"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Icelandic system
"... a practice, supposedly based on child-rearing methods in medieval Iceland, of sending teenagers to live with other families in order to learn adult skills and behavior from grown-ups they have not yet learned to manipulate and despise."

This is Katha Pollitt's contribution to The Future Dictionary of America, a dictionary in the tradition of Gustave Flaubert's "Dictionary of Received Ideas," (1880), and Ambrose Bierce's "The Devil's Dictionary," (1911).

(via Newsday)
Not Quite
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd usually hits on interesting issues and raises thought-provoking questions, but her conclusions are always off. In her latest, she quotes a sports columnist writing about American Olympic atheletes: "Somehow, intimidating others is motivating to them." Then, she attempts to tie this in with American foreign policy.
Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld thought they could change the American identity by invading Iraq, that they could toughen up our 'tude and remove the lingering post-Vietnam skittishness about force and the "blame America first" psychology.

They thought our shock-and-awe war would change America's image, adding some muscularity that would make Arab foes cower and the world bow down to the U.S. as an unassailable hyperpower.
This is no doubt an ancillary effect, but notice how she fails to mention 911. In his regular column, Fareed Zakaria hits on the more practical, material, real-world choice involved in the decision to liberate Iraq:
By the late 1990s, American policy on Iraq was becoming untenable. The U.N. sanctions had turned into a farce. Saddam was able to siphon off billions for himself, while the sanctions threw tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqis into poverty every year. Their misery was broadcast daily across the Arab world, inflaming public opinion. America and Britain were bombing Iraqi military installations weekly and maintaining a large garrison in Saudi Arabia, which was also breeding trouble. Osama bin Laden's biggest charges against the United States were that it was occupying Saudi Arabia and starving the Iraqi people.

Given these realities, the United States had a choice. It could either drop all sanctions and the containment of Iraq and welcome Saddam back into the world community. Or it had to hold him to account. Given what we knew about Saddam's past (his repeated attacks on his neighbors, the gassing of the Kurds, the search for nuclear weapons) and given what we thought we knew at the time (that his search for WMD was active), conciliation looked like wishful thinking. It still does. Once out of his box, Saddam would almost certainly have jump--started his programs and ambitions.
Democrats, from President Clinton to candidate Kerry, all agree with this. Its disingenuous for partisan liberals to deny it.

Granted, Dowd no doubt agrees with Zakaria that the choice made was executed poorly to say the least, given the US's resources. But it is just more disingenuousness to complain:
Iraq is making us wring our hands over whether to blast our way into Najaf and Falluja, quavering with uncharacteristic sensitivity even as the White House fires verbal mortars at the domestic enemy, John Kerry, for suggesting that we be more sensitive.
Does she want us to behave as Russia did in Chechnya and engage in a scorched earth policy? There's sensitivity and then there's sensitivity.
The new Pew Research Center poll finds the country ever more divided. "The public takes a paradoxical view of America's place in the world," the poll reports, with 45 percent of Americans saying the U.S. plays a more important and powerful role as world leader than it did 10 years ago, and 67 percent saying the U.S. is less respected.

The president who promised a humble foreign policy ended up with a foreign policy inflated by hubris - which is, after all, a Greek idea.
Perhaps the U.S. is playing a more important role as world leader - we are the only superpower - *and* is less respected. Furthermore, the loss of respect could be undeserved or deserved. Why is this a paradox?

In 2000, Bush also promised not to engage in nation-building, nor to halt Rwandan-style genocides. Here, he was playing to his provincial, conservative isolationist base, but 911 demonstrated what a hubristic, naive philosophy that base holds.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Invisible Hand Gives Invisible Middle Finger to the Unfortunate
ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 17 - Greg Lawrence talks about the $10 bag of ice. Kenneth Kleppach says he was clipped for nearly three times the advertised price for a hotel room. And a man with a chain saw told Jerry Olmstead that he could clear the oak tree off his roof, but it would cost $10,500.

So much for a friendly, helping hand in a time of crisis. Since the winds of Hurricane Charley subsided, officials say a wave of price gouging has swept across central and southwest Florida, putting law enforcement officials into high gear and infuriating storm victims already faced with damaged homes, shuttered workplaces and long lines for basic commodities.

"Why do people try to capitalize on other people's hardship and misery," Mr. Olmstead asked as he fumed over the tree removal. "Of course it angers me. They see an opportunity and, fine, if you want to make a little money. But there's a limit. This is ludicrous."

Charlie Crist, Florida's attorney general, said Tuesday afternoon that he had received more than 1,400 complaints of overcharging from throughout the disaster area. This morning he filed formal complaints against the Crossroads Motor Lodge in Lakeland and the Days Inn Airport Hotel in West Palm Beach, accusing them of price gouging and deceptive business practices.

This past weekend I turned 34 and celebrated Thursday, Friday and Saturday with Gen Y A.(we're sort of together again). Sunday was a day of recovery and sloth, culminating in a viewing of Under the Tuscan Sun which stars Diane Lane. The movie was surprisingly good given the plot and premise, mostly because of the intelligent, charming Lane. Her character hires some Polish laborers to fix up a Tuscan house she purchased and one of them gives her a book by Polish poet and Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz who coincidently died on Saturday.
When Communism was smashed in Poland, Mr. Milosz returned to what he called "the country of my first immigration." Arriving in Warsaw after an absence of three decades, he received a hero's welcome. Mr. Milosz was regarded as one of the world's literary immortals. When he chose, he walked and talked with the great men of his time, but he remained humble.
I once had the pleasure of seeing him read in college. He had some great lines, like in his poem No Way Out where he says Irony is the "glory of slaves."
The always interesting but rather sedate Josh Micah Marshall is getting a kick out of Alan Keyes, the Republican candidate for the open Illinois senate seat. He posts about him almost every day.

For those who are unfamiliar with Keyes, here's Peter Bagge's report on him from the 2000 Republican presidential primaries.

Keyes is one of those politicians who enjoys engaging in hyperbole and must drive the professional political consultants batty. For instance, in an unusual pitch to Illinois's apathatic non-voters, Keyes argued US Senate candidates shouldn't be directly elected.