Saturday, June 9, 2007
Friday, June 8, 2007
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Aside from terrorism and poorly built sandwiches there really is nothing I hate more than introducing myself to other people. I once thought this only held true in person or on the phone, but no, it's not very fun to do in the blogosphere either. To be honest, I was hoping one of the other dissentators would introduce me, ideally in a flattering light (not so flattering that I couldn't meet expectations, but just enough to feel like I belonged). But, I've been a dissentator for about an hour or so now and it's becoming quite clear that I'm on my own on this one. We better just plow on then. I'm ladissentator, "la" as in los angeles, which is where I've been living for about two years now. Besides living in los angeles, I'm pretty much like the rest of these guys. I went to Columbia University, I'm an American-born caucasian man, and I fucking (we can swear on this shit right?) hate the Eagles man.
The plus side of introducing yourself on the blogosphere is that you could make up just about anything about yourself and people would have no reason not to believe you. For example, I could've told you I was Charles Barkley back there and you might've believed me. But, since I already told you I was an "American-born caucasian man" now I'm branded for life. Unless, of course, I was lying earlier, then I could still be Sir Charles. Well, now you don't know what to believe. For all you know I'm not the white, Eagles-hating Columbia grad or Charles Barkley. Maybe I'm David Robinson. Or forget former NBA stars altogether, maybe I'm Wolf Blitzer or someone you've never even heard of like, I don't know, Doug Patterson from Duluth. The point is I could be anybody, so why not let me be Charles Barkley? It probably wouldn't hurt traffic to the site, and you can't honestly tell me you wouldn't read daily musings by the former Dream Team power forward. What the hey, Charles Barkley it is!
Wouldn't it be crazy if I was really Doug Patterson!?
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
But what are these conservatives really scoffing at, it's our politics right? One would be led to believe that Massachusetts, overrun with liberals and progressives as we are, must be some lawless wasteland of vice and Un-American activity. I mean, we're the first state to provide marriage rights to homosexual couples, as we did in 2004; we just elected the 2nd black Governor in U.S. history; our U.S. Senators are John "hates the troops" Kerry and Ted Kennedy; and the man who has been my congressman all my life is none other than my favorite Barney Frank -- he's homosexual, Jewish, and went to one of those elite schools called Harvard! How do people living in Massachusetts make it through the day alive?
Well it helps that we're 2nd in the country for per capita income, home to some of the top ranked public schools in the nation, and remain a bastion for people around the world seeking the best in education from the esteemed private schools and the over 40 universities in the Boston area. But, just in case you don't make it through the day in one piece, we are also the first and only state to mandate health care coverage for it's citizens. Doesn't really seem like such a bad place to live, considering the state legislative branch is made up of less than 13% Republicans.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Not sure how you guys like to work. Maybe you're an early riser, like to get up early and enjoy some quiet time before work -- read the paper, do a little yoga, what-have-you. My inclination is to use the post-midnight hours for my me time, and this tendency is only increased when I'm living in a country 5-7 hours ahead of good old East Coast Time, when my friends and family are awake and online. So, typically once Sunday rolls around, I'm pretty out of it, and tonight is very much a typical Sunday -- a weeks worth of news starts to curdle a bit in my mind as I'm planning out the week ahead, and certain things pop out at me. Here are some of this weeks:
1. Apparently, according to an Editorial from NYTimes, there remain...how do I say this?...anti-dancing laws in New York City and in other cities across the country:
"New York’s cabaret laws limit dancing to licensed venues. They date back to the Harlem Renaissance, which had created the unsettling prospect of interracial dancing.
For decades, no one paid much attention to the laws until Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, bent on turning Manhattan into a giant mall/food court, decided to get tough. Today, the city far more famous for its night life than its Sunday services has only about 170 venues where it is legal to get up and dance — hence last month’s danced protest, as well as an earlier one in February."
