Monthly Archives: January 2007

Eye Patches

I woke up this morning and wandered into the common room. My suitemate said that he had done something to his elbow. I replied that I had just dreamt that I had to wear an eye patch.

Somehow, in the dream, my right eye had been “split.” I think the main reason I was wearing the eye patch was a vague sense that this injured eyeball wasn’t a very pleasant thing to look at. There was also a vague sense that the eye might somehow heal in a while.

The interesting part is not the eye patch but when I passed by someone else wearing an eye patch. We did not even acknowledge each other. What went on in my mind was some type of cruel joke involving the eye patch, which I don’t recall. (I am now reminded of making fun of my friend for temporarily having crutches.) It wasn’t until after he passed by that I realized that I was wearing an eye patch too.

In another bit, I was trying to order some food, and then I knocked a tray off the counter. I commented, “Sorry, I’m having a little trouble with depth perception at the moment.”

I wonder if the eye patch was a result of watching Battlestar Galactica.

Wild Predictions

My predictions for 2008

  • America elects its first black president in 2008. Colin Powell.
  • Hillary appears to have the nomination all locked up until it is revealed that she is having an affair with Newt Gingrich.
  • Someone shoots Cheney in the face. Bush appoints McCain as VP, then steps down, retiring to Crawford. McCain dies after winning the election and his VP-elect dies in a freak accident. In a split decision, Justice Scalia becomes president.
  • Obama crashes and burns during the primaries. He never wins a future primary, but has a successful career as a game-show host after almost winning American Idol.
  • Democrats make history, but the president isn’t black or a woman. He’s Hispanic. (Okay, that one’s not quite so wild.)
  • Kerry flip-flops and decides that he really does want to run for president.
  • Unity08 puts forth a Bill Richardson-Ghost of Teddy Roosevelt ticket. The vote is split, and Woodrow Wilson is elected president.
  • After the surge fails, the Republican Party is in shambles. Jeb Bush defects and becomes Hillary’s VP, thus ensuring that America isn’t a democracy.
  • Rick Santorum runs on an anti-macaca ticket.
  • Al Gore announces that he is officially not running for president. He intends to focus on making An Inconvenient Truth II. Purists complain about rumors of a blond Al Gore in the sequel.
  • The Constitution is amended and Schwarzenegger wins in a landslide. The amendment also contains the text, “Yes, there is a right to habeas corpus, Alberto Gonzales.”
  • The Plame trial is still boring.

Street Lights Redux

I’ve started reading the Dilbert Blog by Scott Adams, and it is occasionally humorous (okay, more than occasionally). Or rather, I’d describe it as more fun than funny. In any case, it’s entertaining. Today, he was talking about mild superhero powers, such as being able to know how long to microwave any food item. He invited readers to enter their comments. I decided to look through these comments because I don’t want to do my homework.

Lo and behold, I discovered this comment:

One thing I’ve noticed is that while driving down the road at night, street lights burn out over my head. This often happens while I’m thinking about a problem I have to deal with, but I’m not sure if it’s a message that I’m on the right thought path or the wrong one. It’s been a secret I’ve kept for years, as I’m worried that the Department of Water and Power might send out a hit man to reduce the number of bulb changes they have to do. A friend once said that perhaps god was trying to take me out sniper style, but had bad aim, I no longer speak to that person.

No way! When I was reading the comments, I thought about how street lights go out when I drive and then I saw that comment. It’s totally true. I’ve documented it before in this weblog.

2007 State of the Union Response

This time around, I felt that Bush sounded especially cogent and connected (sounded — I didn’t say he is). At least, it seemed like he definitely did have a clue as to what was going on when he mentioned the various sects of Islam. Then, he said this:

“The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat.”

Apparently, Bush is a uniter, but instead of uniting us, he’s uniting our enemies. Whoever heard of “unite and conquer”?

