Saturday, September 06, 2003

Two G's

Steve Gilliard is hot, good enough to quote in bulk. (Incidentally, the links provided are to the general address for Gilliard's blog, because he doesn't seem to have permalinks -- at least, I've not been able to find them. I see that he's asked for some help on fixing his HTML code, possibly including permalinks will be part of that project. In the meantime, you'll have to scroll down to find these entries):

The modern school of management

Iraq is all too familiar.

Arrogant company founded by rich kids, hires on daddy's former employees as advisors and then starts spending wildly.

Company embarks on risky venture against all industry practice and advice and gains early success. As time goes on, the business proves to be more difficult and the debt, run up so easily in the past, starts to be a burden.

The company, realizing the need for change, starts to negotiate for loans and investments. Only problem is that the people most likely to invest have pretty steep terms. The management, run by people who have no clue, demand to keep their seats on the board, and most of their shares. The investors, who never liked the management or the plan, shake their heads at the arrogance. They're the ones begging for help, yet they expect to still have a say in running the company as the majority partners.

As the employees complain and quit, mangement portrays the company as healthy and functioning. When industry analysts depicted a troubled company, they attack the analysis and complain about bias.

Instead of bailing out the company, the investors wait for it to fail and then buy the assets at a fire sale.

That describes a hundred dotcoms. It also describes the fate of our policy in Iraq.

And then, the very next day...

What should the Dems say after Bush?


Mr. President, your policy in Iraq has placed that country close to the brink of civil war. Militia groups from all ethniciities are arming and preparing for a war we are unable to prevent.

Your administration has failed the Iraqis in every possible way. Despite the sacrifice of thousands of Americans, Iraq is a violent country in need of tens of billions of dollars of reconstruction funds. Yet, instead of allowing the UN to handle that, as they have across the world, Halliburton, the vice president's former company, one which still pays him in excess of seven figures a year, gets all of the contracts. Not only to rebuild Iraq, but to supply our forces. A job they have done so ineptly, that Americans have to send their children water through the mail. American soldiers lack water in one of the hottest places on earth. Not to mention been completely unable to repair Iraq's infrastructure. A job Saddam accomplished in two months after the 1991 war.

Mr. President, we were told that we were waging a war against terrorism. Yet, until we invaded Iraq, there was no link between Al Qaeda and Saddam. We diverted half the US Army to occupy Iraq, yet the Taliban/Al Qaeda forces are growing stronger every day in Afghanistan. Now, the taliban is resurgent and most of the US Army is stuck playing policeman in Iraq, to no one's benefit.

Now, after nearly a year of warnings, you reach out the to the UN. We told you we needed allies, not just for the war, but what would come after. For that, our intelligence and patriotism were not only questioned, but attacked by officials who worked directly for you. Gen. Shinseki, a combat veteran who survived the amputation of his leg, and supervised peacekeeping in Kosovo, was not only called a liar before Congress by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, but not one member of the Secretary's office attended his retirement. Any one, even slightly critical of your planning for Iraq, was treated with similar hostility and disrespect.

You came to the Congress and in both public and private briefings, told us of the great threat Sadddam posed to the US. Yet, we continue to hear a shifting set of excuses for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. One undersecretary claims it was to liberate the Iraqis, another claims that it was his potential for WMD. Why is it Mr. President? We relied on you holding to your word as commander-in-chief to give us an accurate and honest picture and it is clear that we received neither.

What about Homeland Defense funding, there is more going to Wyoming per capita than New York. Why is that? Why is there such a massive turnover rate at the Transportation Security Agency? Why did you spend more effort trying to prevent them from unionizing than from making sure that that the best people were hired for the job.

In short, Mr. President, what is there about your national security policy which has not utterly and completely failed this country? Both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein remain missing. Iraq is in shambles, trapping half the US Army. Afghanistan facing a taliban resurgence. When will you admit you policies are failing and decide work with both the Congress and the UN to prevent an even greater tragedy.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/06/2003 11:49:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


My first milestone

It seems to be a blogging tradition (!) to cite various milestones reached, so let me mention what I believe to be my first link from another blog. Eliot Gelwan's excellent Follow Me Here is on my short list of links for good reason. FmH was one of the first blogs I read consistently (the first being Jorn Barger's Robot Wisdom), and in large part it introduced me to the world of blogging, and in particular to the liberal political blogs which are my main interest at the moment.

Eliot's range is impressive, and I never fail to find interesting and thoughtful material in the links he provides and in his own commentary. My thanks to him for the link, and for referring to me as "one of the most thoughtful people I met through weblogging." I return the compliment with great pleasure.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/06/2003 04:34:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Spell-checking and life (sort of)

[Blogger's down, more or less, with apparently intermittent access to the editing system, but none to the published blogs, so who knows when or even if this post will see the light of day.]

A friend of mine, Garman, caught a misspelling in an earlier post, so I went back in and corrected it. The interesting thing to me is that I had actually checked the spelling at the time that I was writing the post, and I still managed to misspell one word of the phrase ("post hoc ergo proptor hoc") and to drop in a typo at the same time ("ego").

As I creep inevitably upward into middle-age (I'm 48, and here I'll pause for a favorite quote of mine:

Forty-five years old. If I was in politics they'd call me the kid.
"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (c. 1975)
[spoken by the character "Lou Grant,"
played by Ed Asner]

Oh, heck, I can never stop with just one quote, so here's another:

Forty-two. His age had astounded him for years, and each time that he had sat so astounded, trying to figure out what had become of the young, slim man in his twenties, a whole additional year slipped by and had to be recorded, a continually growing sum which he could not reconcile with his self-image. He still saw himself, in his mind's eye, as youthful, and when he caught sight of himself in photographs he usually collapsed ... Somebody took my actual physical presence away and substituted this, he had thought from time to time. Oh well, so it went.
Philip K. Dick
A Maze of Death (1970)

OK, that's out of the way, so...)

I find that as I get older more and more of these kinds of typos appear in my writing. I'm especially prone to typing a word that's coming up in my stream of thought in place of one that's similar in spelling or sound that I'm supposed to be typing.

Like a lot of middle-aged people, I have a tendency to interpret these errors as early indicators of Alzheimer's disease, which I think has taken over from cancer as the disease we fear the most. In my case, these fears may have some credibility, since my father's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, so assuming there's a heritability factor involved in the disease, I might well be expected to get hit with it at some point. But whether misspelling, mistypings and petty misuses of words are really an indication of anything more serious, I can't say.

I've never gotten into the habit of using spell-check when I write, although for particularly important correspondence I do usually remember to run it through. (And since this post is at least partly about spell-checking, it'll get that treatment as well.) Even if I did, though, spell-check wouldn't catch many of the errors I make, since they involve substituting one perfectly good word for another. Style-checkers just tell me that my sentences are too long, short punchy sentences apparently being the holy grail of business correspondence. I have no idea if there's a good enough context-checker available, something that will catch "their" for "they're" or even "there", but for me by far the best thing to do is to re-read the material and check for errors -- although I find that much easier to do on paper than on a monitor. That's why for particularly important stuff, I print it out and check it off the printout. (And considering the number of mistakes I've made in the course of composing this, I might just do that this time as well.)

My wife claims that she can, generally speaking, tell a person's age from the kind of errors in their writing. People under 30, she says, have grown up with spell-checkers, so there are rarely any spelling errors in things they write, but there are frequent instances of misused (but correctly spelled words), since they're not in the habit of checking their work. If that's true, where will the next generation of copy-editors come from?

(OK, I'm finished, now to spell-check, print and re-read, and do everything possible to avoid a spelling error in a post about making spelling errors.)

(Except for misspelling "can" as "cna" and bungling "remember" in some convoluted way, what it mostly caught were hyphenations. Whatever proper usage is, I usually prefer to write "re-read" over "reread" or "re-evaluate" or "reevaluate", because I think they are clearer and easier to understand. Similarly, I rebel against putting punctuation inside quotation marks when doing so makes things more unclear. Rules are nice, and I respect them, but some are obviously simply matters of convention and are not well-founded, IMHO, Safire be damned.)

Update: I'm on the third or fourth pass through this post to correct numerous tiny mistakes which managed to survive both spell-checking and copy-editiing. Whatever is left is fair game, 'cause I give up. With Agassiz losing to Ferrero in the semi-finals at the U.S. Open, and the Yankees simultaneously being bombed by Boston, who really cares about spelling errors? There are much bigger and more important things to be concerned about, right?

