Thursday, 29 March 2007

Credo, Leo Rosten.

A comment on another blog recently prompted me to dig this out of storage. This is perhaps the public statement I've yet seen closest to some of my own thinking and experiences, and much better put than I'm capable of.

From Leo Rosten, condensed by Geoff Spencer of the Alcuin Society, 1989 (1999 reprint, paras inserted for clarity).

Credo, Leo Rosten

I BELIEVE that you can understand people better if you look at them as if they are children. For most of us never mature; we simply grow taller.

I have learned that everyone - in some small, secret sanctuary of the self - is mad. If we want to stay sane we must moderate our demands - on ourselves and others.

I have learned that everyone is lonely at bottom, and cries to be understood; but we can never entirely understand someone else, no matter how much we want to; and each of us will forever be part stranger - even to those who love us most.

I have learned that it is the weak who are cruel and that kindness is to be expected only from the strong.

I have had to learn that life - so precious, so variable, so honeycombed with richness and delight - is held cheap in the scheme of impersonal events. When a human life is snuffed out in an instant, without meaning, without reason, without justice, how can one deny that all our lives hang by threads of nothing more than luck? I cannot escape the awareness that in our last bewildered moment just before we die three simple, awful questions cry out from our souls: 'Why me? Why now? Why forever?'

I have come to see that every person is subject to fantasies so obscene, yearnings so mendacious, drives so destructive that even to mention them shakes the gates we have erected against the barbarian within.

I have been driven to believe that no despotism is more terrible than the tyranny of neurosis. No punishment is more pitiless, more harsh and cunning and malevolent, than what we inflict upon ourselves.

Most men feel cheated if happiness eludes them. But where has it been written that life will be easy, our days untroubled by suffering, our nights unfouled by the beasts within our nature? Where, indeed, is it guaranteed that life will be at the very least fair?

People debase 'the pursuit of happiness' into a narcotic pursuit of 'fun'. To me this is demeaning. I would question the sanity of anyone not often torn by despair. Euphoria is the province of lunatics. I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be 'happy'.

I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honourable, to be compassionate. It is above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

How politics in New Zealand actually works (preview)

Jane Clifton is such a good commentator:

Accountability is a dish best served cold. Whenever something goes badly wrong in the public sector, the following long sequence of events is inevitable:

1 An inquiry measures what happened against how things are supposed to happen on paper, and finds everyone did their best. It makes no comment on the system everyone did their best with, because (thank goodness) that’s not within its terms of reference.

2 The government says everyone did their best, and nothing’s wrong with the system, except that it was the same system in existence when the Opposition was last in government, so if there was anything wrong with the system – which there isn’t – it’s the Opposition’s fault.

3 The Opposition says that the system is stuffed and needs fixing, the officials are incompetent and need sacking, and the minister should resign.

With respect to copyright, I won't quote the complete nine point sequence until the full text is available online come the 21st of April. Suffice it to say that it provides an amusing look at the pathologies of Parliamentry systems while we spend our time ranting about a certain Presidential system.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

The cost of "spreading democracy"

Just how much would you estimate that the invasion of Iraq is set to finally cost the US, as it stands at present? Write your guess down on a piece of paper - we'll get to it at the end.

I have to apologise here - I was going to make this comment citing a story from the New Statesman. Alas, I've misplaced my copy of the article. Never mind, it's cited online, and I'll just rip off someone else's comment. Of such things are "the new media paradigm" made, as well the wingnut side of the blogosphere know.

As for the delay in posting - I've been sorta busy. I've been reading several books (recommended - Rich Frank The Greatest Story Ever Sold), grinding very slowly through a statistics textbook for a course, and researching up on remuneration systems as a union delegate. Oh, and I start a new job (or half of a new job) tomorrow. I'll try making it up with something worthwhile - I suspect I'm going to be seeing a lot of interesting stuff in this new role. And a hell of a lot of boring stuff, too.

I've also found out that the Short Blonde Dominatrix reads this blog and Pandagon. This is a person who I love as a sister, but who is in a position to puncture completely my carefully crafted illusions towards wisdom, competence or, indeed, my supposed ability to tie my own shoes by myself. Must remember to keep her happy lest she start telling the truth about me. Chocolate...

Still got that piece of paper? Here's a bit from DailyKos on the cost, and here's the actual report in pdf form. Hey - and here's the New Statesman piece. God, I love the Intertubies.

Military operations. Reconstruction. Embassy costs. Security. Foreign aid. Death benefits. Life insurance. The value of young soldier's lives (around $6 million each in other equations). Deaths of civilian contractors. Deaths of journalists. Disability pay and medical benefits. Loss of future earning potential and productive capacity. Cost of pain and suffering. Increased recruiting costs. Loss of wages to reserves. Straining of military capability. Loss of prestige and moral high ground. Increase in the price of oil. Replacement of equipment and munitions. Transporting troops. The health costs of the wounded - ESPECIALLY given the number of head injuries in this war. Interest on debt incurred. Demobilization costs.

The first, conservative estimate, is based on troops being in until 2010. The second, more moderate, is based on the idea of a smaller presence until 2015. Both of these scenarios are used by the Congressional Budget Office.

Direct costs from taxes - $750 billion to $1,250 billion. With economic adjustments - $830 billion to $1,190 billion. OTHER macroeconomic effects to the country as a whole - $187 billion to $1,050 billion. Total, making the assumption that the occupation will be shut - $1,026 billion to $2,239 billion dollars.

Let's let that sink in a little - $1 trillion to $2.25 trillion or so.

Let's consider that another way - let us assume you were pro-war to "get rid of Saddam". Did you give over $3,000 to Iraqi opposition groups before the war? Would you have given $7,000?

Are you happy with the results now that you HAVE pledged around $3000-7,000 for each man, woman and child in the US? Are you safer? Are you more proud of your country since you spent that much to bring civil war, Abu Ghraib and a distinct lack of WMD into the media as America's legacy?

Are we having fun yet?

Monday, 5 March 2007

Is it just me or...

Amanda Marcotte, noted feminist blogger and political activist:

Helen Clark, noted feminist Prime Minister: