Monthly Archives: July 2006

China and Russia and Venezuela

If we do happen to find ourselves in WWIII, I predict that China and Russia will be fighting against the US. I’m willing to put money on it. I’ll remind you of these events: Painting a Web of Anti-American Alliances. I wrote that back in April and it seems even more relevant at this point in time.

In 2008, we need to put aside politics and elect a man who can lead us militarily.

Also, it would be nice to have closer ties with Brazil, which is already an ethanol-based economy. We can’t fight a war without oil. How long will that strategic reserve last? If we do have a wider war, Hugo Chavez may try to pull something down there.

Now, I’m not saying we will enter a wider war. However, we should do everything we can to prepare in case that wretched day comes — because if it does come, it will come sooner than any of us will imagine.

Is Civil War Really So Bad?

… for American interests, that is. Excuse me for a little as I explore the realm of the super-cynical. Our best chance for defeating Islamofascism is to not let it unite under one banner. It seems like America should be doing everything it can to foster animosity between Shiites and Sunnis in order to contain Iran. It’s the old adage of warfare: Divide and conquer. To do that, though, doesn’t quite lead to a unified Iraq. A unified, democratic Iraq would be the best thing to contain Iraq, but that outcome is extremely unlikely with the level of violence we’re seeing in Baghdad. No stability, no government. So I ask if we should really be pushing towards a unified Iraq. Should we be trying to help the Sunnis, instead, in order to contain the Iranian threat?

Of course, if we’re doing everything we can to divide the Middle East, it means the Islamofascists will naturally try to unify the Islamic world. It’s not too hard. Terrorists hide behind women and children and if anyone strikes back at the terrorists, there’s some instant propaganda fodder. Look at what those evil Americans and Jews are doing. It’s working, too. The Arab League denounced Hezbollah, but they’re backing off from those statements due to pressure from the people.

But yuk, I can’t honestly say that we should actively foster civil war. (I like to put titles that will grab attention.) Still, I will say that we should contain the Iranian Hitler, Ahmadinejad. My initial thoughts are to provide economic aid to Arab countries such as Egypt in exchange for their cooperation in the War on Terror. Or something to show how we’re not out to dominate the Middle East, but to contain Iran and their Islamofascist allies.

The battle might already be lost, though, depending on what the opinion of the mainstream really is in the Arab world.

The situation in Iraq further complicates things. If you compare it to a game of chess, we’re only in the beginning of the game, and Bush is putting all of our pieces in the wrong places.

To the edge of the world and back

Last night, I saw the edge of the world. Or rather, it was more like this morning while I was still in dreamland. There was a fence separating myself and others from the emptiness. It wasn’t a chain-link fence or picket fence… it was more like the barricades you see on the highway, but they were stacked on top of each other. There was plenty of room to see through, or to fall through. The fence was taller than I was, but I could easily climb it. I was tempted to climb and then peer down into the abyss, but I was way too afraid of falling in. Past the edge of the world was pure nothingness in all directions. There was no sky above, just blackness. No ground below, just blackness. Nothingness as far as the eye could see.

I woke up troubled. I couldn’t figure out what it all meant. I was distressed, re-imagining that nothingness. In fact, even as I climbed aboard BART, I had trouble concentrating on my book.

When you commute via BART five times a week, you begin to remember faces. Today, a man sat by me. I’d seen him before. Maybe he’d even sat by me before. I decided to continue my reading. Typical BART etiquette I’ve noticed means you don’t have to acknowledge anyone. Not that I’m saying you’re supposed to ignore people, but you’re not obligated to become the best buddy of anyone sitting next to you and strike up a riveting conversation.

My shyness and quietness has decreased in the past two years. I’m no longer intimidated by random strangers. Actually, I really really enjoy meeting new people. It’s what you do afterwards that gives me more trouble. I have no trouble meeting people, but I still have trouble making friends. One day, I caught someone on BART trying to glance at my book — I was working on Thomas Paine at the time. I instantly opened up and let him look at the entire book, explaining the premise of Rights of Man.

So while I had no intention of talking to the man who sat next to me today, as soon as he said, “You still haven’t finished that book,” I had no qualms with instantly starting a conversation.

”Well, it’s got a little bit of length to it,” I replied. I gave a précis of the Marshall Plan, explaining it was how America rebuilt Europe after WWII. In retrospect, I’m surprised how quickly I become comfortable when talking with complete strangers. As soon as we begin to talk, you’re no longer a stranger. I know you.