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/06/2003 03:57:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, September 05, 2003

What I'll be doing, soon

Here, from the Manhattan Theatre Club website, is the play I'll be working on beginning next week, as the Production Stage Manager. It will inaugurate MTC's new home on Broadway, the renovated Biltmore Theatre, which will complement MTC's two other theatres at City Center.

The Violet Hour

By Richard Greenburg
Directed by Evan Yionoulis
October 16 - December 21 2003
With Laura Benanti, Mario Cantone, Scott Foley, Jasmine Guy, Robert Sean Leonard

The Violet Hour will have its New York premiere in the fall at Manhattan Theatre Club. Set after World War I, the play centers on fledgling book publisher John Pace Seavering, who is trying to find a way to pick the first manuscript he will publish: either a massive tome by his best friend or the autobiography of his lover. Seavering carefully weighs the effects his decision will have over time while under pressure to make it to the theater on time that evening.

Here's a short piece about the play from New York magazine's Fall Preview:

Time Machine

Take Me Out’s Tony-winning playwright, Richard Greenberg, steps out of the ballpark and takes on history, the nature of ambition—and fate.

It’s that time—“that wonderful New York hour when the evening’s about to reward you for the day . . . the violet light . . . ” So a character in Richard Greenberg’s poignant, funny new play explains the title of his novel and of the play itself: The Violet Hour. Walking through the city at sunset, past hundred-year-old buildings that seem on fire, can induce, Greenberg suggests, a kind of liminal experience: a feeling that the past and future are insinuating themselves into the present.

Greenberg (who won the Best Play Tony last year for Take Me Out) has an obsession with the experience of time, and not just because his rapid rise to national prominence—he’s had six plays produced in the last two years—has turned his own life into something of a blur. “I’ve always tried to make time real to myself,” he says, “and you can do that in a play more than in anything else.”

The Violet Hour, Greenberg points out, is set in 1919, “to give the sense of a cusp,” but anticipates the twenties, evoking what Greenberg describes as “a Fitzgerald-Hemingway-flapper world, with the Harlem Renaissance folded in.” All of these eras have meaning to Greenberg, but Fitzgerald in particular dominated his youth, so much so that Greenberg decided he wanted to go to Princeton when he read The Great Gatsby at the age of 12, and eventually did for just that reason.

The Violet Hour’s hero is an Ivy Leaguer, too. Robert Sean Leonard plays a young publisher who must choose between the unwieldy novel of his college friend and the autobiography of his lover, a Harlem singer played by Jasmine Guy. Early on, a machine in the office starts churning out books that haven’t been written yet, and suddenly the characters know their own fates. It sounds fantastical, but Greenberg is no fan of science fiction, and the conceit isn’t elaborated. “The people in the play just believe it quickly.”

But then they have to cope with the sudden realization that they are living in history—“Look at us, we’re period,” says Leonard’s character at one point. “These aren’t clothes we’re wearing—they’re costumes.” This raises questions, Greenberg says, like “If we could really have a vision of the consequences of all our actions, what would it do to ambition, to the urge to move at all?”

Forty-five-year-old Greenberg himself suffers from no such paralysis. Every time he starts a new play, he tells himself he’ll take a break when it’s finished, but he never does. “For the last two years,” says the time theorist, “I haven’t had an unobligated day.” —A.C.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/05/2003 11:08:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Liberal "rapid-response" publishing

My good friend Roger Keeling wrote me recently about an idea he'd been kicking around:

My friend Randy discussed with me, one evening down in Santa Cruz, my thoughts about the need for a liberal "rapid response system" to right-wing publications. As I said to him, we need to be able to respond -- REALLY respond -- quickly and powerfully whenever a book by Coulter or Hannity or any of the many others appears. Right now, there are a lot of liberal books on the market ... they appear with some regularity. But most of them are, quite frankly, TOO good. Take Eric Alterman's book, "What Liberal Media?" Took that guy years to write it. It's long and elegantly written and ever-so-reasonable and jam-packed with facts and arguments. Hundreds of detailed footnotes, and if you follow them you'll find they lead to the actual citations, and those citations are genuinely relevant.

A lot of people will read his book. They will be, almost all of them, committed liberals and progressives of various sorts (or, a few, confirmed right-wingers looking to "know the enemy" and seek flaws). Most will be very well educated people.  Almost nobody will actually have his or her mind changed by Alterman, because almost all of them will already agree or be steadfast in their opposition. Maybe a few members of the media itself will read it and cringe, but I rather doubt it. Its impact, if any, will radiate outward mostly under the surface, subtle and over time.

I'm really, really glad he wrote his book. I'm glad for all such books: Sidney Blumenthal's and Greg Palast's and all the rest. (Well, Palast really IS a hard-fightin' guy. The local bookstore has his latest, and I want a copy ... I'm going to cart over some books tomorrow in order to do a bit of bartering.) But the truth is, they never reach people who don't already read such things. They only appeal to well-educated and thoughtful folks. They are not written, mostly, for the masses. And they are rarely timely in any meaningful sense: they are always months or years late.

So this is what I discussed with Randy, and I touched on this, and also on what I think is needed: some kind of liberal publishing house that is well-funded and is NOT obligated to actually make money, or even break even (though if it does either, it would be more than happy about the matter). This publishing house would have a number of projects. One would be "instant battle books," rapidly-written and distributed HARD-HITTING replies to each and EVERY rightwing assault. So when Anne Coulter's "Slander" appeared, this publishing house would have had out in just a few weeks a book called "Libel: How Anne Coulter Lies About Liberals."

These wouldn't be models of brilliant, academically-solid liberal tomes. They would be quickly written and hard-hitting. They would be thin books -- only a 200 pages, maybe even less. They would have low cover prices, and in fact would often be given away. The writers and contributors would be paid decent wages for their work, nothing more (but enough to help incubate and develop promising new liberal talent). They would be as accurate as possible, but not complex and academic: they would speak to the average person, in terms the average person understands.

They would not only confront and debunk the right-wing glop of Anne Coulter or Sean Hannity or whoever, they would also EDUCATE people about what liberalism really is. They would ALWAYS have -- scattered about in them -- simple, clean explanations of liberal ideology, and how it brings home the bacon for people in the form of opportunity and hope. So these books would be positioned to play offensive as well as defensive.

My immediate reaction was to wonder if perhaps the tremendous insights and research abilities of the various liberal bloggers and pundits could be utilized for such a project. And Roger agreed, writing:

Yeah, we COULD try to assemble them all (and some of the better-known liberal writers too, like Alterman, Marshall, etc.). Initially no money, but if they could secure reprint rights for pieces they write for The Nation, New Republic, Washington Monthly, etc., and donate them, then they'd be able to contribute too.

But take Coulter's book. Suppose we'd parceled it out to 20 or so bloggers, each charged with thoroughly vetting one chapter or one-half of a chapter, including all footnotes. And then, each person was to write a "reply" just to that section. Blow by blow, demolish it. Show how it was full of lies, mis-representations, stupidities. Now I grant you the tone would be terribly uneven, the style would shift constantly throughout our tome, and the editor would have a fairly large task of weaving it together. Plus, the editor (or a more select subgroup of the contributors) would have the task of adding material for our offense: arguments not just against what Coulter wrote, but in FAVOR of liberalism. (The introduction or afterword could contain a "simplified explanation of what liberalism is," ideally along the lines of my understanding of it as the social-political expression of the scientific method coupled with a humanistic value system).

We'd be busy doing this, let me tell you, and it would be appropriate for me or someone to start cranking out grant proposals in order to scavenge up some cash to pay the editor and -- ideally -- provide a little pay to the contributors, too. More importantly, eBooks are all fine and good, but they STILL lack the ability to penetrate any market that is not already interested to some extent. Our anti-Coulter book, in the example above, would be useful -- truly useful -- ONLY if it were then printed in an inexpensive form and mass distributed: zillions of copies, ideally with enough sold in bulk at dirt-cheap prices to liberal and political groups so that a lot of them could be simply given away. But that does mean some deep-pocketed benefactor has got to say, "Okay, here's the cash for the publishing end, anyhow." (You'd be amazed how cheaply you can print pulp paperbacks, of course. One non-profit I know of, a group that helps homeless kids turn away from street life, prostitition and drugs, sticks a little paperback in some of its special appeal mailings. 60 or 80 pages, as I recall, with perfect-binding (basically, like any paperback novel you'll ever see) and a monochrome-printed cover. It MUST be cheap for them to do it).

Anyhow, there was more to my idea, but I gave you the first presentation.

As Roger correctly points out, funding is the key, since there's no guarantee that this kind of project would bring in a lot of profit. We'd need a George Soros who wouldn't mind giving up a little pocket money in the cause of balancing the scales, or a publishing house willing to take the chance on a loss for good reason. (Which brings up a question, does Regnery actually make any money on the right-wing crap they publish?)

