"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Aches

Still on the mend. Still not pretty. The tooth thing has me a little paranoid... but from what I read there's not much to be done now unless I have nerve damage, which seems unlikely since my gums are not swollen. Last night I made a strange but somehow true connection. Jeremy and Wes and I were looking at andrewwk.com, and after they got done making fun of me for my similar (if somewhat less extreme) facial condition. I said, "this reminds me of reading a doctor bronners soap bottle." Compare the sites and see.

Here are two quick politix links: The Observer breaks a story about the NSA bugging UNSC member's phones in an attempt to help win the next war-resolution vote. That don't help Team Bush's credibility problem. Let's see if this makes any US media. Also, if you're tired of hearing people hawk about Kenneth Pollack and The Threatening Storm, here's a little dissection of his position.

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We're Rich!

I'm a mess
I'm a mess
I'm a mess

I still have pain. Not as much as yesterday, but still more than I would like. The swelling has gone down some, but my tooth remains somewhat more tender than I'd like it to. Really not relishing the prospect of trying to find a dentist... it's not that I fear or loath the medical establishment, just that a certain part of me always wonders how monkey-man hunter-gatherers dealt with this kind of thing. There's an impulse to let nature take its course, but I suppose that's why not many primitive humans lived past 35.

Worst of all, I have to go out in public today, and I'm really especially not relishing the prospect of having to explain what happened to everyone I see. Maybe I'll stick with the marine fight story; when he first saw my face, I duped Kevin into thinking I got into a rumble with some Jarheads after mouthing off in a bar. I just feel like an idiot telling people that a simple pothole busted me up.

Rambling among the moderately exhibitionist and fair-to-poorly written blogosphere of the more or less beautiful people, I come across this true gem: The New York City Anti-Hipster Forum. True comic life-recording at its best.

Talking about the rent, Frank and I have decided to take a page from the Team Bush playbook and simply repeat the phrase, "we're rich!" until it becomes true. Wealth is a massively concurrent consensual hallucination anyway, so why couldn't the power of suggestion have some effect. It's a faith-based initiative, after all.

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I Have Pain

Hmmm... a little less swelling, and a lot more visible brusing than last night. I have a morbid desire to photograph the whole affair. Catch biology in the bits. It's been a slow day in front of the television. I'm finding Irish Whisky to be about as effective as an icepack at reducing the swelling in my lip, which is to say not very. I need to jot down some non-injury notes from last night, but my will is failing.

My soul is consumed with discovering the thing -- the purpose, the cause, the means of bringing the essense of me into contact with the world that surrounds -- that will make me proud to be myslef, and with wondering in languishing uncertainty when Love will come by and lift my spirit into fields of unconscious glee as I know it one day will. I just hope I don't have to wait until I'm in my late '20s or even my '30s to get there. Partly impatience, but also a desire to direct my energies to more substantial things than this sophomoric search for mates. I know part of the key to this equation is my attitude, but part of it is also uncovering the right someone. More on that another time.

Right now on blessed and free IFC is way of the gun, a neat little existential experiment in violence with lots of surprising characters but a dissappointingly ambivalent ending. Choice line: in the dicy beginnings of the climactic gun battle, Benicio del Toro asks Ryan Phillipe "what do you think?" His response, "I think a plan is a list of things that don't happen." Calls to mind the good moments of Hal Hartley. Also worth seeing are the two Young Consultant Killers; kind of like dot-com kids of the murder-for-hire biz. Really a brilliant formal exercise, just lacking total follow through on substence. Nice scoring also.

I'm a mess

He ain't pretty no more
That's right, I'm a fucking mess. This is what you get when your city can't afford to fix potholes. Riding home on Astor Place last night after going to the Free Eddie show, a mighty crevase in the street escaped my attention, swallowed my front wheel and agganged quite defttly to acquaint my face with the loving caress of pavement. It took a minute for what happened to hit home. I was on the sidewalk in front of k-mart collecting myself when I realized I was bleeding. Some kind soul offered me some napkins and they came away red. My first bloody nose! I didn't quite get the full impact until I got to a mirror. It's ugly, but after three accident-free years of NYC biking, I could have done a lot worse.