It also helps when the person has a lot of interesting things to say. I’ve neglected so far to provide a physical description of the person. Middle-aged black man, if you want the easy label to attach. While talking about the diversity of races, I mention that I myself am mixed and he’s got some mixed blood too. His hair isn’t nappy, which is due to the Native American blood in him.

We start with history, though, since I’m obviously interested in history if I’m reading about the Marshall Plan. Did you know that Crispus Attucks, a black man, was the first casualty of the American Revolution? Honestly, the way we do Black History Month is a joke. He tells me about certain inventions. I tell him that if you watch TV, the only thing black people invented are peanut butter and the stoplight. We both get a good laugh out of that.

I get a little bit of his history. He tells me he was a multi-millionaire at one point, which he inherited. He was miserable, though. Money is the root of all evil, he says, but then corrects himself: The love of money is the root of all evil, so says the Bible. He’d rather have peace, which he has now, than money and being miserable. You hear it all the time that money can’t buy happiness, but to be honest, I never really believed it. I take his message to heart, though, because quite frankly, I see the sin within myself. I could easily see myself becoming devoted to money in my quest.

I don’t believe in the idea of a Golden Path. I believe God gave us free will so that we could forge our own destinies. So this next sentiment comes as a surprise even to myself: I don’t think it was a coincidence that I met him. Writing it down like this makes the sentiment feel even sillier, but it’s how I feel. Because in the beginning of the morning I was troubled, and then after I talked to him, I felt at peace. Perhaps I’ll lose you with this next bit of speculation. You know I have aspirations to become president. It will be a long arduous path. I don’t presume to take this as fact, but I wonder… I believe I need to surround myself with people who will keep me from the path of sin and demagoguery and I wonder… if there isn’t something out there helping me out. Still, life is full of surprises, and I could go down some completely different path. I’m a young man and the possibilities are still wide open.

Minister Casey got off at a stop before me. As I was walking to class, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t given him my name. That’s okay, I think, I’ll tell him tomorrow. But tomorrow’s Saturday. So, I really hope I see him again this Monday. I want him to know my name. It’s a strange lapse for me, who was a name-collector last year in college. I feel like there’s more to learn from him.

”Keep reading” is the last thing he says to me, I think.

Later on, though, I ponder about how he probably doesn’t realize I’m a Republican. Does that mean I’m dishonest, or my views can appeal to a wide variety of people? Perhaps it’s that I choose which views to present to people. I truly do believe Iraq is a fiasco, though (and even you may be surprised at that latest admission from me… more on that later), and democracy can only come from within and will happen over a long, long time. So if I told him so, I haven’t been misrepresenting myself right? Really, though, it’s hard to disagree with people politically when you hardly know them. But I don’t want to disagree from the get-go. I want to listen. I really want to listen. But I wonder if there’s some inner greasy politician within me.

At this point, I’m rambling, but I feel it was important to get these particular thoughts out at this particular time. It’s a snapshot of a seemingly un-extraordinary day in my life that I have decided to imbue with meaning.

Past Week Miscellany

Item 1:

So, I was walking back from class the other day when I see this hullaballoo on the street. There’s a camera. There’s some trucks. There’s what looks like a nice sports car, but I’m not sure if that was just some random dude. Anyway, I’m on the street corner and there’s this guy talking to some people, giving them instructions on where to walk. He looks busy, but I decide to ask, “Can I ask what you’re shooting?” He says, “A movie.” In my head, I’m like, “No shit,” but I decide not to press the issue since he doesn’t look very happy. Luckily, he continues and says, “An Italian movie.” Then, I cross the street and go home.

I wonder what Italian movie they’re filming at Berkeley. Supposedly they did some filming for some movie at JHU last year but I don’t remember seeing any camera crews at all. I wonder if Cal will get an influx of Italian students applying.

Item 2:

Something compelled me to visit the other day. I do that every once in a while. Supposedly, e-mail newsletters are a good way to develop customer loyalty. I got a few e-mails from people asking for some kind of Chalkboard Manifesto e-mail update list. I told them no, but now I’m reconsidering.

Item 3:

The fog rolled in today. The window was open and I could feel the water in the air when I woke up this morning. Finally! I’m so glad the heat is over.

Good Luck

“Good luck.”

“It’s okay, I don’t need it. You keep it for yourself.”

I find myself saying that a lot, but now I’m wondering where the hell I got it from. I mean, I couldn’t possibly have thought of it myself.