Anyone with comments or ideas about how to move such a project forward, please drop me a note and I'll put up anything interesting on the site.

BTW, at some point when he's got some more free time on his hands, I'll try to get Roger to expound a little on his ideas about the relationship between liberalism and the scientific method.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/05/2003 01:20:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The U.N. resolution

I hate to keep going back to him, but after all, I did say that Billmon is one of the best. Here's his analysis of why the resolution that the U.S. put before the U.N. was so obviously a Non-Starter.

So what's going on here? Some theories:

1. The administration, as usual, is negotiating in bad faith. It has absolutely no intention of actually cutting a deal with the Security Council, it only wants to make a pretense of an effort, in order to gain a little political cover at home and -- maybe -- give the Indians or the Pakistanis or the Turks enough cover at their homes to fork over some troops.

2. The administration (or at least Colin Powell) believes it is in a weak negotiating position. Like any smart negotiator, it's opening with an ridiculously low offer, in hopes of limiting the concessions it inevitably will have to make.

3. The administration remains effectively gridlocked. While Powell has won the battle to the return to the U.N., the neocons continue to hold a veto over exactly what the United States is prepared to offer. And they aren't prepared to offer much of anything -- except puerile rhetoric and increasingly lunatic ideas, like handing Iraq over to Ahmad Chalabi.

4.The administration figures the Europeans (or at least, the Russians and the Germans) are so desperate to get back into the good graces of Uncle Sam, they'll sign just about anything that's put before them. Nobody can afford to see Iraq implode into a failed state, so -- for the moment, at least -- the other Security Council members will bow to inevitability and follow the U.S. lead.

I will leave it to you to decide which (if any) of these scenarios might be correct. But since #2 assumes the administration is in some way "smart," I think we can probably rule it out. On the other hand, while there are reasons for thinking the U.S. negotiating position has at least some strength, I don't think Scenario #4 is especially plausible, either.

That leaves #1 (negotiating in bad faith) and #3 (gridlock.) (Shrugs) Maybe they're both true.

As with almost every other aspect of the Administration's doings in Iraq, I'd lean toward some combination of elements to explain just what the heck is going on. Whenever I try to explain their policies using one criteria only (such as the neocon adherence to their ideological preconceptions, cynical manipulation for domestic political reasons or a straightforward grab for oil or for contracts which benefit Haliburton and other connected companies) I always comes up a bit short. I can get so far, and many things fall into place, but others are rendered completely inexplicable. So, clearly, there's a mixture of motivations involved. From reports in the media, I guess these reflect a divide in the Administration, but somehow I think the State v. Defense explanation is not the totality of it either. I think you have to factor in Rove's domestic political concerns too.

What it actually looks like is that, despite the way the Administration prefers to appears, and contrary to their bully-boy muzzling of dissident elements within the government, there's a lot less control coming from the top than they've been given credit for. That doesn't surprise me, as being a good CEO would seem to require more skills and intelligence than Bush appears to have.

Update: According to this article in the New York Times, when asked about international funding for the reconstruction of Iraq:

...a senior administration official said: "We expect billions of dollars out of the rest of the world. Billions."

Billions of dollars from the rest of the world, when the rest of the world didn't approve of the invasion and the Bush administration didn't give a damn what they thought. Billions during a economic downturn, when the Bush administration turned its billions over to the rich and well-to-do. Billions of dollars, without any say in how they will be used.

Totally arrogant, totally clueless, totally contemptible.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/05/2003 01:04:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, September 04, 2003

From Eschaton

Shorter George Bush

We are now in the era of personal responsibility, in which other people should be blamed for everything that is wrong with the economy.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2003 11:28:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Abivaid knew, Rumsfeld ignored

Since I'm reading At Dawn We Slept, about Pearl Harbor, questions about when the military learns something and how they evaluate and distribute their information and analyses are of particular interest to me, and not only from an historical standpoint.

From River Cities' Reader Online, here's a story filed by their correspondant in Iraq:

Postwar Iraq Moves Dangerously Close to Civil Disaster

Story by Rich Miller

Article Posted Wednesday, September 03 2003 ~ 11:32am


A year ago, American General John Abizaid published an internal Defense Department book about urban warfare. Abizaid’s “Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations” [see below]was all but ignored by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, who ran the Iraq war and the initial postwar occupation.

Abizaid wrote about the massive troop requirements for urban warfare; warned of rapid burnout of soldiers and equipment assigned to urban battlegrounds; and time and again referenced catastrophic instances of over-confidence and under-preparedness among commanders and of disastrous misunderstandings of local cultures and their motivations. He also stressed how “essential” it is that “law enforcement” and other “routine activities” be “returned to civilian agencies as quickly as possible.”

Abizaid was brought in a month ago to clean up the mess created by Franks and Rumsfeld. But it might be too late.


General Accurately Predicted Many Problems in Postwar Iraq

A few excerpts from “Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations,” by U.S. General John Abizaid, published by the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, September 2002:

• Urban operations increase support demands due to the high level of injury and exhaustion of personnel, damage to equipment, and to the potential need to provide support to noncombatants.

• In combat operations, the need to secure cities building by building, room by room, requires large numbers of infantry.

• Nearly all operations in urban areas, including predominantly air operations, take significantly longer than originally expected.

• Urban operations result in a significant increase in ammunition expenditure, need for personnel replacements, medical personnel and supplies, casualty evacuation, and food and water. ... Commanders and planners must make every effort to anticipate and specifically plan for these resources.

• Forces will need reconstitution more frequently. ... Historically, it is necessary to pull units back for rest and reconstitution far more frequently in urban combat than in other types of operations. ... When that is coupled with the high casualty rates normally associated with urban combat, the problem of reconstitution becomes a serious one, requiring foresight and prior planning and preparation.

• Urban combat is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting, and the psychological effects on all participants (including health-care personnel) can be devastating.

• [Seven factors that have historically led to the commission of war crimes:] (1) high friendly losses; (2) high turnover rate in the chain of command; (3) dehumanization of the adversary; (4) poorly trained or inexperienced troops; (5) the lack of a clearly defined adversary; (6) unclear orders; and (7) high frustration level among the troops.

• Urban operations may impact the abilities of national and theater strategic assets and can easily affect coverage of other geographical areas.

• The severe drain that urban operations can have on resources can cause either attacker or defender to exhaust capabilities earlier than anticipated.

• [Quoting a book about the 1994 Russian invasion of Grozny:] Instead, [the Russian battlefield generals] believed the erroneous assumptions generated at the strategic level and subsequently directed a woefully inadequate effort to understand the battlespace in all its complexity. This disregard for intelligence adversely affected virtually every other warfighting function at the operational level.

• Rapid urbanization is changing the physical and political face of nations. ... In many places, this rapid urbanization has overburdened already weak infrastructure, scarce resources, and fragile economic bases.

• In all operations, it is essential that routine activities such as providing sanitary services, food, law enforcement, and health services be returned to civilian agencies as quickly as possible because of the demand they can place on joint force resources.

• [Quoting from Joint Military Operations Historical Collection:] The importance of understanding local politics and integrating indigenous decision makers into an urban operation cannot be overstated.

• Faced with superiority of U.S. forces, most adversaries seek an asymmetrical advantage. Urban areas are the natural battleground for terrorists.

• [Quoting George Wilson, Air Force Times:] If you don’t understand the culture you are involved in; who makes decisions in these societies; how their infrastructure is designed; the uniqueness in their values and in their taboos – you aren’t going to be successful.

• The Joint Force Commander must give great care in the establishment of population-control measures, depending on the situation and characteristics of that population. Inappropriate controls could exacerbate the populace and resources control problem.

[link from Talking Points Memo]

Update: I knew this reminded me of something else. Back in June, Josh Marshall had a short item in TPM:

If you've been keeping score at home, you know that, back when Army general Eric Shinseki predicted that occupying Iraq would require "several hundred thousand troops," Paul Wolfowitz and Don Rumsfeld pounced, with Wolfowitz proclaiming the number "wildly off the mark." But unlike Wolfowitz's and Rumsfeld's far too optimistic expectations -- which seem to have been based on nothing that fancy -- Shinseki's was based on a study conducted by the Army War College and published in February 2003. The study drew on past peacekeeping and occupation missions to figure out what tasks would need to be performed, and can be read here. It's perceptive and strangely prescient. But did Rumsfeld read it?

The study, by Conrad C. Crane (Director of the US Army Military History Institute) and W. Andrew Terrill (Middle East specialist for the War College's Strategic Strudies Institute), is titled "Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario."

Here is the executive summary of the report's conclusions:


• To be successful, an occupation such as that contemplated after any hostilities in Iraq requires much detailed interagency planning, many forces, multi-year military commitment, and a national commitment to nationbuilding.

• Recent American experiences with post-conflict operations have generally featured poor planning, problems with relevant military force structure, and difficulties with a handover from military to civilian responsibility.

• To conduct their share of the essential tasks that must be accomplished to reconstruct an Iraqi state, military forces will be severely taxed in military police, civil affairs, engineer, and transportation units, in addition to possible severe security difficulties.

• The administration of an Iraqi occupation will be complicated by deep religious, ethnic, and tribal differences which dominate Iraqi society.

• U.S. forces may have to manage and adjudicate conflicts among Iraqis that they can barely comprehend.

• An exit strategy will require the establishment of political stability, which will be difficult to achieve given Iraq’s fragmented population, weak political institutions, and propensity for rule by violence.

So, the obvious question is, since these reports are presumably commissioned for some specific reason, and people put time and effort into making them, why were they totally ignored in favor of the neocon's ideologically-driven vision of an easy liberation and reconstruction of Iraq?

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2003 10:12:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Hellbent for havoc

US derides 'chocolate makers' for EU military headquarters plans

Wed Sep 3, 1:51 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States sneered at plans by four European countries to create an autonomous European military command headquarters near Brussels separate from NATO, referring to the idea's proponents as "chocolate makers."

In unusually blunt language that drew surprised gasps from reporters, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher scoffed at Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg for continuing to support the proposal that they first introduced at a mini-summit in April.

He described the April meeting as one between "four countries that got together and had a little bitty summit" and then referred to them collectively as "the chocolate makers."

The derisive phrase appeared to target mainly Belgium, which is known for its high quality chocolate confections, and on Tuesday reiterated its support for the new headquarters.

After reflecting on his comments, Boucher immediately stood back, explaining that he had seen the phrase in press reports and saying that he should not have repeated them.

[via uggabugga and Atrios]

Whether he thought better of them or not, I'm quite certain that those words accurately represent the contempt the Bush Administration feels is warranted. Who can doubt it, given their expressed and apparent contempt for the U.N., NATO, the European Union, the Kyoto Treaty, the International Criminal Court and every other aspect of the infrastructure of international governance that we were instrumental in creating after World War II. They are indeed a contempuous bunch, and contemptible for it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2003 04:52:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


No respect for SM

That's right, no respect. Not for sado-masochism, though, for stage managing.

By profession, I'm a theatrical stage manager, working out of Manhattan. It's been my job for the better part of 28 years, and it's a good job, an interesting one, frequently a challenging one, but not a job that most people outside of the theatre understand in the least. My doctor, for instance, who I've been seeing for at least 20 years, is still under the impression that I'm a director.

That's not unexpected -- after all stage managing rarely comes up in polite conversation about the arts, unless it's during discussions of Thorton Wilder's play Our Town, in which the narrator is a character called the Stage Manager (played by Paul Newman in the most recent Broadway revival). Other than that, you hear the term used mostly as a pejorative for people who manipulate things behind the scenes, as in diplomacy or politics or business negotiations.

But for all the practical invisibility of the job outside of "the business," generally any play, movie or television show which is set backstage will at least acknowledge the existence of us poor slobs -- you get the funny little guy that the director leans on when he's unhappy and wants company in 42nd Street, or the fellow who yells at Gene Kelly or Cagney or Judy Garland when something goes wrong, or, at the very least, someone hanging around in the shadows who seems to have something important to do with what's going on, even if it's not clear what, exactly, it is.

Not respect, precisely, but acknowledgement.

Which is why I was disappointed with the recent episode of the USA detective series "Monk" which was set backstage, because, despite an inordinate amount of time spent on or around the stage of a San Francisco playhouse, the stage manager seemed almost non-existant.

When Monk and his assistant/nurse Sharona (and Sharona's mother, played by Betty Buckley) wandered on stage and started nosing around, it wasn't the stage manager who confronted them, it was the prop master. And when Monk inquired about the confusion between the apparent murder weapon, a real knife, and the retracting stage knife that should have been preset for the actress accused of the murder to use, it's the prop master who, again, swears it was set correctly -- even though it will be the ultimate responsibility of one of the stage managers to check to see that it's properly set for the performance.

And when someone dies onstage, it's the director who jumps out of the audience onto the stage and calls for a doctor in the house, not the stage manager. (OK, it was opening night, so having the director there wouldn't be unusual, but still...) And why, for heaven sake, does no one in stage management do anything later on in the show when Monk misses his entrance, blows his blocking, mutters his lines and generally does a pretty good job if illustrating The Art of Coarse Acting?

Anybody there ever heard of ringing in the curtain, and starting over, preferably with someone who can do the part?

Yes, I know it's played for laughts, and I really do enjoy the series, which I think has found the right balance between crime-solving and the comedy of Monk's personality quirks, but would it have hurt for them to have thrown a sop at us, and have a stage manager around doing something important-looking? (OK, OK, there's the guy accompanying the director, maybe he's supposed to be the SM, and a bunch of people with wireless headsets backstaging pushing Monk around and pointing to the entrance, but, really, is that all my honorable profession rates?

Well, at least my parents (finally) understand what I do. (I think.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2003 02:00:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Bush's plan, summarized

In the comment threads on CalPundit, Boban summarizes Bush's Iraq plan:

Bush plan for Iraq:

1) Tell the UN to piss off. Check
2) Use overwhelming military force. Check.
3) Bask in glory of conquest. Check
4) Be greeted as liberator by locals. Oops.
5) Unite tribal factions in Democracy. Oops.
6) Restore order & basic civil services. Oops.

And then the ad-lib:

7) Beg UN for money & support. Oops (See step one).

I think that about covers it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2003 12:33:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

A small personal (middle-aged) complaint

I grew up when "Mr. Ed" was on prime-time television, and was forced to endure four years of people (relatives, neighbors, shopkeepers) referring to me by that name. I put up with it, but it was really annoying. Still, like all good vidiots at that age (7 - 11), I watched the show all the time.

Which are two good reasons why I don't welcome its return to the air on TV Land. It's bad enough that it's part of TV Land's dumbing-down of their late-night schedule ("Dick Van Dyke", "Barney Miller" and "The Bob Newhart Show" having been replaced with "Andy Griffith", "Mister Ed" and "Gilligan's Island"), but if people start calling me "Mr. Ed" again... Well, all I can say that I'm bigger and stronger now than I was then.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/03/2003 03:19:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The Wolf bays

[Blogger and BlogSpot were down for 5 or 6 hours tonight, but they seem to be back up again now.]

Paul Wolfowitz had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, winningly entitled Support Our Troops. A small snippet will suffice to get the flavor of it:

Even before the bombing of the U.N. headquarters, if you'd asked Gen. Mattis and his Marines, there was no question in their minds that the battle they wage--the battle to secure the peace in Iraq--is now the central battle in the war on terrorism. It's the same with the commander of the Army's 1st Armored Division, Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who recently described that second group as "international terrorists or extremists who see this as the Super Bowl." They're going to Iraq, he said, "to take part in something they think will advance their cause." He added, "They're wrong, of course." Among the hundreds of enemy that we have captured in the last months are more than 200 foreign terrorists who came to Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis and to do everything they can to prevent a free and successful Iraq from emerging. They must be defeated--and they will be.

You get the idea -- you can read more at the link above if you want.

There are a number of objections one could raise to Wolfowitz' assertions, among them:

  • One would think that while general officers serving in Iraq might well have ideas or opinions about broad geopolitical matters, their primary concern should certainly be about matters operational, strategic and tactical before them. They surely have information that's vital for us to consider, but that doesn't make their opinions about the bigger issues any more cogent or correct that those of the ordinary well-informed citizen (or the lowliest blogger, for that matter).

  • The same goes for the opinions of the front-line soldiers. We should all pay close attention to them when they describe the conditions they're working under, the state of the troops, or what they see and hear around them, for these are things important for us to know, but I've got to think that perhaps they're just a little bit busy at the moment, and may not have the time to carefully consider everything that needs to be taken into account when trying to figure out what's going on in Iraq, and what the hell we're going to do about it.

  • Wolfowitz also rather smoothy, without actually saying it, implies that because (undeniably) radical Islamists are currently fighting in Iraq (having flocked there to answer the call to jihad from Osama bin Laden, among others) this somehow validates the claims made by the Bush Administration in the run-up to the war that there was a connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda, which, in part, justified the Bush invasion. There is, of course, no logical reason why this should be true, being a rather egregious case of post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking.

