Saturday, November 12, 2016

How Did I Wind Up Here?

By Plane, Obviously

I need:
Gladware/food storage
A cutting board
A kitchen knife
Dried meat
Maybe a potato or two?

But that's too much to carry in one trip to-and-from my hotel to the mall grocery store.  Plus, I need to stop to withdraw some rials.

What?  Oh, I didn't see you there, reading my blog . . . that I am presently writing.  How's that for starting in media res?

The Why(s) of Ty

No one actually calls me "Ty," except my brother.  But, I guess I need to launch into a couple explanations.

I am writing this blog because it was suggested to me that I should keep a blog and I am also looking to keep my spending down.  Blog-writing costs me naught, but my dignity.

The other "why" is "why I am in Qatar when all the things dear to me are in the U.S.?"  Well, the short answer is money and employment.  The longer answer is that I make bad decisions, have always wanted to travel, and somewhere out of the mess that I have made of my work life came an excellent opportunity with the steep caveat that I leave my beloved (I'm jealous of people who speak romance languages and get to call one another adorable things like "mi Amor" or "ma pêche," but I don't speak those languages and I don't think she's going to go for "mein Schatz."  Screw it, I'm rolling with it, hereinafter, she is "MEIN SCHATZ" because I know how much she loves German and I feel like all-caps and bolding really help the German-effect), my three cats, and the house we just bought last year behind, to stay in Doha for a minimum of six months.

I always thought it would be super-cool to travel for work when I was younger, more foolish, and possibly, dare I say it, more naive.  When I was 25, I didn't have a mortgage keeping me in one place or someone back home on whom I have been relying for daily emotional support for 10 years.  This may wind up being considerably more trying than I anticipated.


Like I said, I need to keep my expenses down, but it's pretty clear at this point that this escapade will be the exception, rather than the rule, of my career.  I'll probably never see Doha again after this job, so I don't want to miss out on it.  There's a lot that I want to see:  the Islamic Art Museum, an actual sand desert (not the fake, baked clay kind. Arizona, I'm looking at you), the pearl beaches, at least a little bit of the nightlife, although I am less interested in that.  But while the nightlife is close by, here in West Bay, anything else probably requires renting a taxi and going out into the dunes requires a whole trip.  I've been told to consider buying a bike, as it will save me money in just a couple of months, but there isn't really a biking culture here.  Traffic is fast and fairly dense (I'm told it will be very dense, but I haven't seen that outside of parking lots) and I don't exactly see a lot of bike racks.  I can get a folding bike that I can take up to my room and into work, but I sort of doubt they want me wandering around a museum with one.  And I have to buy one - where is Capital Bike Share when you need it?

First Impressions

Everything is expensive.  Actually, that's not true.  Living expenses doesn't seem to be too bad, lack of public transit notwithstanding, although I might feel differently if the company weren't providing the hotel (I'm living in a hotel for six months, I feel like a movie star.  Albeit one who went to buy pots and pans to cook their own food and has a less-than-full pantry because it's about a half hour walk back from grocery store, which is, as I said, in a mall, and it is not chilly outside so I can only carry so much).  But everything looks expensive.  I'm afraid to touch anything outside my room for fear of breaking it and having to wash all of the dishes, forever.  I was outside 10 minutes and saw three Ferraris and dozens of Land Rovers.
The traffic does move quickly, with little regard to traffic laws.  Although, I like the U-Turn lanes and signals, those are a nice touch.  Anna and her husband seem to navigate it just fine, even if the former did express some reservations.
Because so much of the city is "new," it is just gorgeous at night.  At least where I am; I'm sure there are less gorgeous parts, but driving in was amazing.  Of all the views possible from the hotel, my view is probably among the worst, but I can see the Gulf from here, so, yeah, it's lovely around these parts.

