. You have not sought it! How comes it then?
Falstaff. Rebellion lay in his way, and he found it.

Purpose of philosophy

Don't know why, but I've always liked this passage from D.M. Armstrong's "The Causal Theory of Mind":

The philosopher has certain special skills. These include the stating and assessing of the worth of arguments, including the bringing to light and making explicit suppressed premises of arguments, the detection of ambiguities and inconsistencies, and, perhaps especially, the analysis of concepts. But, I contend, these special skills do not entail that the objective of philosophy is to do these things. They are rather the special means by which philosophy attempts to achieve further objectives. ... [T]he analysis of concepts is a means by which the philosopher makes his contribution to great general questions, not about concepts, but about things.

UPDATE: I know why I like it now. It's because it says that philosophy's definitely good for something. Damn, I have to stop patting myself on the back.

Two points on the Iraq invasion

1. I've always preferred the deposing a tyrant purpose to the he had weapons. (Though I realize that it begs the question: "How many tyrants are out there?")

2. David Brooks is insane.

What is Brooks talking about? His key paragraph:

With sanctions weakening and money flowing, he rebuilt his strength. He contacted W.M.D. scientists in Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria and elsewhere to enhance his technical knowledge base. He increased the funds for his nuclear scientists. He increased his military-industrial-complex's budget 40-fold between 1996 and 2002. He increased the number of technical research projects to 3,200 from 40. As Duelfer reports, "Prohibited goods and weapons were being shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem."

Ok, so Saddam was going after weapons; he might have gotten his hands on them if sanctions were lifted. This is the wrong point though. Sanctions weren't going to be lifted without heavy and assiduous inspection of Iraq. That's what stripped Saddam of weapons; inspections could have worked again.

"He was on the verge of greatness. We would all now be living in his nightmare." How about, "He is on the verge of greatness. We could all soon be living in his nightmare"? Are we talking about Kim Jong Il now? Are we talking about an Ayatollah? Are we talking about some no-name terrorist with an itchy finger on the trigger of a bomb?

Brooks says that we shouldn't take pieces of the Duelfer report out of context. Well, Mr. Brooks, there's a damn big piece of the report -- it's very purpose -- that can and has been taken out and slapped on the front page of every paper in the nation: Saddam didn't have weapons. You can't deny it. And it's only taken $120 billion and tens of thousands of lives to find it out.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Bush's demeanor

One thing I forgot to mention...Bush's yelling. Though he toned it down eventually, he was pretty heated at the beginning. It seemed like he was trying to shove his arguments down the American gullet. Are we men or geese? (Or one big collective "goose" if you want to get all grammatical on me.)

I was reminded to post this by the others who I've seen make the observation: Andy Sullivan and Kevin Drum.

The most salient shot

There were some OK shots traded this time, despite the lack of any new ideas, but I think the best line of all was the one about the debt growing larger under Bush than it had from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. It's not really all too fine as a fact, but when you can go from Washington to anybody it's gotta stand out.

Prez Debate # 2

Tie -- or, better yet, stalemate. They kept playing the same moves over and again, the same they've been playing for months, and I didn't feel that either helped themselves very much. When people wake tomorrow and the next day and see more bad news in Iraq and elsewhere, I think they'll forget this.

The media's going to say that Bush won, but he definitely had an easier time of it. Those who were impressed by Kerry's performance in the first debate were going to expect the same margin of victory tonight, but it just wasn't going to happen. Say what you will about Bush, he wasn't going to come unprepared into another debate, especially in a format he should rock. Was Bush more impressive than last time? Of course, that's why I thought it was a tie. But, then again, could Bush possibly have been worse?

My guess: The polls are going to stay where they are, or Kerry might even continue to rise.

Next debate: Bush is going to be looking for a checkmate. He's going to be looking for the "there you go again" line. He's got to. I thought he was reaching for it already tonight. Meantime, Kerry's just going to keep hitting the same points in the hope that he continues his ponderous ascent. (And we all know what kind of air it takes to do that. Sigh.)

I don't like Bush on just about anything, but I agree that Kerry's got the wrong vision for the Terror War. God, these candidates are horrible. I can't wait till historians can look back on these times...not because they'll be judged one way or another, but just because they'll be over.

Bush Joke

This is, by far, the best Bush joke I've ever seen.

Steve Chapman, via lotsa, lotsa people...

How many Bush officials does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. "There's nothing wrong with that light bulb. It has served us honorably. When you say it's burned out, you're giving encouragement to the forces of darkness. Once we install a light bulb, we never, ever change it. Real men don't need artificial light."

Alexander in Afghanistan

The picture by itself, so unassuming at first glance, is remarkable for one who is as ignorant about Afghanistan as I.

Then again, this whole project attempting to identify descendants of Alexander's soldiers in Afghanistan is fascinating. Research of the type that Leeming has been doing makes me want to grab my bag, get a ticket, and march about the world.

One part of particular interest (this digression is used as support for the hypothesis):

The Cohenim
The Jewish priesthood is said to be descended from Moses’ brother Aaron. The Hebrew word for priest is kahen and Jewish tradition claims that the priestly caste is preserved in men surnamed Cohen. The laboratory tested a large group of male Jews called Cohen and found that 50% have a genetic signature signifying a common male ancestor who, if a constant mutation is assumed rate, lived in 2,100 to 3,250 BP (Before Present).

The oral traditions of the Lemba
The Lemba are a black, Bantu speaking group in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Their oral tradition claims Jewish descent. This is not uncommon. The myth of the ‘lost ten tribes’ exiled from Samaria in 722 BC is a powerful one, and as a legitimating myth of origins may be compared to royal houses claiming descent from Alexander. Indeed, the nineteenth century saw the establishment of a sect of ‘British Israelites’.

However, genetic testing of the Y chromosome showed the existence of the genetic signature of Cohen and a high level of genetic types typical of Jewish populations. Therefore, the Lemba’s oral tradition has gained considerable support as reflecting a genuine historical event.

Samuel Beckett, abstracted.

We're picking our nose and thinking about the grave.

day's quotation

These lines are haunting me.

Hart Crane, "Repose of Rivers"

I heard wind flaking sapphire, like this summer,
And willows could not hold more steady sound.

Bloom on Faulkner

The other day Bloom was talking about the only time he met Faulkner.

Robert Penn Warren and Faulkner shared the same agent, and this agent took Bloom along one dismal NY day to a lunch with the novelist. They sat around and drank for awhile, waiting. Eventually Faulkner showed up, already steeped in Jack Daniels; nevertheless, he was supremely courteous, a gentleman.

After lunch, the agent left. Bloom and Faulkner continued talking for awhile before Faulkner, staring out the window, asked, "So Bloom, what do you think of the day?" Bloom wasn't sure how to respond: "Well, I don't know. I suppose it's a day like any other." Faulkner turned back from the window. Bloom asked him what he thought. "Oh," said Faulkner, "I'm just waiting for my doom to lift." With that, he rose and departed into the gray.


Starting is always easier than finishing, though not by much...