    In reality, there still is no compelling evidence (in fact, shockingly little evidence at all) of a connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda, or anything that shows any Iraqi involvement in the attacks of 9/11. The Bushies created that supposed connection out of whole cloth, by the use of insinuations and deliberate misstatements, and succeeded beautifully in implanting the idea in the majority of the American public that Saddam=terrorism.

  • Not only that, but the harsh reality is that it was our invasion, which destroyed the only governmental structure that Iraq has known for decades, that created the very chaos which now allows terrorists to join in the fight, which in turn allows Wolfowitz to lead us to believe that this was the case all along.

Wolfowitz is not a stupid man, and knows all that, just as he know that his article is basically designed to misdirect us and make us believe that Bush and his neocon advisors were correct all along, when, in fact, everything we know about what's happened so far in Iraq has served to show how entirely wrong they were, and how they allowed their ideological preconceptions to blind them to the realities awaiting us there. Aside from that, Wolfowitz attempts to cloak the Administration's actions in the respect and admiration that people hold for those serving on the front lines, utilizing our patriotic feelings to squelch dissent and independent thought.

As always, the last refuge of the scoundrel. Or, as Billmon has it, "the last refuge of the incompetent."

The text is simply another dose of the same bizarre mix of rationalizations we've been hearing from the administration for the last several months, in which Iraq is (simultaneously) both a beacon of peace and democracy in the Middle East and a savage battlefield upon which the American military can finally lay waste to its enemies. A village, needing to be destroyed to be saved. Or saved to be destroyed. Or whatever.

The tone is also the same sacchrine mix of querulousness and self-pity --"Oh, those awful terrorists, they don't fight by the rules! It's not fair!"

That's why they call them terrorists, Paul.

What's missing -- entirely -- is any sense of strategic, or even tactical, direction, any hint of how the administration proposes to get itself (and America) out of the royal mess it has created in Iraq. Apparently, moral posturing and feeble platitudes (accompanied by the usual phalanx of lies) are an adequate substitute for policy, at least in the neocon universe.

And so it finally boils down to what this sort of mindless propaganda usually boils down to: Support the troops. Don't give aid and comfort to the terrorists. Don't be a disloyal American. Don't ask questions. Don't think.

Support the troops.

Well, considering how the neocons hopelessly misjudged the strength of the insurgency, low-balled the forces required to deal with it, saddled the Army with incompetent civilian contractors who can't even deliver enough water (in the middle of the desert, no less), bungled negotiations with the countries that might be able to provide reinforcements, stalled on bringing the U.N. on board, and -- last but hardly least -- repeatedly lied about when the troops now in Iraq might finally be relieved ...

If Wolfowitz took his own advice seriously, he'd resign.

Update (9/5/03): Corrected to fix the double misspelling of "post hoc ergo propter hoc." Thanks to my friend Garman for the catch.

Update (9/7/03): Digby agrees:

This pathetic appeal to emotion exposes [Wolfowitz] as either dangerously naïve and childlike in his thinking or so ideologically driven that he is willing to say and do anything in service of his goals.

Remember, these guys have always been wrong about everything. It is their special talent. They thought Kissinger was a dangerous appeaser with his weak kneed wussy détente. Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall they were agitating for a stronger military presence in Europe to check an inevitable resurgence of communism. If they’d had their way we would have invaded Russia, for Gawd’s sake.

Typically, now that they have been proved to be both baldly dishonest and dramatically incompetent, they are falling back on their old favorite --- rank sentimentality and gooey patriotic tributes to the troops.

The scoundrels are scurrying to their last refuge much sooner than I would have thought possible. Get out your trowels and shovels because we are about to be buried in patriotic clichés. It's all they've got.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/03/2003 01:56:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Did Bush try to get Clark fired?

From the Telegraph (U.K):

General Wesley Clark, the former Nato commander in Bosnia, and a probable presidential contender, has accused White House officials of trying to get him sacked as a CNN military analyst because they feared he would criticise the Iraq war.

Gen Clark is understood to be preparing to announce his candidacy for the Democratic party's nomination to run against President George W Bush in next year's election. Leading Democrats believe Mr Bush is now vulnerable on foreign policy and defence issues.

Senior Republicans insist they are unconcerned by the "Draft Clark" campaign, suggesting it is a sign of desperation because of a lacklustre field of nine candidates, none of whom has captured the public imagination.

But Gen Clark indicated that White House aides were so worried by him that they attempted to oust him from the cable network as America prepared for war.

"The White House actually back in February apparently tried to get me knocked off CNN and they wanted to do this because they were afraid that I would raise issues with their conduct of the war," he said in a recent radio interview.

Gen Clark, a former Rhodes Scholar, previously said the White House tried to pressurise him to link the September 11 attacks to Iraq.

[via Follow Me Here]

Update: "Pressurise"? What's wrong with "pressure," as in "Gen Clark said the White House tried to pressure him to link the September 11 attacks to Iraq"?

Is this a Britishism or a solecism?

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2003 03:35:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Billmon on Dean

Whiskey Bar: Dead Man Talking

Say what you will about Howard Dean the man, or even Howard Dean the politician, Howard Dean the campaign is quite simply the best Democratic operation I've ever seen -- infinitely better than Bill Clinton's storied 1992 campaign, which would have laid down and died after New Hampshire if not for the lack of strong competition and the sheer Terminator-like qualities of its candidate.

It's hard for me to see how Kerry can survive his first few rounds with the Dean Machine. It's probably also too late for an Anybody But Dean movement to jell around one of the other candidates. Only Gephardt appears to have the institutional (read: labor) resources to keep within striking distance of Dean, but there's a very real threat he'll be bumped off coming out of the gate in Iowa.

There are only two contigencies I can see that might knock Dean out of the box. One is if Hillary Clinton runs, which appears unlikely. I'm not sure even she could pull a campaign together at this late date.

The other would be if Al Gore had another mid-life crisis and decided to jump into the race. He's probably the only potential candidate (other than those who are already in the race, I mean) who could pull together a campaign in the months remaining before the show starts. And I'm not sure even he could do it -- unless Kerry drops out, and Gore can get his old team back. But that seems like a real stretch.

So I'm going to go out of a limb and make the call: Howard Dean will be the Democratic nominee in the 2004 election. And I wouldn't be too surprised if it's a Dean/Clark ticket -- well managed, geographically balanced, and least moderately "credible" (in the Inside-the-Beltway sense) on national secuirty affairs (take that, Tim Russert.)

He also says that he's "deeply conflicted" about that -- I'll be looking forward to hearing why that is.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2003 03:01:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Only 3 days old, and already breaking the rules

A good friend of mine just wrote me to warn me against making entries here which are just links without an accompanying description or analysis, and I think that is indeed a good idea for a general policy, -- (Thanks, Roger!) -- but I think I'm going to break that rule here, or at least bend it a little.

I found Josh Marshall's new article in Washington Monthly, "The Post-Modern President" to be an excellent exegesis of the continued duplicity of Bush and his administration, and why their ideology demands of them that they behave the way they do. Well worth reading, but it was damned difficult for me to find a short excerpt to post. (Once I started excerpting, I didn't want to stop -- the sign of a good piece of writing, I think.) In the end, Marshall found the Bushies' revisionist mindset to be very post-modern, very relativistic, very... French.

Rather than post a tiny snippet here, or an excerpt that would be much too long, I'd just urge everyone to read the piece, to which I have nothing particular of interest to add.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2003 02:20:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Gilliard's the man

I've written it elsewhere, and I should say it here are well: Steve Gilliard has written some of the best stuff about the war in Iraq that I've read anywhere. (Billmon, another Daily Kos alumni, has also been very perceptive and informative.) I made the suggestion recently to someone who doubted that to be the case, that it would be worthwhile to rummage through the archives of Daily Kos and compare what Gilliard wrote then about what might happen, to what has actually happened in Iraq.

Now, Gilliard is doing some of that work himself. There are several posts on his weblog in which he resurrects some of his old pieces and shows how accurate they were at predicting what would occur. He writes:

Looking back over my old Kos pieces, I pretty much nailed what would happen. Not because I'm some sort of precisent genius, but because Iraqi history and politics mandated that some kind of resistance would explode at some point.

This stuff is good.