As expected, there are a lot of economic migrants here and English is extremely common. I feel bad traveling to a country where I don't speak a lick of the language, but then I did go to France, Italy, and Armenia, too.  And it's not like the Swiss can understand my German anyway.  The Qataris, I think, are very conscious off all the non-natives wandering about; I don't know how they feel about us, having little-to-no interaction with native Qataris so far, but anywhere I go, there are customer service people (economic migrants, as well) and they're not bored.  Well, they might be anyway, but they're busy because everyone stops to ask them questions.  In a U.S. mall, where there might be a map, instead there are a couple uniformed customer service people taking queries and giving directions.
The first night at one of the souks was cool.  I'm to understand that it has been rebuilt, but rebuilt to look like an old fashioned souk.  Architecturally, it probably does, but it really reminded me the shopping districts in Zurich, with the pedestrian roads, boutiquey shops on all sides punctuated by the more dimly lit restaurants with their patron-noise spilling out into the crowds.  Well, that and no one was in jeans and a t-shirt except me.  No, that's not true, but the people who were in jeans and a t-shirt were wearing $500 skinny jeans and $100 faux-faded Gucci t-shirts.
Speaking of, I don't have enough dress shirts.  If I go out, I really need to look better than I normally do and that means dress shirts right now.  I'm okay with wearing a suit jacket over a t-shirt later, but it is too warm for that right now.
But I digress, near the souk were some stables with the Qatari Royal Family's Arabian horses, which the public can just wander through.  I mean, I'm sure the prize winners and competitive ones are kept elsewhere, but even retired Arabians can't be cheap, can they?  So, that was actually really cool, if you like horses, which I don't, because they're mean and crazy.

Anyway, those are my first impressions, although do not get me started on the irony of not having Bein Sport in my Qatari hotel room, since I couldn't get the USA - Mexico game on the Fox Sports 2 Go app because the app realized I was outside of the country.  Oh well, they lost anyway.

Final Thoughts?

None really.  There's more to say; we'll see if I keep this up or not.


No?  That's not cool?  Okay, fine.  Later, then.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games: A Review

Fans... of Death
For the purpose of my analysis, I think it is important to note off of the bat that I read the books and that I did enjoy them. I liked the books mostly for the storytelling - the prose wasn't brilliant, the idea was not mind-searingly original, and its dystopia was a rather sophomoric interpretation of center-periphery economic exploitation (I'm a sucker for a compelling dystopia). These are books written for teens and they are not intended to become "classics." In my opinion, Suzanne Collins wrote some compelling characters and told their stories in an engaging and exciting fashion. So, I went into this movie as a fan who read the books and "knows" what happens in the end, and, as I will discuss later, important to books-adapted-into-films, I "know" what just happened.

Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptation EVER
Do people even still make that Simpsons reference? Either way, its not true, I am mocking that approach to reviewing. While I have read The Hunger Games and subsequent novels set in Panem, I have read them once and am not among the foremost authorities on the series. In addition, I do not believe that a movie must directly parallel its source material. Some changes are due to the mediums and their relative efficacy in storytelling. These changes are, at times, poorly executed, but they have to be attempted or the movie will be awkward and unable to convey depth similar to the story in the book. Some changes are just that a director has differing ideas about motivations or reactions of characters than the author - these are acceptable to me (in principle) as I believe the movie is an interpretation of the story. Some changes round off the rough edges of a story to make it appeal to a larger audience - I am generally unaccepting of such changes because I view it as "dumbing-down" the story for a suburban audience.

Han Shot First
Most of the changes in the The Hunger Games movie fall into the first category, in my opinion. The movie is quite faithful to the book in most ways (if you've read the books, don't expect big changes - this is not The Walking Dead), but in the books, Katniss has a great deal of internal monologue and the narrator is third-person omniscient. The movie, fortunately, does not fall into the trap of a softly-echoing internal monologue or omniscient voiceovers explaining mockingjays and tracker-jackers, but those explanations required new portions to be written. These changes were relatively safe - they were not great, but they also did not break the story.
There were, however, some small changes that I believe were made to increase the mass appeal of the stories and characters. I'm trying to avoid spoilers so I'm going to be vague - Haymitch is, at this point, not really portrayed as a tragic character - he drinks, but he isn't the same nearly-useless alcoholic. There is also a very slight change to Katniss' motivation the first time she kills someone. It's very slight, but it was one of my favorite parts of her character - one of her traits with which I could identify - and it was changed. Honestly, I am not certain how many people will even notice. There is no real reason to change these things except that it softens the characters and makes them more likable to the audience, especially for parents of the children going to see this movie. To me, it makes characters like Haymitch and Katniss less interesting.

