The Downside of Correcting Mistakes

Recently, when the United States military trimmed some of its forces in Baghdad, sectarian violence there increased. In response, the Pentagon not only moved troops back in, but increased American presence in the embattled Iraqi capital. Sectarian violence then decreased correspondingly. What does this tell us about our eventual pullout from Iraq? Simply put, the civil war will get worse. The country could very well explode, yet again redefining what we regard as the “worst-case scenario.” Continue reading “The Downside of Correcting Mistakes”

Perpetually Tumbling

Worst-case scenarios, while statistically possible, are largely improbable. This is unsurprising. Creativity typified by human imagination has led directly to the greatness of high culture. That same restless inventiveness, when applied to frightening scenarios in the real world, can sometimes make the grimmest possible outcomes seem all but inevitable, largely ignoring the realities of a situation or the barriers in place to prevent such horrible occurrences. Occasionally, however, the worst-case scenario happens. Sometimes, the worst-case fails to be imaginative enough, and we gaze on in stunned silence at the aftermath of a tsunami that drowns 200,000 people, a city subjected to flood waters it was supposedly protected against, or two of the tallest buildings in the world reduced to rubble by an unimaginable act of violence. These were sudden shocks to the system. What is happening in Iraq today is a worst-case scenario being played out in slow motion. Iraq is a humbling experience for the human condition. It is the showcase piece in how a society can be induced to consume itself. Continue reading “Perpetually Tumbling”

The Wound

Every resident of New York City has their favorite neighborhood. Sometimes it’s the neighborhood where they live, sometimes where they work or play. My favorite is the East Village, more specifically Alphabet City, the clean cousin to the north of the Lower East Side. Its one of those neighborhoods where people who have been in the city long enough are heard to utter the refrain, “It’s just not the same as it used to be.” Mostly this is meant as a lament. Things change, as they say. The merits or minuses of gentrification aside, it’s the neighborhood that most feels like home, even though I hang my hat in Queens. Continue reading “The Wound”

One Branch, Two Twigs

It has not been that long, only 1998, since the Supreme Court struck down the line-item veto authority that Congress had conferred on President Clinton in 1996. What an extraordinary piece of legislation. Imagine, a Republican controlled legislature, so burdened by its inability to control rampant spending, giving the most despised Democratic president in decades the ability to pick through bills and discard all the bits and pieces he found to be, at his own discretion, excessive. Therein lies the power of election-year jitters. Continue reading “One Branch, Two Twigs”