Now personally, I think Gilliard is a little hard on Josh Marshall, and that he has pretty consistently not recognized that Kenneth Pollack's view of how an invasion of Iraq should have been handled included many caveats which were designed to deal with the very realities of Iraqi history and sociology that Gilliard has been so good at outlining -- and I don't believe for one minute (not yet at least) that anything which has happened since the beginning of the war serves to prove that Pollack was wrong about Saddam being an irrational player. (Pollack never said that Saddam was stupid, simply that he frequently acted badly and implusively on the basis of inaccurate information or analysis, and that still appears to me to be a fair description.)

But those are small things when compared to the insights that Gilliard has provided, and I urge anyone interested in how we got into this mess, and what we may come across there inthe future, to read his site regularly.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2003 02:17:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


unfutz goes tabloid

I don't have a clue what this bizarre story is all about, but I doubt it has any wider ramifications. Still, I have to wonder, why do officials make the silly pronouncements they do? Surely the police can't be serious in saying that there is "no obvious connection" between the men involved? Does that pass the smell test? It brings to mind the almost immediate announcement by officials of the Department of Homeland Security, within the hour of it happening, that last month's blackout was not terrorist related. How could they possibly know at that point, since they had no real idea of what caused the blackout in the first place?

I can understand officials wanting to stem any possible panic, but then all they needed to say is something like: "At this time, we have every indication that this is a mechanical or human failure of some sort, and is not terrorist related. We have absolutely no intelligence which indicates to us that terrorism was involved, but we're taking every precaution, just in case. When we know for certain what the cause was, we'll know then if terrorism is implicated."

But no, they had to come out and say, point blank, "No terrorism involved," which is a statement of no particular value.

Similarly, the police in the case below have an extremely bizarre incident of bank robbery and bombing, and the death or two men who worked together, and all they can say is "there's no connection." Any intelligent adult can see that, prima facie, there is an obvious connection between the two, although it's certainly possible that it may not be borne out by further investigation to be related to the crimes committed.

Bomb Kills Pizza Deliveryman After Arrest in Bank Robbery


In the beginning it appeared to be a run-of-the-mill bank robbery.

Brian Douglas Wells, 46, a pizza deliveryman, walked into a bank on a busy street in Erie, Pa., on Thursday, slipped the teller a note and walked out with a bag of cash, said Special Agent Bob Rudge, a supervisor in the F.B.I.'s Erie office.

But in a twist that has experienced local and federal investigators perplexed, Mr. Wells had a bomb around his chest that detonated and killed him shortly after he was stopped by the state police and taken into custody.

When he was arrested, investigators said, Mr. Wells claimed that someone had forced him to wear the bomb, set a timer and sent him out to rob the bank.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who were called in to work on the bank robbery were now helping the local police look into whether Mr. Wells's death was a homicide, Mr. Rudge said.

"There is information that he was forced to don this type of apparatus," Agent Rudge said in a telephone interview yesterday. "That is what we are investigating. Whether or not that is the case we just don't know yet."

The story took another turn yesterday when a friend and co-worker of Mr. Wells's was found dead.

The Associated Press quoted the police as saying that there was no obvious connection between the two deaths. Nevertheless, as a precaution, the authorities sent a bomb squad to search the house where the man's body was found.

Investigators said that the 43-year-old man, identified as Robert Pinetti by The Associated Press, lived in the house with his parents.

The police said they received a call early yesterday asking for medical assistance at the home, but that Mr. Pinetti refused it. A few hours later, the authorities were called to the house again after his parents had found him unresponsive. He was pronounced dead.

"There was nothing overtly obvious as to the cause of his death," Cpl. Mark Zaleski of the state police said, "but because there's a relationship between the two individuals, we are over there."

Both Mr. Pinetti and Mr. Wells worked for Mama Mia's Pizza-Ria on Peach Street, a busy commercial strip.

It was about 1:40 p.m. on Thursday when Mr. Wells set out to deliver a pizza to a residence on the same street, Mr. Rudge said. F.B.I. agents said they believed that Mr. Wells did make the delivery. Investigators did not find a pizza in the car.

But what happened after that is unclear.

Officials do know that an hour after leaving for his delivery, Mr. Wells was slipping a note to a teller at the PNC Bank, also on Peach Street.

The note asked for money and said that Mr. Wells was carrying a bomb, investigators said. The teller gave him the money, Mr. Rudge said, and he left.

As Mr. Wells went to his car, witnesses called the state police. There were troopers nearby and they pulled Mr. Wells over before he left Peach Street.

After they took him out of his car and handcuffed him, they learned that the case might be more than a typical bank robbery.

He told them he had a bomb strapped to his chest, that it was about to explode and that someone else had put it there, investigators said.

"It's going to go off," Mr. Wells is heard saying in videotape taken at the scene by a local television station, WJET-TV. "I'm not lying."

Indeed, he was not. As the authorities waited for a bomb disposal team to arrive, the device strapped to Mr. Wells exploded and he was killed in the blast. He was the only casualty.

Agent Rudge said that the state police had ordered Mr. Wells to sit on the pavement near a police car. He said they had cleared an area around him and called in the Erie police bomb squad, but that the bomb went off before they arrived.

It is not unusual for bank robbers to force tellers to hand over money by claiming to be carrying explosives. But bank robbers who actually have explosives are a bit more unusual, and bank robbers who actually die when bombs go off are virtually unheard of, Mr. Rudge said.

"What makes this case different is the robber was killed," Mr. Rudge said.

The state police did not return a call seeking comment.

Someone who answered the telephone at the pizza shop would only say: "You tell me what's going on. What I know I told the F.B.I."

Update: Sure, it's possible that their deaths are coincidental, despite the connection between them, or that they are related, but not in any way connected to the crimes under investigation, (for instance, Man B is despondent over the bizarre death of his friend, Man A, and commits suicide or accidentally ODs because of it), but I'll bet that's not the way the investigation is proceeding, that they're looking for ways in which the deaths are related and will continue to do so until they rule out any connection relevant to the crime. And that's what they should be doing, because it's only common sense to proceed in that manner.

So why, then, make a silly public statement disavowing any connection before they know that's the case? Such pro forma announcements are damaging in that they whittle away, bit by bit, at the public's trust of the responsible authorities. (Although, it's perhaps an open question -- after years of lying, corruption, scandals, the attempted overthrow of a legitimate sitting President over matters of personal behavior not related to his official duties, and the stealing of an election away by use of bully-boy tactics and the Supreme Court of the United States -- if the public has any trust left at this point.)

Update (9/5/03):

Unusual gun found in car of neck bomb victim

Friday, September 05, 2003

By Cindi Lash, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

ERIE, Pa. -- As they continue to search for the maker of the unusual neck-clamp bomb that killed pizza delivery man Brian Douglas Wells, investigators are also examining an equally unique gun found in Wells' car to determine if it was made by the same person.

The gun-like weapon, which some investigators have likened to a cane that could fire a projectile, was found last week in Wells' car after he was killed by the explosion of a rectangular, metal-sheathed device that had been clamped around his neck.

Investigators said the gun -- like the bomb -- appeared to have been specially made in a machine shop, rather than modified from other objects.

The weapon is so distinctive that investigators considered releasing photographs and details about it yesterday at a news briefing, as they did earlier this week to seek tips from the public about the origin of the neck-clamp bomb. But they abruptly canceled yesterday's briefing, saying they wished to withhold details about the gun while they study how it was made and determine whether its construction resembles that of the metal-collar bomb.

"From an investigative standpoint, we prefer not to go before the public right now," said state police Cpl. Mark Zaleski.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2003 12:10:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, September 01, 2003

Military incompetence considered

In his 1976 book, The Psychology of Military Incompetence, Norman F. Dixon includes the "tendency to underestimate the enemy and overestimate the capabilities of one's own side" as a common aspect of the kind of incompetence which leads to military debacle. He considers various instances of miltary incompetence throughout history (the Crimean War; the Boer War; Cambrai, the siege of Kut and other aspects of World War I; incidents between the wars; and aspects of World War II, incuding Operation Market-Garden and the fall of Singapore) and condenses the behavior down to a list of 14 different aspects:

1. A serious wastage of human resources and failure to observe one of the first principles of war -- economy of force. This failure derives in part from an inabilty to make war swiftly. It also derives from certain attitudes of mind...

2. A fundamental conservatism and clinging to outworn tradition, an inability to profit from past experiences (owing in part to a refusal to admit past mistakes). It also involves a failure to use or tendency to misuse available technology.