Illiteratus Publicus
I know these stories and I know their ins-and-outs. Fortunately for the movie, a large segment of the public knows them as well. But not everyone. There are times that I think the movie may move too quickly, with too abbreviated an explanation or exposition on a major plot point. I fear that at certain times, during the changes to the rules of the Hunger Games themselves or to the concept of who Cato and the "careers" are, are explained once and quickly and the audience may not catch these things and become a bit confused as to exactly what is happening. I had similar worries about Watchmen - it is one thing to miss "Easter eggs" because you have not read the books, but sometimes, I worry that directors forget that they are telling their own story and some of their audience has not heard it before. I do not believe that there is anything to which there is no explanation and, as someone who has read the novels, I am unable to tell whether or not it is too confusing.

Via Triamphalis
I think the single greatest feat that this movie performs is that it is an anti-violence film that centers around children killing one another but that does not make violence its center piece. The movie is about the characters and their world, not about the special effects and action. There is plenty of the later, but this certainly is no Micheal Bay movie (I don't think there was a single shot down Jennifer Lawrence's cleavage). As it should be, it is Katniss' story of human survival that takes center-stage.

Momento Mori
The movie does fall flat in several places. I have already mentioned my distaste for some of the small, unnecessary, populist changes. However, this movie was clearly made with an eye to the sequels. Considering the time constraints under which a movie must run, there was an unnecessary fleshing out of the world and the villains who are not participants in the Hunger Games (e.g. President Snow). Unfortunately, this limits the amount of the Games that can actually be shown. I said earlier that I was pleased that movie had eschewed the graphic violence that, no doubt, could have brought it an audience. However, the Games in the novels are rife with tension, uncertainty, and horror and the movies never really come close to re-creating the Hobbesian nightmare that Collins described. While failing to create tension is a weakness in its own storytelling, Mary has pointed out to me that these Hunger Games did not seem to wreak the physical or mental destruction that become essential to the characters as the trilogy progresses. The last characters standing are, quite literally, standing - they are not the shattered individuals that require weeks of physical and mental reconstruction before they can be presented to the public. Anyone who has read the trilogy knows just how important that mental and physical toll upon the combatants is to the story and the movie never really creates the type of world that so thoroughly shreds the characters' humanity.

Katnissius Magnus
In the end, I have to give this film 4/5 on an almost purely emotional level. The movie has flaws, but many of them come from the "the book is better" school of analysis. These are "missed opportunities" rather than flaws. Jennifer Lawrence was dominant in her portrayal of Katniss; none of the other characters came close to stealing her show (with the possible exception of Buttercup in the beginning). Lenny Kravitz was compelling and believable as Cinna and Woody Harrelson brought out the likable qualities of Haymitch (although the chance to go darker with Harrelson is another missed opportunity). Elizabeth Banks cast her own interpretation on Effie Trinket and perhaps her star shown more brightly than her character was written. Stanley Tucci was perhaps disappointing, but only in the sense that he normally shines in such a role, but in this case was "merely" good. I did find both Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth a bit flat - not bad, but not compelling in the way that main love interests could have been.
In the end, I like this story and this was a good interpretation of the story. It was not great, it was not groundbreaking; it was simply a good story that was well told.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Changing Hues

Winter Is Coming

Mira! The leaves are changing color! It's so pretty!
Piss off; it's because they're dying.

Bringing a jacket to work?
School buses clogging the roads again?
Starting a passive-aggressive war with Ms. Mary over the thermostat?
Bethesda winds cutting right through my jacket making my nipples hard enough to cut diamonds?
Did I just hear Thriller for the third time this week?
D.C. United eliminated from the playoffs?

Yup, must be Autumn.


Yeah, there are a few good things about Autumn: spiced apple cider and the annual trip out to Baugher's and Westminster. There's candy and the one night when girls where as little as possible while trying to look like something out of a hot dream you dare not tell your psychiatrist about (Oh, you're a sexy lobster? You're a furry, but whatever, rock on, Rock Lobster). I suppose I like some of the foods, like acorn squash. Lower electric bills are nice (we have gas heat). There's. . . I don't know; dark beers are more satisfying for some reason and the Black Keys sound better in Autumn. Actually, I did have some fun activities that I'll try to post as soon as Ms. Mary gets me the pictures (because me in a kilt and a "Vagrant" sign really needs an accompanying image).

It's also encroaching cold weather with the associated itchy and static-y clothes. It's largely the end of outdoor athletics; should you try anyway, the cold air will burn your lungs. It's trying not to be a total little bitch when Mary drags me to scary movies or haunted houses (No, babe, I'm five-foot-six and have weighed a minimum of 30 pounds less than every other man you've ever known, so I would naturally develop a sense fearlessness and courage. No doubt, those are survival traits for my physical build, so let's go into that building where someone is going to try to make me shit my pants. You go first). Then there's the pounds that I'll pack on. Only, it's a damn shame that I didn't take off the ones from last Autumn and Winter.

An Autumn of War

My Fall is off to a blazing start. First, the heat broke. In fixing the heat, the apartment people busted the thermostat and we had to call Pepco to repair that. Dealing with Pepco was a damn blast. Then, the refrigerator broke. After that, because breaking household appliances are child's play, my bank card info was stolen - turns out, I didn't make charges in Maryland, Florida, and Iowa in a twelve hour period. While looking for fraudulent charges, I discovered that Bally's has been charging me for Anna's account, which I thought I canceled in, like, March or so. Here's how that phone call went:

Me: Hi, I have two accounts, but I wrote to you in the Spring to let you know that one account user had moved to Doha and I needed to cancel that account, but I'm still paying for it. (Seriously, why the hell did I have to write you a letter and mail it to California in this day and age? Before the internet, did you make people send it by Pony Express?)
Bally's Customer Service Rep: That's account blah-blah-blah?
Me: Yes, that's right.
Bally's Customer Frustration Rep: You didn't provide any evidence that the account holder had moved to a location without a Bally's within 25 miles. We need a utility bill or something like that.
Me: She's in (fucking) Doha; I don't have her utility bills. Do you know how far away that is?
Bally's Obstructionist: No, but she's certainly getting an electricity bill.
Me: Doha is a city in the Middle East; I don't know that she is. Look, I don't have a contract anyway, it expired, I'm month-to-month. Your website says I don't need to give a reason for that.
Bally's Hellspawn: That's correct.
Me: If I didn't need to give a reason, why was the account not canceled?
Bally's Advocate of General and Applied Evil: Because you didn't provide documentation of her change in location.
Bally's Zen Master of Circular Logic: You gave a reason, but didn't provide documentation.
Me: But I don't need to give a reason?
Bally's Mental S&M Rep: No.
Me: Fine, then can you cancel the account then please?
Queen of Helheim: No, you'll have to write to the following address and ask to have the account canceled. Do you have a pen ready?

I then beat my head against a wall for twenty minutes and that was actually a more pleasant experience. I know that I really should have noticed how much they were charging me long ago and that's why I didn't even pretend that I was going to get any of that money I paid refunded.

Bears, They're Smarter Than You Think

You know what is underrated? Hibernating. To hell with your pumpkin pies; I think I'm going to give that a whirl. Awaken me when D.C. United's season starts again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Raison d'être

You Can't Get There From Here

I should probably add "directionless" to my under-achiever status. Every time I even plan a little bit, I come face-to-face with the fact that my life is largely directionless. Even this blog is. My posts are sometimes personal and sometimes analytical and really it goes nowhere.
My friend Tad's blog, The Leisurely Historian, makes me want to die. He has, you know, thoughtful opinions on interesting topics and gets involved in exciting projects. He recently had a Foreword to a book/project published. He has lots of things that I want. I wonder if I could possess those things if I killed him and devoured his heart. . . Sorry, just musing. . .
My sister-in-law's blog, now inaptly-named The Decayed Gentlewoman, is an interesting lifestyle blog. It's one of those yuppie/hipster blogs
(Yes, Shelly, "hipster" - it was recently pointed out to me that when you moved to Portland, it was still "the Portland that you've probably never heard of") about her interests and passions, full of pictures of food, alternative lifestyles, her activities (pronounced: pɪˌkjuːlɪˈærɪtɪs), and, for some stupid reason, occasionally features pictures of a wannabe Redneck with too much domestic beer-related paraphernalia. I can't plan to kill her though, she and her husband are armed to the teeth. I wonder how long it would take me to get to Portland, ME, in the eventuality of the Zombie Apocalypse. . .
My blog bounces all over the place without the charm of the latter or the erudition of the former.