It's ironic that this happens now, what with the little trip I've got on the left and the poll that's running on the right.

So don't worry, I think I'm fine. One of my front teeth is very sore and a little loose, but not as loose as it was, which I take to be a good sign. Assuming my lip un-swells in due course and the tooth returns to normal, everything else is just urban rug burn. Happens to be on my face, but hey: I needed to take some time off from all this reckless makeout anyway.

So I'm taking it easy tonight. A little reading. A little porrage. Maybe some ice cream later on. I'll peruse the web some more. I've been getting in on some of the technorati stuff -- kind of an ofshoot of my praxis idea -- and I'm strangely attracted to this blog by some chick in my 'hood... full of hikou-esque words, good photos and neat uses of technology. Planned architectural site updates have been shelved for today.

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The Great Cross-Blog Debate

My favorite anti-war-blog, Stand Down, and the NZ Bear have organized a cross-blog debate on the war. Warbloggers will be answering the anti-war-blog community's questions and vice versa. You can visit either site for the questions if you want to participate, which I encourage you to do if you blog.

1) If you were President of the United States, what would be your policy toward Iraq over the next year? What advantages and disadvantages do you see in your proposed policies versus the current path being pursued by the Bush administration?

Aggressive containment and reinforced inspections, primarily. These policies have a much greater real chance of protecting the American homeland and our allies from attack than launching an invasion, while at the same time saving massive amounts of human life, economic resources and the reputation of America as a just force in the world.

A good secondary objective would be to overhaul the sanctions mechanism to truly focus it on containment and positive engagement rather than punishment. For instance, we could increase the availability of equipment for water sanitization and other public-health concerns. This could be the beginning of independent economic and cultural ties between businesses and citizens in Iraq and America. As the President is font of noting, the people of Iraq are not our enemy. It's time we put our money where our mouth is on that point.

2) Is there any circumstance that you can conceive of where the United States would be justified in using military force without the support of the UN Security Council --- or does the UN always have a veto against US military action for whatever reason?

Of course the UNSC doesn't have a "veto" over American decisions. If there is a credible and immanent threat to national security or an opportunity to use limited force for a just end that the Security Council for some reason did not want to endorse, then we might be justified in making unilateral choices. However, invasive military action by any nation against another is a threat to international peace and prosperity. Such action must be demonstrated to be the will of the world if we are to be credibly working towards international cooperation and lasting peace.

3) American and British military force has allowed Northern Iraq to develop a society which, while imperfect, is clearly a freer and more open society than existed under Saddam Hussein's direct rule. Do you agree that the no-fly zones have been beneficial to Northern Iraq --- and if so, why should this concept not be extended to remove Hussein's regime entirely and spread those freedoms to all Iraqis?

The "no fly zone" concept is an excellent example of aggressive containment. However, it is in no way comparable to an invasion. It is also worth noting that northern Iraq and central Iraq are very different regions with very different populations and will require very different means to eventually liberate them.

4) Do you believe an inspection and sanctions regime is sufficient and capable of keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of the Hussein regime --- and should this be a goal of U.S. policy? In what way is an inspection/containment/sanctions regime preferable to invasion? Civilian casualties? Expense? Geopolitical outcome?

I don't think it's a possible goal to keep all weapons of mass destruction out of the Hussein regime's hands. The most important thing is to deter the regime from taking aggressive action, be it with conventional weapons or WMD. Secondarily, we must restrain them from creating a large cache of chemical/bio weapons and from attaining nuclear capabilities -- these are threats to national and regional security. Unless the regime can be eliminated peacefully (e.g. exile, reform, bloodless coup) rigorous inspections are our best option in the pursuit of these tasks, as it's very unlikely that any large-scale operation could continue while a strong inspection and monitoring program is in place.

As for the reasons which inspections are preferable to invasion, all of the above. Additionally there are the issues of US military casualties, responsibility for rebuilding Iraq, generational repercussions, increased risk of immediate terrorist attack on America, providing fodder for terrorist recruitment, and a greater probability that any WMDs in Iraq could get loose.