Another Discourse Update

I’ve discovered that in order to write my discourse, I need this question answered: Why did the Marshall Plan work? (Did it work?) So, I’ve checked out two very large books on the subject from the public library. At this point, I probably will not finish my discourse by the end of summer, as I had previously planned, but I should be a good way through it. The reason it’s taking so long is that it’s turning out radically different from how I originally imagined it. The discourse will be junk if I have no historical evidence to back me up. I need this Marshall Plan question answered. It’s extremely important to forming my ideology on foreign policy.

My Latest Web Work

Today, I thought I’d share what I’ve been working on lately. I recently finished creating the site for JHU’s Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium. The site is valid XHTML Strict. And yes, the CSS is valid too. I love standards compliance. As for the symposium itself, we’ve got some big names lined up; I think it’s going to be a great.

Next on my plate is creating a web site for the JHU College Republicans. I got some big plans for that, including adding a blog.

If you know me at all, you should already know about The Chalkboard Manifesto. I’m still in love with that redesign. The thumbnails fit well with the one-panel comic. What I like most is that it’s bold and experimental. It doesn’t look that complicated, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of PHP I had to wade through.

On My Imperfect Writing (Part one of a two-part series)

It is sobering to realize that even after all this time throwing my thoughts out into the void, I still don’t know how to write. I am particularly dissatisfied with my entries from the previous two days. I had forgotten about the principle in this marvelous quote: “As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.” — The Brothers Karamazov. In an attempt to add more pizzazz, I made a trade-off in analysis. It was a conscious trade-off, especially yesterday. I made the choice to substitute snark for judgment. In the entry from the day before yesterday, I contemplated writing more, but decided to stop. I chose to make bold (literally) pronouncements, rather than reasoned discourse. In doing so, I mischaracterized the situations and it happened intentionally. Today, I realize I made the wrong decisions.

This medium — the weblog — infuriates me. Every issue winks in and out of existence at a frightening pace. It calls for instant analysis written in a hasty passion, which will almost inevitably result in something less than civilized discourse. Truth is often a victim. I struggle between my personal pull towards cold reason and the medium’s pull towards passion.

Popularity seems to attach itself to the pundits who are most like demagogues. They ensnare their audience via emotional manipulation. I’m sure that many pundits are reasonable individuals, but stick a TV or microphone in front of them and they become blithering near-idiots. I’ve seen Anne Coulter on TV (never read any of her work). She was doing her best to come up with snappy one-liners that would infuriate liberals and make certain conservatives laugh. Frankly, her pure disregard for reason disgusted me.

However, I cannot ascribe all of my disgusting habits to wanting to be popular. It’s the medium. I recently took a public speaking class. An interesting thing happened the last day: We were allowed to give a speech on any topic for extra credit. There was no way this speech could harm us. I did my damnedest to try to extemporaneously speak about the national anthem, but I was losing the audience. Finally, I said to my audience that I was losing them, but this speech cannot hurt me, so I will just say whatever I want. I wanted them to start paying attention, so my mind instantly grabbed for the vilest thing I could come up with, “Singing the national anthem in Spanish is evil.” This kind of bold pronouncement is far from my point of view, but it was easy to say, and easier still to expound with equally vile statements. Luckily, they laughed and I laughed at myself too because what I was saying was just ridiculous. I’m not a pundit; I just play one on TV. Still, it was electrifying what I felt. It would be quite easy for me to pretend I’m serious, and it would get people’s attention. (Like perhaps Anne Coulter.)

What scares me the most is that if I chose to go down this path, I’m sure I would have quite the natural talent. Temptation is ever present. Considering my aspirations for the future, I suppose that we should all count ourselves lucky that this kind of discourse repulses me on a very visceral level. I do have a conscience, thank you very much. Furthermore, I am starting to believe that demagoguery is perhaps the most dangerous thing to democracy and liberty.

So, what should I do? This medium’s flaws actually can be turned into strengths. Instant response need not be bold declaration. I will force myself to be more inquisitive. Questions are perfectly legitimate when that’s what the situation warrants. Moreover, the medium allows my opinions to be more malleable. It’s okay to recant earlier writing and revise my opinions. If I take a more exploratory, rather than explanatory, mode, I don’t have to put up with the burden of always being right on every issue, even with imperfect information. It’s also useful to post introspective entries like this one.

But what of pizzazz? Well, if you can’t handle reason, then I can’t handle you reading me. The internet’s a big place and I believe there’s a place for reasoned discourse. I’ll further develop this issue of pizzazz in an entry tomorrow on Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke.