Vox Dei

I have to wonder if my inability to find my voice in this blog is because I don't really have concrete plans for myself. It is one thing to project something that isn't there, but goals provide focus. My life goals have been pretty general and I have or had no plans for the intermediate steps. Actually, who am I kidding? I didn't really have plans for the introductory steps to achieve any of my long-term goals. This, perhaps, for my total lack of intellectual focus and skill development. When I was younger, this was mistaken for attention-deficit disorder, but I, frankly, liked it. It is part of who I am. I pursued many a variety of academic interests in an effort to avoid myopic viewpoints and because I was relatively successful at blending disciplines into new and interesting thoughts. However, I never really developed passions or even what could be justifiably called interests. Kate and I listened to a bunch of idiots at a dinner table next to us fighting about the Civil War. They were clearly not academics, most of their arguments didn't stand up to a rigorous, or even sometimes simple logical, analysis. However, they had clearly read a great deal of material and knew a number of obscure facts that only academics and true devotees know. They were "enthusiasts" and I realized that I am an enthusiast of nothing. Thus, my blog has no structural purpose, no "topic" other than my musings on nothing concrete.

I Did Go by "Savonarola" Once

I'm like a poor man's Renaissance Man. A lazy Renaissance Man. The good folks ("good man" sounds wrong) over at XKCD put it best, except that I'm not a Malcom Gladwell fan. I've always rather gotten off on the fact that I can at least follow and participate in most discussions: history, sociology, literature, economcs, politics, pop culture, technology, sports (not including basketball). I can even follow many science discussions, even if I can't do the math. At least the interesting science discussions about exo-planets, general relativity, and lasers. But as my friends and colleagues have developed definite expertises, I have been less-and-less able to follow. In the meantime, I have developed no expertises of my own, lacking doctorate level studies or job experience that interests me. No one would ask me for an "expert" opinion or even seek to necessarily engage me in a discussion about a topic in which I consider myself interested, simply because I am unlikely to know the minutia that passionate people have acquired. It's not that I have "fallen behind" my friends. I still think I am smarter than everyone and I am still proud that I have the rhetorical capacity to argue most anyone into the ground (I try to do this less as I am told it is off-putting). I am different and my approach is different, but I am envious of their passions and disciplines and it is something that I hope to learn.

An Attempt to Create a Microcosm

The lack of focus for my blog needn't come from my life's propensity to meander. In this case, however, it does reflect it. I am starting to believe that because my interests have been so varied and that I have never really developed a real attachment to any topic or activity, I now need concrete plans for my activities. I think I do not naturally flow progressively deeper into my activities. In fact, this may be why I flounder when forced start something. While I am fine at creating end-points and measuring their relative justice or utility and even evaluating the inputs, but I just don't look toward how I would actually realize those means. Planning is now opening up whole new worlds to me. We'll see if I stick with it and actually achieve anything. Of course, I'll still consider myself an under-achiever; I'm far too egotistical to ever believe I am achieving my potential.

Ayn Rand: What a Misleading Tool

So what's wrong with my blog? Well, why would you read it? Unless you are interested in me, there is nothing here for you. There are few jokes and even fewer of them actually amusing. I've linked a couple good blogs to read. But this is a selfish post on a selfish blog. It is, at this point, written for me. I have no plan, after all, a plan would probably include a projected audience and then I would actually have to write something to interest that audience. Much like my life, I have focused on me and have little concrete to offer anyone else (particularly in a Capitalist sense, as my job search has made abundantly clear). Maybe my blog will take focus later, but I think I need to find a focus or two (foci?), other than myself, before my blog will.

Like Sand Through the Hourglass, So Are. . .

I'm starting to create better plans; the aspects of my life that they address are more varied and they have greater detail. I've found my general discipline has improved even in tasks not related to my newly-created plans. I don't have everything worked out. There's still a great to of haziness in my life that I prefer to call flexibility. After all, I'm still "working on working on it."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Re: 9/11 in Restrospect

10th Anniversary

I'm pointedly avoiding TV coverage of the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on 11 September 2001. So this post is not about that. Want to know where I was? I was at Eckerd College in a class called, The Constitution and Individual Rights. Good, glad we got that out of the way.

