"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

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Iran vs. Israel

I don't know the significance of this, but Iran's hardline President said today that Israel must be "wiped off the map." The New York Times reports
Senior officials had avoided provocative language over the past decade, but Mr. Ahmadinejad appears to be taking a more confrontational tone.
France's foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, learning of Mr. Admadinejad's comments, said "I condemn them very forcefully," adding that he will summon Iran's ambassador to Paris to ask for an explanation, Agence France-Presse reported.
Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon both have the same goal. Even so, it's good policy to draw them into the democratic, political process in their respective governments, just as it was good to draw the IRA, another terrorist organization, into the political process via Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland. The IRA recently made a historic step by disarming. Hopefully one day, Hamas and Hezbollah will do the same, and change into organizations (or merge with others) that recognize Israel.

The Iranian mullahs' bluster may reflect their growing weakness in Iran itself. (See Timothy Garton Ash's piece in the New York Review of Books.) But this also may be a result of Iran's growing influence in Iraq. Unfortunately, Iran's likely to get nuclear weapons in the near-to-mid term, despite the West's efforts.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Democratizing the Middle East

The NYTimes reports:
Israel began on Sunday to back away from its opposition to participation of the armed Islamic group Hamas in Palestinian elections, having failed to persuade President Bush to offer public support for its stance.
Mr. Sharon contends that Mr. Abbas must disarm Hamas immediately. Last month, on a visit to New York, Mr. Sharon said that "we will make every effort not to help" the Palestinians hold elections if Hamas took part.

His comments were interpreted as part of a campaign to get Mr. Bush to side with Israel. But Mr. Abbas told Agence France-Presse that he had persuaded Mr. Bush last week in Washington "that we have a democracy, and the movements of all political colors must be allowed to participate in the elections."
"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
-John Kenneth Galbraith

(via Matthew Yglesias)
Sheep go to Heaven, goats go to Hell

Came across this succinct description of Hume and his thought:

As he lay dying at home in his native city of Edinburgh, David Hume entertained a visitor by conjuring up, with characteristic cheerfulness, a scenario in the afterlife. He imagined himself begging the fatal ferryman Charon for a little more time: "Have a little patience, good Charon, I have been endeavoring to open the eyes of the public. If I live a few years longer, I may have the satisfaction of seeing the downfall of some of the prevailing systems of superstition." The "prevailing system" which Hume had become most notorious for attacking was the Christian religion, whose favorite tenets-providence, miracles, the argument from design, the afterlife itself-he had called into question, with increasing audacity, over the course of his work. But he had also done much damage to newer systems of thought, notably Locke's. Locke had regarded personal identity as coherent and continuous, the consequence of lifelong experiences and ideas accumulated in the memory. Hume, in his early, massive Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740), waived all this away as an arrant fiction-though perhaps a necessary one, since empiricism properly pursued reveals so radical an incoherence in mortal minds that empiricists themselves must intermittently abandon philosophy in order to go about their daily lives. Like many of his empiric predecessors, Hume argued that knowledge of the real world "must be founded entirely on experience"; more than any predecessor he was willing to entertain (and to entertain with) the doubts and demolitions arising from that premise. In his own lifetime, his skepticism did not prove as contagious as he had hoped. The Treatise, he recalled wryly, "fell deadborn from the press, without reaching such distinction as even to excite a murmur among the zealots." Though his attempt to recast his chief arguments more succinctly in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) prompted a somewhat livelier response, he eventually made his fortune not as a philosopher but as author of the highly successful History of England (1754-1763). He faced the general indifference or hostility to his arguments as blithely as he later greeted death, continually refining his views and revising his prose. He knew himself out of sync with his times. When, in his fantasy, he forecasts to Charon the imminent downfall of superstition, the ferryman responds, "You loitering rogue, that will not happen these many hundred years. Do you fancy I will grant you a lease for so long a term? Get into the boat this instant, you lazy loitering rogue." More than two hundred years later, the artful mischief of Hume's work has secured him some such lease. His writings, lucid and elusive, forthright and sly, demand (and receive) continual reassessment; his skepticism has proven more powerful than his contemporaries suspected, and he figures as perhaps the wittiest and most self-possessed philosophical troublemaker since Socrates.

Mira Sorvino's two-part series Human Trafficking begins tonight. Her breakout role was as a prostitute in Mighty Aphrodite, but before that she was in Barcelona.