Oh, wait, one more thing: Stop watching cable news so often.

No, Really, She’s a Moderate

Interesting article from the New York Times yesterday entitled, Clinton, in Arkansas, Says Democrats Are ‘Wasting Time.’

It begins: “Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, returning to her red-state ties, chastised Democrats Saturday for taking on issues that arouse conservatives and turn out Republican voters rather than finding consensus on mainstream subjects” [emphasis mine].

Obviously, Hillary’s a centrist. Look, she’s in a red state! She wants to focus on mainstream subjects!

What? Does it look I’m nitpicking, seeing what I want to see? Hey, I didn’t say it, the article did: “But the trip to Arkansas this weekend had a more sentimental feel, reuniting Mrs. Clinton with her former political allies and giving her a platform to broadcast her more centrist background” [emphasis mine, once again].

Wait? You’re still not convinced there’s an agenda to portray Hillary as a centrist at any cost?

Well, er… what if I told you that the article misrepresented what Hillary said? Hillary was actually criticizing Republicans. Oops!

Now, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the author really thinks Hillary is a moderate. Or misunderstood the speech… sometimes that happens, even to the journalists/immortals who could’ve prevented WWII.

Oh well, keep trying NY Times. Sooner or later, you’ll convince us…

hillary's a centrist *wink*

EDIT: Bah, what I wrote sucks ass, but I still like my comic.

EDIT: Added strike-through.

War in the Middle East? Cha-ching!

Every time Iran hiccups, the price of oil goes up. The price of oil is flying to record rates during this latest conflagration of violence in the Middle East. Who benefits when oil is more expensive? Why, Iran, of course.

Iran backs Hezbollah, a terrorist organization. Hezbollah has been launching hundreds of missiles in Israel, and Israel has no choice but to defend itself. Violence in the Middle East sends jitters throughout the market, which drives the price of oil higher and higher.

Others are speculating that this is being done to take attention away from Iran, or it’s Iran sending a message: Don’t mess with us. I don’t deny any of that, but I’m pretty sure one element in Iran’s calculations is the almighty dollar. It’s not a stretch of imagination at all to think that Iran is intentionally trying to destabilize the region in order to drive oil prices up.

EDIT: I wanted to emphasize: One element. The situation is infinitely more complex than my summary, but it would be foolish to think that Iran has no hand in this. Now, I’m more inclined to think that this is merely a pleasant side effect rather than a root cause. Still, I thought it was an interesting, different angle to examine, even if it is probably false.

Predictions for Election 2006 Follow-up

Last month, I said momentum had shifted back in the Republican Party’s favor and that the Republicans would retain the House and Senate. The Republicans were “out of the danger zone.” I still stand by these predictions. Two different events indicate to me that momentum is still slowly shifting away from a Democratic revolution.

Event one was June 11 when Gallup showed Bush’s approval rating moving up to 40%. Republicans seem to be happier with Mr. Bush, with 78% approving of the job he’s doing, as opposed to an average of 68% support among Republicans over the month of May. I have no idea if that actually means anything for the midterm elections, but I believe that in general, the less demoralized the base is, the better the Republicans will do in the elections. Bush has also improved his standing among independents.

And it’s not just gallup: Mystery Pollster says, “online releases by the Fox poll indicates a similar pattern on their surveys: They show the Bush approval rating among Republicans rising from 66% in late April and early May to 79% on their most recent survey in late June.”

The second item I will discuss involves immigration, which I believe helps the Republicans (for the 2006 elections). In a Utah primary, Chris Cannon defeated John Jacob. John Jacob campaigned as an immigration hardliner, but was unable to unseat incumbent Chris Cannon. It looked as if the anti-illegal immigration angle wouldn’t be enough to guarantee victory.

But wait… That’s not the whole story. In the first place, John Jacob was an inexperienced political newcomer who made mistakes early on. Secondly, Cannon campaigned on an anti-illegal immigration platform too!

However, when you put these two bits together, things don’t quite add up. After all, Bush is for the much-maligned “comprehensive” approach. Still, neither trend bodes well for the Democrats in November. The so-called New Direction for America is no Contract with America. They’re going to have to try harder.

EDIT: I still believe the Republicans will most likely lose seats, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to give Democrats control.

That’s Poker

Why you gotta do that to me Lady Luck?

I check-raised all in on the turn. My opponent put me on trips and thought he had a lot of outs, so he called. I actually had a straight. He catches the flush on the river. Agh.