The rest of this is response to
9/11 in Retrospect by Melvryn P. Leffler in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs. I'm not linking to it because I assume it is behind a firewall. I pay for my subscription - if anyone feels inspired to go buy the issue after reading this, then great. Except, you should probably readjust your priorities. There are and will be better critiques than mine.

9/11 in Retrospect

The author appears to have several main points in his article - it is time to look long and hard at U.S. policy after September 11th without an eye to blame and that the Bush administration's policy choices were not so revolutionary as they were purported to be and all have a grounding in previous U.S. foreign policy. He uses the Bush administration's National Security Strategy of 2002 to examine the administration's response to terrorist attacks in 2001. He gives the priorities of that document as "preemption (really, prevention), unilateralism, military supremacy, democratization, free trade, economic growth, alliance cohesion, and great-power partnerships."
Leffler quite rightly points out that the GWOT and the related wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not the total of the Bush administration's policy. I rather agree with him that the Bush administration continued or marginally altered policies such as free trade (continued the Doha talks), prioritizing democratization, and that U.S. military expense and build-up had started under Clinton. Sure, Bush may have increased defense spending, increased rhetoric about democracy (and really, that's all he did), and was a champion of the free market in the face of increasing inequalities, but these were policy constants in Washington for years and were never really going to be challenged. Moreover, Bush managed to smooth relations with China after a rough start, realigned the U.S.'s relationship with India and dramatically increased aid to Africa. While there are complaints about the particulars of these policy moves, they largely were not controversial.
However, it is the GWOT and subsequent wars that are controversial and that have come to define the Bush presidency.


Leffler argues that the Bush administration's adoption of preventive war has historical precedents, specifically in the Western hemisphere associated with the Monroe doctrine, Roosevelt's policy regarding ships at sea and Germany, and Kennedy's imposition of a blockade of Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis. He also notes that the Clinton administration, in response to terrorism, proclaimed its intention to "preempt. . . individuals who perpetrate or plan to perpetrate" terrorist attacks against the U.S.
To me, it is somewhat telling that the most recent incident cited had taken place some nearly 40 years earlier. I don't dispute any of the precedents cited, but would point out that the latter two were specific incidents and were not part of a global policy. The Monroe doctrine is certainly a precedent, since U.S. power was limited to the Western hemisphere at the time. Such U.S. policies had formally ended and had been acknowledged as inappropriate or at least "unneighborly." A declared willingness to engage in preventive warfare on a global scale was new, especially in a post-Cold War environment. The Clinton administration's pronouncement was very specifically about preemption rather than prevention (the difference in this case being plans and the attempts to acquire means, rather than to generally wish the U.S. harm). Moreover, the Clinton administration specifies "individuals," not states. Both in scale and scope the Bush administration's endorsement of global preemptive/preventive war was a deviation from existing policy.


Leffler first cites the undercurrent of unilateralism in U.S. policy dating back to speeches by Presidents Jefferson and Washington. He notes that in the most modern times, even in the midst of Cold War alliances and the Clinton adminstration's use of NATO, the U.S. always publicly reserved the right to act unilaterally. The Obama administration's first National Security Strategy explicitly retained that right as well.
Color me unconvinced in this regard as well. In recent history, Cold War, Clinton, and Obama administrations have reserved the right to act unilaterally. . . as any state in a self-help system does. The difference is the propensity to do so and in fairness, the characterization of the Bush administration to act unilaterally is perhaps unfair. NATO was involved in the invasion of Afghanistan and, although just an alliance of convenience, the Bush administration did involve a number of other countries in the invasion of Iraq (some more useful than others). The real difference was the Bush administration very loudly proclaimed their willingness to act unilaterally. Previous administrations and the current administration have suggested that unilateral war would be an act of last resort and undesirable. The Bush administration and some of their louder-mouthed domestic allies suggested that it would better for the U.S. to act unilaterally and that they were unwilling to allow U.S. power to be constrained by international institutions. The only actual difference is that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was not pre-approved by the United Nations.