5) What, in your opinion, is the source of national sovereignty? If you believe it to be the consent of the governed, should liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein's regime be U.S. policy? If so, how do you propose to accomplish this goal absent military action? (And if in your view the sovereignty of a state does not derive from the consent of the governed, then what is the source of sovereignty?)

National Sovereignty rests in the recognition of the world. Sovereign status is conferred via the consensus of other sovereigns. Vociferous internal dissent (up to an including civil war) tends to reduce the validity of a sovereign, but in essence the test of sovereignty is whether or not it is respected by the outside world.

Ideally the legitimacy of sovereignty is grounded in the consent of the governed ala the classic social contract, but in reality this is too fuzzy a concept to hang soverignty on. When does a government lose the consent of the governed? An argument could be made, for instance, that Mr. Bush -- failing to capture the popular vote in 2000 -- does not have the consent of the governed. I'm not going to make that argument, but it does highlight the blurry nature of this concept.

That being said, I do think it should be a US policy goal to liberate the Iraqi people from dictatorship. The best means to do this is through cultural and economic engagement backed by containment and deterrence. This is how we brought down the USSR. It's how we're dealing with China. It's hopefully how we'll deal with North Korea. There's no reason that the same methods won't work in Iraq. The only salient difference between Iraq and the Soviets or Chinese or N. Korea is that we clearly enjoy complete military supremacy, and as such we could easily "win" in a war. Just because we can doesn't mean this course of action is in any way preferable to the alternative.

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Mr Powell Comes to NY

Colin Powell made his case to the UN today. I've read the coverage and basically my response is to yawn. There's nothing new here. No one expects Saddam to openly cooperate just like no one expects a person to be helpful to police who show up with a search warrant. What he seems to be saying is that "hey, we have this resolution, and Iraq isn't going along with it, so now we have to go to war."

So now it's war over a point of order? War for the sake of rules and regulations? Where's the threat, Mr Powell?

This is what I heard from Tony Blair the other day, only he was even more plain. He said, "If we don't show strength now, no one will believe us when we try to show strength in the future." This, I also believe, is closely related to the derisive "peace at any price" remarks which come from the pro-war camp.

Now, there's an argument to be made here, but not a very logically sound one. I must say that that argument will not convince me, now will it convince the American public.

Comparisons to 1938 are highly fatuous. In that case, Western European leaders were turning a blind eye as Hitler annexed Austria and much of Eastern Europe. In this case, Saddam knows he can't be aggressive without paying a very high cost (ala 1991). That is why Powell and Bush constantly harp on the scare tactics, playing up what a bad guy Saddam is and how he's really secretly best buds with Osama.

Furthermore, the world will react far better to just uses of force that are honestly supported by the international community than they will to being bullied about by a superpower. There's a good chance that this whole debacle will de-legitimize any United States role in global peacekeeping for many years to come. People intuitively feel this, which is why you see the polls showing support for unliateral action consitantly below 40%. Even most conservatives I know are disgusted by what this is doing to our reputation as a nation.

Which brings us back to the terrorist cell connection. We're told that Iraq must be prevented from having WMD because of a terrorist link. Problem is, the argument that Saddam will give away his best toys to terrorists is roundly believed to be highly unlikely. In fact, it's much more likely that terrorist or sympathizers would get their hands on bio or chemical WMD under the fog of war than with the blessing of Iraq's regime. Think about it, if someone dumps VX in the NYC subway system, what nation is being bombed to hell in about 8 hours? What does Saddam have to gain in that scneario? This is simply a rather transparent (and to my eyes fucking disgraceful) attempt to use the memory of 9-11 to justify war.

Finally, there is the $64,000 question: nukes. I would support all manner of covert operations and interdiction to slow nuclear proliferation, but waging pre-emtive war is a different kettle of fish. I for one am pretty sure that Saddam is as deterrable as Stalin on this question. We've proven willing to militarily resist aggression (1991) and militarily support containment (e.g. no-fly zones). Seems like that sort of thing is working just fine. I live in NYC, so it means something when I say I'm sure enough to stake my life on it.

An invasion of Iraq would be an atrocity. Unless we are attacked first, there's absolutly no excuse to unleash the hell of war. Are we not supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave? With immagrant roundups, nonstop fearmongering from politicians and the media and a frankly cowardly foreign policy, I'm with my conservative friends when they worry what is happening to this country.