A disaggregation of the terrorist threat allows us to stop thinking in Bush’s Manichaean terms when it comes to withdrawing from Iraq. Perhaps these terrorists will grow in size, but maybe they’ll be too busy killing each other instead of us. (While this sounds good in an abstract sense, it is not necessarily morally just because of all the people caught in the middle.)

The costs of defeat are great, surely. But I must ask: What are the costs of “victory”?

It has already cost us lives, limbs, and billions of dollars. Even if the surge stabilizes Baghdad, I believe that Iraq cannot survive as a democracy if we do not provide the necessary economic aid. This, I suspect, will require a civilian component, which always seemed to be lacking in Bush’s rhetoric. Democracy requires nation-building. The military is not made for nation-building.

To “win” as Bush has defined it, requires many more lives, limbs, and dollars. Tax-payer money that could fund more space science or stay in our pockets, but instead it goes to Iraq to fund their economy. Hell, do we even have enough money in the first place? Democratization in Iraq also requires time. It requires a long-term commitment of at least 30 years. Let’s put it this way: It requires empire.

I understand the opinion of many on the right who believe that leaving Iraq would be a disaster. But we must also consider the costs of victory. Could it bankrupt us? (Dollar-wise and morally.) What are its long-term effects on our military? Will it cost us in the propaganda war being waged for hearts and minds around the Middle East? (I especially pose this question to the right who believe that we must take the metaphoric gloves off in order to pacify Iraq.) We would do well to consider the lesson of King Pyrrhus, who defeated the Romans, but at so great a cost that the result was ruin. I’m not saying that pacifying Iraq would be a Pyrrhic victory. At this point, I’m only asking that we seriously consider it.

What was Shawn doing in 2006?

I know, I know, I know I’m a loser for saving all these, but I couldn’t resist. I thought it would be a fun experiment. According to facebook, this is what I was doing:

  • You are none of your goddamned business.
  • You are waiting for Godot…
  • You are not going to wake up early to sign up for classes. Fuck that shit.
  • You are going to eat chicken on a stick for every meal this weekend.
  • You are walking in space.
  • You are 509 Bandwith Limit Exceeded.
  • You are appalled at the Spanish-language Star-Mangled Banner.
  • You are still 509 bandwidth limit exceeded. Hm.
  • You are looking for a new webhost.
  • You are changing your nameservers.
  • You are going to get this last essay done somehow.
  • Shawn is sick as hell… throat is sore.
  • Shawn is celebrating the return of his weblog.
  • Shawn is almost ready for econ.
  • Shawn is too busy to change his facebook status.
  • Shawn is back in the UC, bitches.
  • Shawn is Shawn.
  • Shawn is adrift, once again.
  • Shawn is trying to remember PHP.
  • Shawn is judging people based on their race and/or ethnicity instead of as individuals.
  • Shawn is hanging out with Ken Lay and Tupac.
  • Shawn is a motherfucking snake on a motherfucking plane.
  • Shawn is still a motherfucking snake on a motherfucking plane, bitches!
  • Shawn is “Most Likely To… die in a pool of his own vomit.”
  • Shawn is on a horse with no name.
  • Shawn is stalking you via news-feed. Yes, you.
  • Shawn is remembering.
  • Shawn is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
  • Shawn is unconvinced by Descartes.
  • Shawn is telling you not to be fooled by the term “coercive interrogation.” Torture is torture.
  • Shawn is preparing to enter the wilderness.
  • Shawn is especially good at expectorating.
  • Shawn is shocked by USC’s loss.
  • Shawn is rejoicing over the resignation of Rumsfeld.
  • Shawn is also a cartoonist.
  • Shawn is thankful for Thanksgiving.
  • Shawn is hoping there is no Ohio-Michigan rematch.
  • Shawn is going to spill the wine, take that pearl.
  • Shawn is figuring out how to focus.
  • Shawn is never so happy before a test, but he can’t stop thinking about going home.
  • Shawn is the one who stole the cookies from the cookie jar. You can all stop asking now.