The Invasion of Iraq

It is regarding the 2003 invasion of Iraq that I most strongly disagree with Leffler. He argues that the common perception that a Democratic administration would not have invaded Iraq is unjustified. He cites belligerent statements from Al Gore, Joe Biden, and Bill Clinton regarding Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
While there were certainly plenty of aggressive statements from many Democrats and their liberal allies regarding Iraq, I would argue that some of these statements were political posturing in the run up to the war. But the crux of my argument lies in the reasoning behind the invasion of Iraq. There are two generally accepted arguments that the Bush administration went to war in Iraq: Either the promotion of democracy in the Middle East by establishing a beachhead and thereby undermining the allure and arguments of militant Islamism or because of the nexus of between terrorist organizations and states that produce weapons of mass destruction (the so-called Axis of Evil), in this case, Hussein's dislike of the U.S. and supposed WMD programs. However, the neo-conservative movement played an essential role in both of those motivations. The democratic beachhead idea was first-and-foremost a neocon idea. In the case of the WMD program, the sources used to support the notion that Iraq had active weapons programs were from sources that had already been rejected by the previous administration. It was the neocons
who revisited these sources and reintroduced them into the discussion.
I possess no super-human abilities to prove a counter-factual, but I see little reason to suspect that the invasion of Iraq would have been a preferred policy option in a Democratic administration.

So What?

Leffler concludes that it is time to stop assigning blame and it is certainly hard to disagree. The Bush administration has left office and the current administration has made plenty of its own mistakes. However, Leffler lists the damages done to U.S. goals as a result of these policies. Many of these I feel were unfair, but I argue that the Bush administration did in many cases switch policies dramatically and that the Iraq war was unique to the Bush administration. These, at least short-term, damages are the Bush administration's responsibility and those decisions should reflect upon those decisionmakers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reflections on a Misspent 20s (Edited by MKB)

Now that I'm 30, I . . .

. . . need to stop wearing T-shirts with clever slogans on them.
. . . think Objectivism is just brilliant.
. . . don't think that holding my car window up with packing tape is "hardcore."
. . . need to completely stop splitting infinitives (sorry, Benj; stole your joke).
. . . watch rioters with an angry jealousy, but don't participate.
. . . don't hate The Man. In fact, he's got some good ideas. We should probably do what he says.
. . . have strong opinions on the Capital Gains Tax. No, wait, I'm 30, not rich.
. . . feel the need to get a mortgage so that I can complain about it at every social gathering.
. . . suddenly want a fast, flashy car. Or suddenly want one more, at any rate.
. . . need to add Just for Men to my grocery budget.
. . . believe anything is possible. For my kids. My life has a set trajectory now.
. . . live vicariously through my kids.
. . . view my kids as a source of cheap landscaping labor.
. . . try to push my kids into high-paying careers because they're my retirement plan.
. . . need to have kids, apparently. Asian ones, with math-smarts. That's so racist, but I'm old now, so it's excused.
. . . find Sarah Palin attractive. Or at least Lisa Ann.
. . . should have actual experience on my resume now. Don't, though.
. . . am less inclined to punch trees when DC United lose. What? I said "less inclined."
. . . think about my 401(k) from time-to-time.
. . . wander around the gym locker room with no pants on, talking to random strangers.
. . . feel younger because I am sleeping with a hot 20-something.
. . . find Kevin Smith films totally immature.
. . . am now sort of pathetic for owning an XBox360 and a PS3.
. . . assume I've spilt something on myself if a woman on the street gives me a second-glance.
. . . have been smoking for half my life. That's revolting. (Editor's note: Yes).
. . . am starting to get pissed that I'll never see that Social Security money.
. . . no, really. Hot 20-something. I know, right?
. . . don't understand the point of Twitter.
. . . sometimes think, "No, I might get hurt if I do that."
. . . believe that Obama is destroying this country. Did I mention that I am also white?
. . . sleep only 6 hours a night, but can't stay up for more than 20 hours straight.
. . . must use complete words and proper grammar and punctuation in text messages.
. . . consider an hour of tennis to be exercise.
. . . am less concerned if they reinstate the draft.
. . . yup, hot 20-something. In my bed. Fantastic.
. . . still remember ABACABB, but know that most people playing video games do not.
. . . am absolutely terrified by my computer and can only use it for email.
. . . coulda been a contenda.
. . . think that paisley necktie is pretty spiffy.
. . . can no longer live in squalor and be considered "cool." (Editor's note: Squalor has been out since I moved in)
. . . find Jay Leno funny. No, that's a lie. I don't, at all.
. . . prefer soft and bitter foods.
. . . did I mention the hot 20-something? Yeah, perky breasts and everything.
. . . have more reason to drink to oblivion, but less passion to do so.
. . . need to shave more regularly.
. . . believe that it reflects poorly on me that I have more athletic shoes than dress shoes.
. . . find it hard to walk when I leave the doctor's office.
. . . can no longer wear hats ironically.
. . . don't worry about passing drug tests.
. . . think of those hard partying college guys downstairs as "kids."
. . . Hot. 20. Something. Yeah, I've got a picture.

