Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye, 2006.

Being but men, we walked into the trees
Afraid, letting our syllables be soft
For fear of waking the rooks,
For fear of coming
Noiselessly into a world of wings and cries.

If we were children we might climb,
Catch the rooks sleeping, and break no twig,
And, after the soft ascent,
Thrust out our heads above the branches
To wonder at the unfailing stars.

Out of confusion, as the way is,
And the wonder that man knows,
Out of the chaos would come bliss.

That, then, is loveliness, we said,
Children in wonder watching the stars,
Is the aim and the end.

Being but men, we walked into the trees.

-Dylan Thomas, "Being But Men"

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Apostropher drew my attention to the fact that it looks like last call at the Whiskey Bar has come and gone. I've always had a favorable opinion of Billmon, even if he never made in into my regular reading rotation. But Billmon's retirement from blogging is not what I'm going to write about here.

In Billmon's penultimate post, he draws our attention to this quote from Condi Rice:
This [Iraq] is a country that is worth the investment because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor, you'll have a very different kind of Middle East. And I know that from the point of view of not just monetary costs, but the sacrifice of American lives, a lot has been sacrificed for Iraq, a lot has been invested in Iraq.
Billmon points out that to speak of American soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq as an "investment" seems cold and heartless. True enough, but that's not what I'm going to write about either.

The bit that really caught my attention was this:
once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor, you'll have a very different kind of Middle East
I've heard and read variations on this assertion countless times before. For various reasons I've never really focused much attention on this particular assertion, but I think it is long overdue for careful scrutiny.

Certainly no reasonable person would question the potential for a broken, war-torn Iraq to have a destabilizing influence on the region. But what would it really mean for Iraq to be a "stabilizing factor?"

Close your eyes and imagine for a moment a magical world in which a reverse-Murphy's-Law begins to operate in Iraq. If anything can go right it will. Sunnis and Shiites see the futility of civil war and stop fighting each other. Insurgents from other countries pack up and go home. The infrastructure is repaired and made better than it ever was before. Free and fair elections are held, and the losing parties accept defeat gracefully and vow to work within the system to try to achieve their goals. The Iraqi police and armed forces become exemplary keepers of the peace, able to maintain civil order and protect against foreign threats.

Heck, while we're at it, let's even imagine that we find a huge stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles with the latitude and longitude of major U.S. cities programmed into their tracking systems, thus proving that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was entirely justified. Having disarmed these weapons, the coalition forces are able to go home, secure in the knowledge that the flourishing democracy that Iraq has become is safe and secure.

Gee, that sure would be great, wouldn't it?

But I still don't see how it would make Iraq a "stabilizing factor" in the region.

How, specifically, would the fact that things are going swimmingly in Iraq make the fundamentalist ayatollahs in Iran any less crazy? Would the Palestinians stop fighting the Israelis and each other simply because the people over in Iraq are savoring their freedoms? Is anyone seriously suggesting that Hezbollah terrorists in Syria and Lebanon would lay down their arms and espouse nonviolence purely out of a desire to emulate the peaceful, democratic ways of their Iraqi neighbors?

I'm not saying that a peaceful, stable, democratic Iraq wouldn't be a great thing; it sure as hell would. But first and foremost it would be a great thing for the people of Iraq. And for that reason and that reason alone I hope some policy genius comes up with some way reversing the downward spiral of violence and chaos in Iraq.

Let's stop imagining the Middle East to be some sort of Rube Goldberg contraption where the stabilization of Iraq magically leads to the establishment of democracy in another country, then another, then another. Instead, let's put all talk of broader strategic aims aside and put our heads together and see if there is any way, whether by leaving or by staying, by working with our friends or those we call our enemies, to undo even in small part the mess we have made of Iraq. And let's do it for the Iraqi people. Because they deserve it, and we owe it to them.

Elect 'em if you got 'em.

John Edwards announced today that he will seek the nomination of the Democratic Party for president of the United States in 2008. I caught part of the announcement speech. He tackled foreign policy, particularly Iraq, head on. I think he's put a workable [read: electable] platform together.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Rorschach Test

In the unlikely event that you read this blog and don't also read Unfogged or apostropher, you owe it to yourself to check out this photo.