A Look Towards 2008 and Beyond

Whenever I think about 2008, I get really pessimistic. I keep hearing myself say, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” I can’t help but believe that presidential power has not yet reached its zenith. Ambition has not yet been counteracted with ambition; President Bush is only in temporary retreat and has not received a proper slap down, these past elections notwithstanding. If the next president is a Republican, I fear he will have the same profile as Bush. If it’s a Democrat, I fear that unified government (at least with a Democratic Congress and Democratic president) will not provide a necessary check. Or that a Democrat may be poised to abuse power even more in order to prove his (or her) tough credentials. 9/11 dropped a bunch of shit onto George Bush’s lap. I feel sorry for him more than anything because that is a tremendous burden, and he just wasn’t capable of handling it. We thought he rose to the challenge when he held that bullhorn atop the rubble, but we were wrong. The answer to our mistake that is Iraq is not to clam up. Militant fundamentalist Islamists still pose a dangerous threat to America. I don’t trust Russia. China is gearing up to become a superpower. The new president must be prepared to fight the long war in which the very fate of democracy and freedom is still up for grabs. But in this battle, he must not sacrifice the very rights and freedoms we are fighting for in the first place.

I look at the field and am severely unimpressed. I maintain an open mind about the lesser-name candidates, but I am pessimistic about their chances. I hear Obama and think, “Where’s the beef?” I have an irrational hatred of Hillary Clinton — and a legitimate concern about American democracy being controlled by two families for over two decades. McCain capitulated on torture and the MCA. He’s also very old and that means the presidency could potentially fall into the hands of an inept vice president. It’s not that I don’t think all of these people could never ever be president; it’s that I feel the times call for someone especially extraordinary, and I don’t know where that person is. What I’m most worried about is that we, the voters, will have a choice between tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, a choice between shit and shittier.

There may be reason for hope. The one great thing Bush did was appoint John Roberts as Chief Justice. I recently read a piece about him in the Atlantic and his commitment to acting as a court rather than 9 ideological individuals is wonderful. Another piece in the Atlantic talked about Unity 08, an attempt to make a bipartisan ticket and jolt us toward the center. I vaguely remember reading about some internet movement way back when but I thought it was an attempt to start a viable third party, which I thought was ridiculous, but Unity 08 is completely different. This seems possible of having a shot if both candidates for the major parties suck. It’s still a tall order, and I can’t help but remain pessimistic.

Maybe we won’t make a difference in 2008. Maybe it’ll be business as usual and the politicians fiddle while Rome burns.

Then, I changed my mode of thinking. Just as the war against radical Islam is a long war, so is this nascent war to remake American politics. Begin to dig the trenches. We’ll do our best to get the right people elected in 2008, but we may fail miserably. (Who is this “we”? I don’t know yet. We’ve still yet to make our voice heard, to gather, to even materialize. Maybe it’s all the people who think the current state of politics is too divisive and not focused on solutions. This we is not the angry or the ideologues.) If we fail, though, we must continue to fight. The capacity for change does not disappear after one electoral defeat. If the nation weakens and the sky darkens, our only choice is to double our resolve. We must never give up. The fate of the republic rests in our hands.

So if you despair at this moment… if you look around and feel powerless, do not fret. I too feel often feel impotent and don’t be too surprised if it gets worse. But I beg you, do not give up. All I ask is that you steel your minds. Gather up your resolve. Think. Speculate. Talk. Act, even. But bounce back if your actions fail. Be prepared for a long fight. Change is not going to happen overnight. Do not panic. Just be ready.

Who we think of as allies and enemies will completely change. The landscape will be remade, even if it’s not in 2008. Soon, we will figure out who “we” are, what we are fighting for, and what we are fighting against. Pessimism is a perfectly reasonable response, but only for the short-term. In the grand scheme of things, I am unwaveringly optimistic and resolute. You should be too. I’ll say it once more: Be ready for a long fight.