I don't get it. I don't get the fact that these cabaret laws still exist. I don't get why and how exactly they are enforced. And I'm having a hell of a time trying to picture "last month's danced protest". Then I found this video:
2. There has been an article or two recently that seem to be laying the ground work for our administration to tell us outright that we're pretty much sticking around in Iraq -- or using the "Korea Model" as they have said. It has seemed increasingly clear to me that the administration never really had intentions otherwise, considering we're constructing the world's largest embassy in the heart of Baghdad, and have discussed and/or begun building "three or four major bases in the country". So doesn't this make all the debate about troop withdrawals and timelines sort of moot. It doesn't appear as though we'll ever really pull out entirely, and even if we did allow all of our troops to return safely to their homes, we would still have a presence of tens of thousands of "defense contractors" there, who have been and will continue to act effectively as a mercenary army. And, as far as an Iraqi is concerned, I'm not sure it makes much of a difference if the patch on the arm reads "US ARMY" or "HALLIBURTON".
3. I have a great respect for Al Gore, and I think jokes about his weight are tasteless and facile humor (though Bill Maher managed to make me laugh when he commented on the nonsense about the large electricity bill at Gore's Tennessee estate, saying "It's not his carbon footprint that I'm worried about; it's his carbon ASS print." Well played, Bill), but whenever I see Al Gore appear on tv, I can't shake this overwhelming urge to stare at his very very shiny face. It's just very very shiny and sort of mesmeric. Doesn't make me like the guy any less or think that he isn't doing a lot of good work. In fact, it's kinda cool. Go ahead, Mr. Gore, shine on you crazy diamond.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
To take a cynical approach, it would appear that President Bush is attempting
"Mr Bush said he expected 'heavy fighting in the weeks and months' ahead. 'What they're going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home,' he said. 'They recognise that the death of innocent people could shake our will . . . So, yes, it could be a bloody - it could be a very difficult August'."
to frame the debate that will inevitably resume in September, when General
Patraeus will make his progress report and our legislators will decide how
to proceed with the occupation. By offering this perspective, Bush may
somehow attempt to argue that the surge is not failing because of us but
because of the insurgent violence. But, even if he were to form the argument
in this way, it would be like a coach at halftime telling the losing team
that "we're not scoring as many points as we should because the other team
wants to rattle us and make us rethink our strategy."
Whether this is indeed an attempt by Bush to frame the debate or not, it exposes a lack of objectivity from an increasingly unpopular and defensive president that must realize at some level his administration's many failures in Iraq. This myopic, obdurate mindset is what former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, refers to with the title of his documentary, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. As McNamara argues, the insulating mechanisms of power make the uncanny realities of war incomprehensible even for those in command -- and this is coming from one of the "best and the brightest" -- but after 40 years he offers some sagacious lessons; the first of which is to "Empathize with your enemy": "We must try to put ourselves inside their skin and look at us through their eyes, just to understand the thoughts that lie behind their decisions and their actions."
This point is expounded in both the film and in McNamara's 1995 book, In Retrospect: The Tragedies and Lessons of Vietnam, in which McNamara lists the failures of our leadership in during the Vietnam War:
- We misjudged then — and we have since — the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries … and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.
- We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience … We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
- We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
- We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.
"It's pointless to decapitate the head of the insurgency or disrupt its command structure, because the insurgency doesn't have these things. Instead, it is a swarm of disparate companies that share information, learn from each other's experiments and respond quickly to environmental signals."For we Americans to view the struggle in Iraq as insurgents vs. the U.S., or even as Sunni vs. Shiite, is a blatant misreading of the reality on the ground where "there are between 70 and 100 groups that make up the Iraq insurgency". Furthermore, for our president to claim that insurgents are ratcheting up the violence in Iraq this Summer to influence the debate at home -- as if they're all gathered around watching C-SPAN together -- is not only solipsistic, but deleterious to our national debate surrounding our complex and difficult decision on how to proceed. Empathy is not sympathy -- it's not feeling their anger but understanding the motivations behind it -- and when faced with a violent and open-ended conflict, with no definition of victory, it may be a good idea to deploy some.