Earlier that night, I actually had trips. Caught it on the flop. The turn card was a king, matching the top card on the flop. My opponent bets. He might have 3 kings. I call. The river is a queen. He checks. He’s got a certain look on his face. I check right behind him. His full house beats my full house.

I’ve learned to accept the bad beats. They’re a part of poker. They’re a part of why I love the game.

They still rattle me, though, so I had to document them here in the weblog to get them out of my head.

Summer Facebook Status Listlog

We’re off for summer, so I’m surprised to see that people are still updating their statuses on facebook. It’s especially surprising since the status expires after like a week, so these should be up to date. Here’s the list, bit of summer facebook pointillism…

  • Anna is dying in Texas heat. Ugh.
  • Jude is with the sun.
  • Marcus is exhausted.
  • Ying is back from Alaska/Canada and boy does she have a lot to say aboot it.
  • Shana is loving summer.
  • Dave is spelunking.
  • Arash is back in baltimore.
  • Mark is going to party hardy.
  • Michael is at home.
  • Winnie is sunburned only on her shoulders from warped tour and is hoping her aloe vera gel works.
  • Robert is alone…
  • Heather is the lady in red while everyone else is wearing tan.
  • Kate is writing letters & addresses are lovely if you would like to share.
  • Keshav is putting a picture of Midas as him!
  • Jaclyn is craving Chipotle.
  • Gloria is somehow managing to live on her own.
  • Emerald is finding that it’s hard out here for a pimp.
  • Raphael is sleeping with a kitten on his toes.
  • Molly is watching the world cup… go italy!
  • Kalpana is watching World Cup Soccer 2006 Germany.
  • Monica is going to Lisboa, Portugal!!!
  • Steve is still recovering from the Def Leppard concert.
  • Amy is crying coz of worldcup finalz.
  • Frances is very happy! :D.
  • Stevie is at Cal.
  • Alex is tending to the sea and the things in it.
  • Cameron is partying on his b-day.
  • Padma is ..
  • Sean is at the pour house watching the game.
  • Cassie is losing faith in her favorite store of all time, Macy*s.
  • Paige is goin to see her love july 12 <3.
  • Grace is at home.
  • Jeff is pissed at computers that die by themselves.
  • Eric is teaching k-6.
  • James is wanting something else to him through this semi-charmed kind of life.
  • Nick is lamp.

Ah yes, and me? I recently updated my status as well…

The Latin American Leftist Demagogue’s Guide for Winning Elections

The Agnoiologist presents:

The Latin American Leftist Demagogue’s Guide for Winning Elections

  1. Campaign as the candidate for the poor
  2. Pretend you aren’t in bed with Hugo Chavez
  3. Lose the election
  4. Demand a recount
  5. Imply election fraud
  6. Have your people say there might be violence, wink wink
  7. Stage street protests to show how you’re a candidate for the masses
  8. When the recount isn’t going in your favor, declare the election a fraud
  9. Unleash the mobs… er, stage further “peaceful political protests”
  10. Lose the recount
  11. Military coup
  12. Declare victory for democracy and the people

Congratulations! You have won the election!

If That’s Not a Bluff, I Don’t Know What Is

Today, North Korea test-launched mid-range missiles. Should you be alarmed? I am definitely not alarmed. In fact, it’s almost laughable.

Not too long ago, Kim Jong Il threatened to launch a nuke if there was any military action from America. Big words. We’ve been worried about their Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile, which could theoretically hit the US. Yet after all that tough talk, North Korea launches mid-range missiles. Kim Jong Il is full of shit.

Will my hunch be confirmed? There are reports that North Korea may have attempted to test-fire the Taepodong and it failed.

Everyone’s asking what does Kim Jong Il want. I’ll tell you what he wants: Power. Duh, it’s what every dictator wants.

Personally, I believe North Korea is trying to goad us into attacking first and then will use this as an excuse to invade South Korea. Then, his little missiles will matter because he can use nukes on South Korea and on US troops.

Anyway, there’s bigger news today. More controversy than North Korea! Kobayashi beats his previous world record to win his second consecutive hot dog eating title today, but should he have been disqualified?

The money quote: “Footage captured by ESPN confirms that some hot dog slush did spill through Kobayashi’s fingers and pieces of liquid bun spouted out of his nose, but footage shows time had already expired.”

[Note: This entry was written while listening to the initial reports on this story on Fox News Channel.]