As I noted in the comments at Unfogged, the picture is amazing because it captures everything that conservatives adore these men for and everything that liberals despise them for.

And as snarkout said, "If they just keep going down that road, Cheney's going to get a heart, Bush is going to get a brain, and Rumsfeld is going to get a medal that proves he has courage."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Best Self Portraits Ever

Check out Noah Kalina's Flickr photostream. Do you have any self portraits that are better than these? Any that are even remotely as cool as these? I submit to you that you do not. You are therefore allowed to be jealous.

If you get the feeling you have seen Noah before, you might have seen him here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


A close friend of mine tried unsuccessfully to take her own life the other night. As a result, I find it deeply appropriate that I will be greeted with this image every time I use the Google today:

Thankfully, my sense of humor is such that I am of a mind to appreciate the aptness of this image on this particular day.

Life is funny. There is humor to be found in all aspects of it, even the darkest parts. If my friend had been able to find some humor in her situation, perhaps she would not have taken the action she did.

So on behalf of my friend, take a look whatever it is in your life that gets you down and have a good laugh at it. You'll feel better, and you will thereby make the world a slightly better place than it was.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Zeno's Paradox?

A fellow named Zeno takes me to task regarding my avowed goal of growing wings and antlers:
This comparison to Bush's words is the most unfair of all. As a man who is close to the earth—a gentleman farmer and rancher who is practically a naturalist—the president is well aware that wings and antlers are not compatible in nature.
As a man of learning—a gentleman loser and rauncher who is practically unnatural—I believe what I read in books. I meet Zeno's challenge to my credibility with the most hallowed of academic traditions, the citation. Here is the source that sparked my dream:
Gygax, E. Gary. 1977. Monster Manual. Lake Geneva: TSR Hobbies, Inc.
For those whose university libraries are not fortunate enough to have this rare volume on their shelves, I reproduce the relevant portion of page 78.

I stand vindicated! This combination of features is found in nature, and I shall grow them on my own body!

I do not, however, believe in imposing artificial timetables on my dreams. My wings and antlers will grow in their own good time. Until then, I will adapt to win.

Maybe I'll try some Rogaine. I hear that stuff works miracles.

Friday, December 08, 2006

S = r * t

In his joint press conference with Tony Blair yesterday, President Bush was asked whether he was capable of admitting his past failures with regard to the Iraq war. In response he stated "I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed," and went on to say "I thought we would succeed quicker than we did, and I am disappointed by the pace of success."

Brilliant! Sheer genius! I tip my hat to the master of rhetoric behind these words! By applying this approach to my problems and those of the people in my life, I am able to see the world in a much more positive light. For example:
  • I am disappointed by the pace at which I am winning the powerball lottery.
  • I have not succeeded as fast I had hoped in convincing my wife that twice-daily blowjobs are necessary for our mutual happiness.
  • My nephew who dropped out of high school and is now dealing crystal meth? We are all disappointed by the rate at which he is finishing his doctoral dissertation.
  • My plan to grow wings and antlers is slightly behind schedule.
There now, I feel better already!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I read the news today. Oh, boy!!!!!

Mashups and remixes of Beatles songs by Sir George Martin and his son Giles, using the original master tapes of the entire Beatles catalog at Abbey Road Studios!

Download the new "Strawberry Fields Forever", which mashes the original song together with bits of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Penny Lane," and "Piggies," and among others.

Wow. Just wow.

Via BoingBoing.

Update: I went out and bought this new album, titled Love, during my lunch break and started listening to it on my drive home.

Good god, what an album!

I don't want to overhype this or anything, and this may be a bit of a stretch considering I haven't even listened to the whole thing yet, but I think strong case could be made to support the claim that this is the greatest album of all time. Seriously.

A strong recommendation for those of you who haven't bought the album yet: do not look at the track listing before or as you listen to it the first time. That way as you listen you won't know what's coming next, and boy oh boy will you be in for some surprises.

I've got some driving to do later tonight, so I get to listen to the rest in a short while.