No, piss-off; she's not "living in Canada right now."

and finally . . . "am too old for this shit."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's a Long Boring Commute

Post-Independence (Day)

This post isn't about the 4th. I just thought that I would mention: The 1812 Overture. . . I know we all like cannon, but A) it's about Russia beating France (hence the refrains from La Marseillaise) and B) U.S. had its own goings on in 1812 and those ended poorly, New Orleans notwithstanding.
Also, I sort of resent the way that the military has hijacked Independence Day. I don't want to be stupid - I am well aware that American Independence Day has a very martial feel anyway. However, I don't want to be applauding service members every ten minutes. We Americans have plenty of heritage to be proud of; military service is not unique to our country. We also have other holidays dedicated specifically to the men and women in uniform - Armed Services Day, Memorial Day (for the fallen), Veterans Day (titular, that one), etc. Rather than jacking off soldiers for another day, maybe efforts would be better spent improving pay, medical benefits, and making certain that soldiers aren't left to rot if they come home physically or emotionally shattered. Perhaps higher standards for putting them in harm's way and a little healthy skepticism of the justifications. Just a thought.

Blood Is Thicker

I don't want to write too much about my views on the way this country handles our military. Not now, anyway. Instead, I was thinking about family. Specifically, my sister-in-law. I almost choked when I realized that I properly had a sister-in-law. Because, really, I don't. I have a brother's wife. Calling her my sister-in-law seems stupid. Mostly because it defines her through me, which seems acceptable insofar as it is her relationship to me. But I'm actually nothing to her.

You're So Vein (Get It? Blood? Vein? My Genius Is Wasted on You People)

This isn't about you, Shelly. Shelly is great; I really like her and so does Mary (which more or less sealed the deal on our end). It's also not about blood. Shelly is part of my family now, it is certainly true and I am glad that she is, but while my brother is part of her family, I am not. Shelly is part of Lowrys, with all the privileges and penalties there entitled, but I am not a Gallender. This isn't a weird clan thing where now all of her enemies are my enemies and vice-versa. "Sister?" Really? Look, I grew up with my brother - I have seen him evolve and change and know stupid little things about him that endear him to me. Shelly, I have met a couple times - you know, "she seems nice." Actually, too nice; if she really were my "sister" I'd tell her to smack my brother across the mouth a lot more because he often has it coming. Spousal abuse = unacceptable. Sibling abuse = totally acceptable. I digress. It is not that I don't wish Shelly all the best - I do; like I said, she's great. The relationship is different though, not really comparable. There are many things that I like about Shelly; I would list them but that would be annoying. Rather my point is that I imagine the things that I like about Shelly would be entirely different if she were actually my sister. It's not just that she has hidden facets, those would appear as I got to know her better. I believe that watching her develop as an individual would make me put value on different aspects of her personality and to weigh her positives differently. I've become aware of her life halfway through and that colors my relationship with her and my knowledge of her mostly comes from her blog and things that my family tells me. "Sister-in-law" seems an anachronism from a time when my immediate family would be closer to my brother's immediate family and it is a jarring anachronism to me.

Just Spitballing Here

I'm not entirely positive why I wrote this. I guess my point is that I should do something about it. That's it, I'm moving to Maine to be closer to my brother and his wife.* Coming, Kate?
Oh. I see. You feel that strongly about it?
Splendid, now I'm homeless and single. All the more reason to crash on my brother's (and sister-in-law's) couch.

*All ideas regarding moving are intended as jests and may not be used as justification to leave either me or my brother.