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Go here, Dammit...

...and read! This is possibly the most comprehensive list of points against going to war that I've ever read. It's delightfully mainstream (praising Regan and the IMF), but resoundingly anti-war. It reveals the whole affair as the giant leap backward that it is.

http://www.theinformedcitizen.net/case_against_war.htm

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Trends

I've been traveling, and a bit out of touch in general for the past few weeks. But reality has come crashing back in, hard, stinking and unannounced. While bunking with Luke in portland I took in more television than I usually do in a month of Brooklyn dwelling, and in reading small-town newspapers and observing the world on parade before me I've been exposed to a much broader spectrum of the American experience than I usually have access to. My observations have been more than a little disquieting.

I've become fond lately of likening popular entertainment to a sewer, but I'm quite uncomfortable with finding out my denunciations are dead on rather than alarmist and ahead of their time. Lies and vugarity abound. The millitary is everywhere in popular culture, and insiduously so as well. I notice few outright recruitment ads -- fewer, anyway, than I remember as a youth -- but millitary personnel and themes are pervasive, working their way into the mainstream consciousness. Beyond that, crass commercialism and manipulative exploitation are more naked and open than I ever remember. Surely this is partly due to my own emerging consciousness, but I also believe it to be change in the environment as well; a trend, if you will. Have you ever seen so many goddamn ads for diamonds in your life?

The other night, my friend David showed me the videogame SOCOM, an online Navy Seal vs. Terrorists combat simulation for the Playstation 2. Thousands of people around the world were online and playing when we fired it up at 11pm PST. It's grand fun, chasing down people from the central timezone. You wear a little headset and can talk to your team-mates, and I realize that this -is- the future of entertainment. The addictive pull is strong for me after only a few minutes of play. I want to improve, develop tactics, gun down my distant real-live opponents. I am the cream of the target audience, and they've scored a direct hit.

I realize the Pentagon must have a huge hard-on just thinking about the confused pot-head teens who will grow up playing this game and others like it. Perhaps 80% will be too out of shape to make muster as combat troops, but many will surely qualify as remote drone operators. Even though the vast majority are unlikely to ever be sucessfully recruited, they will have become accustomed to the millitary paradigm. A great public ready for endless war.

At the same time, 9 out of 10 Americans already believe that conflict with Iraq is inevitable and 60% support the use of nuclear weapons in response to biological or chemical attacks. How did atomic bombs become equated with nerve gas I'd like to know? They're both horrible, but certainly not symmetrical in their destructive prowess or apocalyptic after-effects. It looks like a long, slow slide into battle is what's being planned. Take our time, do it right, make sure the Marines are still on the march when the election rolls around. As I type this I wonder if I'm becoming paranoid, but it's the only logical conclusion I can draw from the available evidence. It's no longer believable that the whole administration is frightened and confused and acting rashly to protect the American homeland. What is going on now is deliberate and calculated and at best misguided if not outright evil.

And the American left is nowhere. The anti-war resistance will continue to rally in large numbers, but with the continued ignorance/hostility of the mass media, and the inevitable internal power-struggles and enmity that all disorganized large groups breed, I don't see the coalitions that have been built as yet having even a faint hope of stopping the People In Charge from doing what they want. I'm rather pessimistic of our chances of success given the current situation and prevailing tactics. That doesn't mean I won't be there with bells on, but the personal cost for me to do so is quite low. Were this a war rather than a civil debate I would desert. We lack leadership, we lack vision, we lack a plan or a prayer for victory. We may be right -- and in the long run that is our (only?) ace in the hole -- but the right people have been vanquished many times in history.