3. A tendency to reject or ignore information which is unpalalable or which conflicts with preconceptions.

4. A tendency to underestimate the enemy and overestimate the capabilities of one's side.

5. Indecisiveness and a tendency to abdicate from the role of decision-maker.

6. An obstinate persistence in a given task despite strong contrary evidence.

7. A failure to exploit a situation gained and a tendency to 'pull punches' rather than push home an attack.

8. A failure to make adequate reconnaisance.

9. A predilection for frontal assaults, often against the enemy's strongest point.

10. A belief in brute force rather than the clever ruse.

11. A failure to make use of surprise or deception.

12. An undue readiness to find scapegoats for military set-backs.

13. A suppression or distortion of news from the front, usually rationalized as necessary for morale or security.

14. A belief in mystical forces -- fate, bad luck. etc.

Although not all of these aspects are applicable to the war in Iraq and the run-up to it, many of them are (I think there'd be little disagreement that we've seen #3,4,6,8,12,13 and 14, and possibly others as well at a tactical level) -- although it's worthwhile to note that some of the trangressions in this instance are the responsibility of the civilian masters of the military (i.e. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz & company), and not necessarily of the uniformed general staff, which is very often the case.

It will be interesting to see, although distressing at the same time, how many of these behaviors will be exhibited as we are pulled deeper and deeper into Iraq and are unable to extract ourselves because of our alienation of the rest of world who might have provided some relief.

(By the way, although Dixon is a psychologist, a "Reader in Psychology at University College London, and Fellow of the British Royal Psychological Society" at the time at the publication of his book, he did not intend it as, nor did it turn out to be, an attack on the military. Dixon himself served as an officer in the Royal Engineers for 10 years before leaving the British Army to go to college, and he writes in the Preface:

This book is not an attack upon the armed forces nor upon the vast majority of senior military commanders, who, in time of war, succeed in tasks which would make the running of a large commercial enterprise seem child's play by comparison.

It is, however, an attempt to explain how a minority of individuals come to inflict upon their fellow man depths of misery and pain virtually unknown in other walks of life.

Dixon's claim is seconded by British Army Briagdier Shelford Bidwell, who wrote in his Foreword:

I believe that this book should be required reading at all places where future officers are selected, trained or prepared for higher command. Both professional soldiers and the equally useful generation of young academic students of warfare will find new knowledge and valuable insights in this challenging study of how some men in high command may react when under the appalling stresses of war.

I first read this book almost two years ago, not long after the attacks of September 11th. I don't remember specifically what prompted me to do so, or where I saw a citation to it, but certainly the fact that we were preparing for war in Afghanistan was a significant factor in my interest in the subject.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2003 11:17:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



I am currently reading Gordon W. Prange's classic study of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, At Dawn We Slept, which is where I came across the nugget of information about FDR's wartime Secretaries of War and Navy being Republicans. Last night, I also read this, about the first wargaming exercise of the Pearl Harbor plan:

To Yoshioka the exercises epitomized the Japanese penchant for shortsighted, self-indulgent thinking. He saw the unpires underestimate American strength and slant their decisions in favor of the Blue team [representing the Japanese fleet]. They even equated one Zero with three enemy planes. As an experienced pilot Yoshioka felt his hackles raise at such stupidity. But when he tried to bring up these points, he received a sharp admonition for his pains.

Time and again Yoshioka saw the activities of the Red team [representing the Americans] arbitrarily restricted when they threatened to upset Blue's planned movements as well as such acts of God permitted as the squall which miraculously blew up just in time to spare [the Japanese] task force all but token damage after the successful second mock attack. Yoshioka charitably decided that in view of the serious internation situation and the clear prospect of war, the umpires were trying to avoid anything which might foster misgivings or feeling of inferiority. Indeed, their tendency to underrate the enemy characterized Japanese naval war games prior to World War II, and it took the stunning defeat at Midway to bring this unrealistic practice to a halt.

Gee, this sounds terribly familiar. Remember this:

At the height of the summer, as talk of invading Iraq built in Washington like a dark, billowing storm, the US armed forces staged a rehearsal using over 13,000 troops, countless computers and $250m. Officially, America won and a rogue state was liberated from an evil dictator.

What really happened is quite another story, one that has set alarm bells ringing throughout America's defence establishment and raised questions over the US military's readiness for an Iraqi invasion. In fact, this war game was won by Saddam Hussein, or at least by the retired marine playing the Iraqi dictator's part, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper.

In the first few days of the exercise, using surprise and unorthodox tactics, the wily 64-year-old Vietnam veteran sank most of the US expeditionary fleet in the Persian Gulf, bringing the US assault to a halt.

What happened next will be familiar to anyone who ever played soldiers in the playground. Faced with an abrupt and embarrassing end to the most expensive and sophisticated military exercise in US history, the Pentagon top brass simply pretended the whole thing had not happened. They ordered their dead troops back to life and "refloated" the sunken fleet. Then they instructed the enemy forces to look the other way as their marines performed amphibious landings. Eventually, Van Riper got so fed up with all this cheating that he refused to play any more. Instead, he sat on the sidelines making abrasive remarks until the three-week war game - grandiosely entitled Millennium Challenge - staggered to a star-spangled conclusion on August 15, with a US "victory".

If the Pentagon thought it could keep its mishap quiet, it underestimated Van Riper. A classic marine - straight-talking and fearless, with a purple heart from Vietnam to prove it - his retirement means he no longer has to put up with the bureaucratic niceties of the defence department. So he blew the whistle.

His driving concern, he tells the Guardian, is that when the real fighting starts, American troops will be sent into battle with a set of half-baked tactics that have not been put to the test.

"Nothing was learned from this," he says. "A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future." The exercise, he says, was rigged almost from the outset.

Which, of course, led to this:

"The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we wargamed against," said Lt. Gen. William Wallace, the commander of Army V Corps, while visiting troops in Iraq. "We knew they were here, but we did not know how they would fight."

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2003 05:00:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Clark and Clinton(s) (and Dean)

In the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Paul Barton considers some of the obvious similiarities, and some of the differences, between Bill Clinton's candidacy and Wes Clark's presumed one.

For the second time in 12 years, little Arkansas, a state with only six electoral votes, is on the verge of supplying presidential politics with a fresh face, one some think could reshape the race for the White House just as then-Gov. Bill Clinton did when he ran in 1992.

This time, it may very well be retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Little Rock, a 58-year-old former supreme allied commander of NATO and a 1962 honors graduate of Hall High School.

Similarities in the two men’s backgrounds are beginning to get noticed as Clark’s decision draws near. Both grew up Baptists and without their natural fathers. Both were Rhodes Scholars. Both met their wives while in school on the East Coast. Both are regarded as keen intellects.

And if Clark decides to run, the political atmospheres in which both began their campaigns will bear striking similarities as well.

On Oct. 3, 1991, Clinton stood outside the Old Statehouse in Little Rock, painting himself as a champion of the middle class and telling a crowd of more than 4,000 that he would seek the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination.

By October 2003 — or perhaps several weeks sooner — Clark could be making a sim- ilar announcement. While Clark and his staff in Little Rock insist there is still a chance he won’t run, indications that he will go for it continue to mount.

The Des Moines Register last week reported that Terry McAuliffe, the national Democratic Party chairman, has told party officials in Iowa to expect Clark’s entry. The Concord Monitor in New Hampshire noted that Clark had made another call to Manchester attorney George Bruno, a leading Democratic activist and former New Hampshire state party chairman.

Contacted by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Bruno acknowledged, "There is a lot of behind-the-scenes activity."

Other sources said Friday that Clark has made it clear to those closest to him that he is going to run, and that his wife, Gert, now backs the decision. The New York Times reported similar soundings as well.

If Arkansas does end up having another candidate, people may begin referring to the state as the "mother of presidents," joked William Schneider, political analyst for the American Enterprise Institute and CNN.

Hal Bass, political analyst at Ouachita Baptist University, said it surprises him. "I thought Clinton kind of took all the oxygen out of the room," he said.

Clinton was written off as long shot by the national media in 1991. His biggest claim to fame was a nominating speech for Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic National Convention that many regarded as disastrous.

But Clinton had traveled frequently in 1990-91 to meet behind the scenes with party activists around the country, many of whom were impressed with his command of issues and his ability to sway a crowd.

As Clark considers jumping into the 2004 race, he, too, is seen as a long shot. Many political observers think his real aim is the vice presidency or a Cabinet post in a Democratic administration. Clark’s biggest claim to fame has been as a military analyst for CNN.