Spanking and attention

In my local paper not too long ago, I read an article about someone trying to introduce a bill that would ban spanking for children under 3. Ridiculous, I thought, it’s never going to pass. And that was the end of it.

Then I heard her on a radio talk show, and I started to get cynical. I wondered if she was doing this just to get attention. It reminded me of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s publicity stunt of performing gay marriages (which I view more cynically than heroically, despite being for gay marriage). I’m still undecided because it seems unlikely that she could’ve calculated this media maelstrom, unlike the instant attention Newsom could count on. Here’s an article about her attention-getting: No-spanking bill’s backer – Mtn. View’s Sally Lieber – taking her turn in the spotlight.

Note to future self: If you want some instant national spotlight, do something “controversial.”


Chalkboard Manifesto #211: global war on terror

You know what? Before the war in Iraq started, I had no idea that there was this big schism within Islam. I had no clue that there would be sectarian violence because I didn’t even know about the different sects. I didn’t know that al-Qaeda was Sunni and Iran was Shiite. I had no clue.

I wonder if President Bush had a clue. I wonder if Fox News knew. I wonder who in the media knew.

But the saddest thing is that even now, the people in charge can’t answer the basic question of which one al-Qaeda belongs to. See this old article: Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite? And know that nothing has really changed. The American people delivered a rebuke to the near-criminally incompetent Bush admnistration, but who did they usher into Congress? Silvestre Reyes, the new House chairman of intelligence, can’t answer the question either.

My comic above is titled “global war on terror”. I meant it to be funny satire, but I don’t know if it’s so funny anymore.

Nonmarital Tipping Point

From the NY Times, 51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse:

“‘Since women continue to outlive men, they have reached the nonmarital tipping point — more nonmarried than married,’ Dr. Frey said. ‘This suggests that most girls growing up today can look forward to spending more of their lives outside of a traditional marriage.’”

I’m not sure how to comment on this, other than I find traditional marriage appealing, but then again, I am a man.

Return of the Pirates

I was watching a program called “Return of the Pirates” on the History Channel, and it was pretty informative.

I know this will sound blasphemous to people who are entranced by the mythology surrounding pirates, or even those who just enjoy “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” but… dude, pirates really suck.

I hate how little children are taught the virtues of monarchy, when monarchy is disgusting (not just in its freedom-hating way, but in the incest kind of way), and I’m leaning towards that way with Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates are thieves, kidnappers, and cold-blooded murderers..

You’re probably wondering what’s my problem. It’s all in good fun, right?

Well, there are two problems. Piracy is on the rise, for the first time in over a century. And some piracy can be linked with terrorism, or terrorism linked with piracy. I mean, what would happen if you wrote a movie called, “Terrorists of the Caribbean”?

Alright, maybe we don’t have to go as far as I do, but we should take piracy seriously. They can do some good damage to the world economy. Go look it up.

Could USC have beat Ohio State?

After watching USC cream Michigan and Florida cream Ohio State, I wonder… if USC had not lost to UCLA, would USC have beat Ohio State? I think yes, but then again, I’m pretty biased. Of course, in that situation, Florida would’ve gotten gypped because if they had performed like that against USC, I think they probably would’ve beaten USC. And after all, USC did lose to UCLA.

It would’ve happened anyway

I think one of the worst arguments I’ve heard used to help support the Iraq War is that this situation would’ve happened anyway. By “this situation,” I mean civil war/chaos. I only heard it once, and I can’t remember the exact context, so I’m essentially reconstructing an argument, but I’m using this as a tool for understanding, not as a strawman to knock down.

One may argue that Americans unleashed the sectarian violence with the invasion of Iraq (and insufficient troop levels to secure the country). A reply is that “this would’ve happened anyway,” meaning that if we hadn’t invaded, everyone would still be at each other’s throats. This reply, however, depends on the fact that Saddam’s regime was on the brink of collapse before the invasion.

To me, this reply kills itself because it supports the containment strategy. Same results, but less American lives lost. Containment 1, Preemption 0.

But that’s not my main point. I had an interesting little thought. Couldn’t the “it would’ve happened anyway” argument actually support withdrawal? Think about it, if the bloody chaos would’ve occurred without American intervention, that means that the American intervention was not the cause. Typically, what I hear about Iraq is that “we can’t leave now.” But if the sectarian violence was unavoidable doesn’t that remove part of our responsibility to stay? Also, if civil war seems so unavoidable, it also seems less likely that we could’ve stopped it or that we could stop it now. Another point for withdrawal.

I’m not saying the argument is right or wrong, but it is a possible storyline that seems much more pleasant than alternative interpretations of the war that will be given by the right-wing: “The American people didn’t have the will,” and “The Iraqi people are not capable of having a democracy.” Now, you may say that civil war being unavoidable blames the Iraqi people, but it doesn’t. I can easily shift blame to the so-called insurgents.

Assume that Americans hadn’t intervened in Iraq. If Saddam’s regime had collapsed, we’d still see the same jockeying for power among groups within Iraq and foreign powers and insurgents. Perhaps the fanatics would have fueled further chaos in Iraq even without the American presence. Would the Golden Mosque still have been bombed?

I cannot give a definitive answer. I’m making the argument as a thought experiment, not out of personal conviction. In fact, I’m viewing it more from a propaganda angle than anything else — specifically, making withdrawal more palatable to the American people. Mostly, it reduces the guilt for what we did. So in the end, I guess it’s nothing more than rationalization.

New Resolution

I don’t care if it’s January 6th and that you’re supposed to do resolutions on January 1st. I want a change, so I’m doing it. Henceforth, my resolution is: Today, not tomorrow.

It’s more of a motto than a resolution, really. I stole the phrase from the book I just finished by Larry Winget, It’s Called Work For a Reason. This is the theme for the year. This is what I really want to improve on. This is the one thing I really, really want to change about myself.

Today, not tomorrow.

Or: Stop being such a lazy motherfucker.

Pretty self-explanatory.


Here’s a video of Jon Stewart interviewing Bill Kristol. Jon Stewart says that neoconservatism is just liberalism with old guys. Kristol says, “It’s liberalism grown-up” at about 5:38 in the interview.

Reminds me a little bit of this (which I stumbled upon a while ago but I don’t remember where I found it): “I certainly was not aboard that Ship of Fools, so-called ‘conservatives’ as well as ‘neo-conservatives’ – more correctly neo-trotskyites – who sailed with Bush right over Niagra Falls and smashed to pieces on the rocks of reality below.”

Liberalism grown-up? Say what? You’re neo-whats again??

Welcome 2007

I have a chance. While this chance is always open, the new year is an especially good time to jump upon it. It is the chance to start anew. Every moment, we have this chance. We may believe at times that we are stuck in a rut, but we always have the opportunity to get back on track or to take a different path. I choose this moment to wipe the slate clean once again and take advantage of what’s in front of me. Step forward, not step back. This year, I want to become a better person. I have three resolutions: 1) Get it done. 2) Be impetuous. 3) Live in the present.

But first, I want to reflect upon the past year and what lessons I can learn. I had two resolutions from last year: 1) Make every move a killing move. 2) Smile.

I failed pretty miserably at #2. Mostly, I took it to mean smiling more in public, but that resolution fell through quickly. To tell you the truth, I didn’t feel as if I had much to smile about. I’d rather be a happier person than the same person who just smiles more often. So, I’m going to focus more on who I am, than how I appear, at least for now.

#1 didn’t work at all. To understand why, we’ll have to go back one more year, when my one and only resolution was “Seize the day.” I was dissatisfied with that resolution because I felt like I was merely seizing whims. I wanted to be more calculated. My resolution for last year was supposed to refine 2005’s resolution. However, instead, it just led to inaction. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the first place, so how could I “make a killing move”? In the end, this led to a certain contradiction in my desires: to be impetuously deliberate.

I’ve moved to a new mode of thinking. I like to frame things in terms of habit. To be able to make that killing move requires such practice that you can recognize the move when it comes. It’s very difficult to make a killing move in a swordfight if you have no experience swordfighting. To be successful in life requires practice living, so to speak. And it requires upkeep.

Which sort of brings me to resolution #2. (We’re skipping #1 for a second.) I don’t want to seize the day, but I want to re-develop the same sort of habit. I actually reflected and felt that I didn’t seize the day enough. I’m very influenced by this quote from Machiavelli’s The Prince: “For my part I consider that it is better to be adventurous than cautious, because fortune is a woman, and if you wish to keep her under it is necessary to beat and ill-use her; and it is seen that she allows herself to be mastered by the adventurous rather than by those who go to work more coldly. She is, therefore, always, woman-like, a lover of young men, because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity command her.” (I like the translation in my book later, and I’ll find it later.) (I apologize to any girls reading this.)

[Wow, this is not flowing very well. I feel disjointed while writing this. This is what I get for taking so long a break. It’s not naturally flowing.]

I know that whims aren’t always good, but this is a resolution to be more aggressive and adventurous. To be more loose and uncaring about consequences. There’s a certain trade-off, and I think that being more impetuous will pay off in terms of grabbing more opportunities.

Resolution #2, then, is the latest refinement of my resolution from 2005. Now, seizing the day has morphed into acting aggressively/impetuously in general. It is a habit I need to develop and maintain. At the end of 2005, I decided acting impusively wasn’t what I wanted. At the end of 2006, in the beginning of 2007, I’ve decided that acting impulsively isn’t such a bad thing.

Resolution #1 is number one for a reason. My worst habit right now is procrastination. I want to develop a new habit where I just do things instead of putting them off. I think I’ll also try to develop better time-management skills. This doesn’t mean I have to plan everything out in my day. I’m going to try to find something that works for me.

Another bad habit is dwelling on the past. In poker, I used to dwell a lot on my bad beats. Then, I figured out that bad beats were just a part of poker. Of course, I still get mad at the time, but I’m able to move on. When I do something really stupid, I don’t dwell on it either. I will mull it over in my mind, but I try to take lesson from it and then move on. In life, there will be plenty of bad beats and bad decisions. There will be plenty of missed opportunities. What can I do? Accept what has happened. Learn from it. Move on. So, resolution #3 is telling me to clear my mind whenever I focus too much on the past. Instead, I should think about now.

These resolutions are about breaking old habits and installing new habits. #1 is meant to break the habit of procrastination. #2 is meant to break the habit of passivity. #3 is meant to break the habit of living in the past.

For myself, I want to christen 2007 the Year of Reformation. As a side note, Lloyd talks about revolution, but this path doesn’t appeal to me. Although I said I was going to “start anew,” that’s not actually true in a strict sense. I want to reform myself, but it will be a process, not a revolution. Perhaps that’s my political beliefs bleeding into my personal beliefs, as a conservative who thinks revolution in general doesn’t produce the wanted results. Then, there’s also the fact that there’s a thread between 2005 to now, so I don’t really need a paradigm shift. In one sense, I want to become a new person, but in another sense, I don’t.

In a way, the real paradigm shift came at the end of 2004. Before that, my resolutions were big lists of things to do. This year, like the two years before, there’s nothing I can simply check off. I’m not declaring myself a new person at this very moment. I’ll be successful if at the end of 2007, I’ve established new habits. However, I must remember not to neglect what I’ve accomplished in the beginning of 2008 (or perhaps sooner). I’ve noticed how my skills in pool deteriorate without practice. My efforts to become a better person will likely deteriorate as well. Thus, I must focus everyday on becoming that new person.

And after writing this (unlike how I was feeling the past few days), I feel very optimistic.