All around me I see the profound failure of imagination and virtue. I see greed, hoarding, avarice and lies from all the aproved sources. Thankfully my family and friends are strong, and from them I draw no small amount of solidarity and comfort, but I cannot escape the sensation of mental persecution, the feeling of living in a hostile environment. Allowing myself to follow this well-worn line of thought, I begin to teeter between wanting to work to improve that environment and simply wanting to escape to a better place. It's a long-standing debate I have with myself, and I doubt it will be resolved any time soon. Currently I lean towards staying and trying to make a difference, cultural problems have cultural solutions, but the more I try the more fursterating it is. I begin to think that maybe the way to make a difference is to vacate the current environment and take enough people with me that it causes a stir. I'm not talking about cults or expatriation or mass-suicide, but a kind of cutural line in the sand, a way of saying "Enough. We will not do this anymore." What this really is I do not know, but I can feel -- we all can feel -- something slouching towards us to be born.

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Combat Semantics

Doing my usual news-consumption today, and I'm saddened to see that the Linguistics of War are making progress from the pools of online extreemism (e.g. LGF's comments section), through the "fair and balanced" filter of the NewsCorp networks and into the center of the journalistic zeitgeist. I've been seeing more and more words like "Islamist" appearing in the NYT and other publications usually considered to be on the upper-end of what passes for journalistic duty these days.

I find this sort of thing troubling because it signals that the propaganda of the War Party, their information warfare, is beginning to take hold. The first step to prosecuting a successful war is the demonization of the enemy. Pro-war people must avoid thinking of the Others as human beings at all costs, lest their zeal for their cause and their resolve to use brutal force in achieving their ends begin to waver. I believe ultimately that the adhesive nature of humanity is stronger than the corrupting nature of power. However, there are thousands of years worth of inequality to overcome, and calling each other names pushes us all in the wrong direction.

Why not use "angry, righteous, power-hungry strictly religious people who are sick and tired of being marginalized and are willing to support violence in the pursuit of what they think is right" instead of "islamist"? I realize the necessity of shorthand, but the process of creating these terms runs the risk of de-humanizing people, which paves the way for wontonly snuffing out their lives. So keep a close eye out for Combat Semantics.

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Batten Down, Pour the Wine

Well, it looks like the powers that be are still going to go through with this war thing. Bush is talking about how the inspections process isn't going well, in spite of press reports to the contrary. They're playing up conflicts in the no-fly zone and the Hawks who fly the Union Jack are releasing new reports that further villanize Saddam Husein, as if that were necessary.

Call me paranoid, but it looks like the final diplomatic bricks are being laid for an initiation of open hostilities. It's not very heartening.

As for myself, I'm feeling allright about things. I'm very upset that there's seemingly nothing that can cool the bellicose tone of my country's leadership, but taking a longer view on things I can already see the tide start to turn. People in the mainstream are beginning to mention that the emperor has no clothes, that 'fair and balanced' is anything but, that a century of Pax Americana maybe isn't the best idea in the world. If we can keep from doing anything super foolish in the next year or two, I think we'll turn this one around as well.

Maybe I'm becoming a little politically exhausted, but maybe I'm also returning to my long-held belief that the root problems in this country are cultural, and cultural problems have cultural solutions. Politics and law play a role in this, but far more important is the cultural component of Leadership, the marketing of ideas. I'm starting to get a sense of where my place might be in this great big taco.

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Same old Song

Confession of an active mind: I've been doing naught lately to advance my politics. In fairness, I've been under the weather (cold coming back) which tends to dampen ones ideological furvor. Yet as I read the news, all I see is the same old back and forth sniping and inevitable march towards destruction. In the moment, it really feels like there's not a lot that can be done by me or anyone to stay our path from bloody conflict with Iraq.

Part of me hopes that Bush is more shrewd that I think and will back off on the march to war now that he's got the Senate in his corner. The tactics of fear and jingoism have worked and maybe now is the time to consolidate power, what with that new homeland security deal and all. Yeah, tell me this isn't ready made to set off the conspiracy theorists. But it passed, and pretty soon mom and pop will have Admiral Poindexter reading their keystokes verbatim.

Hell in a handbasket. Rationality in retreat. There's so much bullshit parading around as fact that I just can't be bothered to point it all out any more. There's no one who's listening who matters anyway. I mean, what the hell are we doing here? Have you watched fox news lately? That's what passes for mainstream journalism! CNN isn't any better, and the local news is just a lot of urban paranoia with the high notes from the international scene. Where's a respectable journalist when you need one? Where's the willful investigation? Where's the motherfucking truth in all of this?

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