But Clark, as if following Clinton’s game plan, has spent much of 2002 and 2003 traveling the country, especially the East Coast, meeting with Democratic Party activists, union leaders and potential fund-raisers as well as appearing frequently on national television news shows, where he has repeatedly dodged questions about his intentions. In both races, Democrats faced the fact that the candidate they most favored wasn’t likely to enter the competition. In 1991, that was New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, one of several big-name Democrats who decided the senior Bush was unbeatable. This time around, it is New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

[link via Shirley -- thanks]

Personally, I still think that a Dean/Clark ticket would be extremely strong. It would provide Dean with cover on National Security issues for people who are suspicious of him because of his stance against the war in Iraq, and would put the man with the most executive experience at the top of the ticket. (I don't at all discount or belittle Clark's experience at running NATO, but it's different in kind from running a state, even a small state like Vermont, just as experience as a CEO is different in kind and isn't necessarily a strong indication of the abilty to be an elected chief executive.) And a pre-emptive announcement of a Dean/Clark ticket so early in the campaign would also, I think, "take the air out of the room" and move Dean from the putative front runner (as far as the media is concerned) to the actual front of the pack.

Still, it would be a dangerous and risky move, since the party faithful might well respond negatively to having their nominal power to appoint the Veep candidate in the convention (despite the fact that in recent times the convention has simply rubber-stamped the choice of the guy at the head of the ticket), and the other candidates (and quite possoibly the press as well) will say that such an unorthodox move by Dean is arrogant in the extreme, and point to it as an indication that Dean is precipitous in nature and therefore unqualified to be President.

In my mind, not being on the inside in any way shape or form, the risk seems worth the benefits, but, then, I can't possible have before me all the information and variables needed to evaluate it properly.

So, even if the hints we've seen that there might be some commonality between Dean and Clark have been accurate, and may end up, eventually, in a Dean/Clark ticket, it may well be that they consider this path (Clark announcing as a candidate) to be a better one than the pre-emptive VP announcement. After all, this way, Clark gets a lot of publicity and press, draws people's attention to the important issues (which are basically Dean's issues as well) and also (and if they've thought of this then they're just a devious as I appear to be) takes the heat off Dean just at the time when the media is likely to turn on him.

(The media clearly behaves differently to a front-runner than they do an underdog -- they're more skeptical and dig deeper for flaws and discrepencies -- and Dean could quite possibly use the hiatus from the big spotlight to make some more real forward motion without having to continually duck and weave because of attacks from the media.)

Or, in the simplest explanation, it could also be simply that Clark wants to run, and will do so completely on his own, totally as a free agent, and thus potentially be available to any of the candidates as a running mate if his bid falls short (which, in my opinion, it is most likely to).

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2003 04:10:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


There's That L-Word Again

Here's one good reason why Democrats really shouldn't be overly worried that our candidate for President in 2004 is "too liberal." This comes from Michael Janofsky's 'Political Points" column in the NY Times:

That L-Word

EVEN as the Democratic presidential contenders wrangle over their places on the political spectrum, Republicans see them as pretty much the same. Consider how the Republican National Committee, on its Web site, describes the would-be presidents:

Howard Dean: "An ultra-liberal on social issues who is out of the mainstream and wrong for America."

John Edwards: "An unaccomplished liberal in moderate clothing."

Richard A. Gephardt: "Keeper of the liberal flame."

Bob Graham: "A tax-and-spend liberal in moderate's clothing."

John Kerry: "A Massachusetts liberal out of touch with America."

Dennis Kucinich: "A flip-flopping liberal extremist."

Carol Moseley Braun: "A controversial liberal who was rejected by her own state."

The Rev. Al Sharpton: "A liberal Democrat out of touch with America."

Somehow, Joseph I. Lieberman escaped similar portraiture. He is described instead as an equivocator on a "journey from populist, to moderate, to moralist and back again."

At least he's not a liberal.

Clearly, the GOP plans to tar just about anybody who's left of Genghis Khan with the same old tired, worn-out epithets, so why be concerned about it? The American people can certainly be gullible, but I think the 100th or 150th time they hear yet another politician described in the exact same way, they're going to start getting the idea that to the Republicans, any Democrat, no matter how centrist, is a flaming ultra-liberal, even those whose policies the public generally finds that it agrees with, when they actually have the chance to hear what they are.


(Incidentally, it took the crimes and incompetence of George Bush to firmly move me from the stance of referring to the Democrats in the third-person, to completely identifying with them.

Although I've been registered as a Democrat for many years, that was more a strategic decision than anything else. Up until a few years ago, here in New York City, the Republican party was so weak that the winner of the Democratic primary pretty much determined the outcome of the general election -- so I changed my registration from "Independent" to "Democrat" in order to have a voice in who would govern us. But I still thought of myself as an independent, and did not identify with the Democratic party. Even though the candidates I voted for were overwhelming Democratic, whenever possible I voted for them on another party line (Liberal or Working Families), since in NY these votes are simply added into the votes received on the Democratic line.

But Bush changed all that -- I'm now a Democrat, through and through, and even though I have my preferences as to who would be the best candidate -- Dean/Clark is my wet dream, but Kerry, Gephardt and Edwards would be fine as well -- I will enthusiastically and fervently support whoever the Democratic candidate turns out to be... even Joe Lieberman, who's at the bottom on my list.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2003 04:37:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Do Americans read, and how much? (with asides)

TCM is showing Network, the wonderfully prescient 1976 film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, and in one of Peter Finch's jeremiads as the possessed (or, possibly, demented) network anchorman Howard Beale, Beale says, while urging the audience not to trust TV, that only 3% of Americans read books. Now I've heard estimates like this before, that only a very small percentage of the American population reads books, but a quick Google on the subject didn't bring up any kind of definitive survey.

I've often wondered, as I entered yet another mammoth Barnes & Noble Superstore somewhere out on the road, if only a tiny portion of the populace reads books, how can places like that exist? Where do there profits come from? Who's buying the books?

True, it could be that everyone's buying self-help books, cookbooks and illustrated guides, but surely somebody must be buying some of the acres of trade fiction and non-fiction that stores like that offer -- and the same goes for and other retail outlets.

So, if anyone knows what the actual figure is, what percentage of American read real books, drop me a note by using the "write me" link in the right coumn or at the bottom of this entry.

(Aside #1: By the way, in his introduction to the film, Robert Osborne described it as being set in the very distant future, which I found strange, since it's clearly set in 1976 -- the opening sequence features four TVs with the anchormen from NBC, ABC, CBS and the fictional UBS, and the real anchormen are those on the air in 1976, when the film was made. I've always found Osborne's mini-commentaries and fun facts about the films he introduces to be entertaining and occasionally informative, so it was striking to me that he would be so wrong about something so obvious.)

(Aside #2: I noted two locations used for Network which were seemed familiar to me from other films. One, a rundown farmhouse where the "Ecumenical Liberation Army" is holed up, was used at the end of the 1970 film Joe which featured Peter Boyle; another, an imposing and impressive interior marble staircase, I'm fairly certain was used for 1988's Working Girl, the Melanie Griffith/Harrison Ford vehicle. It doesn't mean anything, of course, but I thought it was interesting. As a New Yorker, a Manhattanite, half the fun of watching TV shows filmed here, like the "Law & Order" series, is identifying the locations where things were shot, so you can say "Hey, that isn't Gramercy Park! That's a corner of Central Park!" It's an amusing game, as long as you don't let it get in the way.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2003 03:31:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Kevin Drum is puzzled

CalPundit: Puzzled

The Bush administration has been incompetent and arrogant throughout this entire effort. Their prewar conduct seemed almost deliberately designed to make sure the rest of the world was against us, they were criminally negligent in their postwar planning, and George Bush personally has shown immense cowardice by consistently refusing to prepare Congress and the American public for the real cost and length of the war. He's paying the price for that cowardice now, as he watches support for the reconstruction dwindle because its expense, length, and cost in lives is taking most people by surprise.

It's pretty obvious why liberals should oppose George Bush's reelection, but the fact is that conservatives ought to oppose him too. His incompetence and cowardice have betrayed the very things they claim to stand for.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2003 02:19:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Moral Sense Test

From John Brockman's excellent website Edge comes a link to a very interesting test connected with a research project at Harvard.

"Our new web site is up and running," writes Marc D. Hauser of Harvard's Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. "We are interested in understanding people's moral intuitions. The web site, includes background information and importantly, The Moral Sense Test. I would very much appreciate it if you would not only take the test, but also spread the word to your friends and colleagues, of all ages. We are particularly interested in getting cross-cultural data as well as developmental information, so even young children who can read would be terrifically helpful. The more the word spreads, the better for us. Thanks a lot for your help." — Marc


MARC D. HAUSER, an evolutionary psychologist, is Harvard College Professor, Professor of Psychology and Program in Neurosciences, and Director of Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. He is the author of The Evolution of Communication, and Wild Minds: What Animals Think.

From the test's website:

The Moral Sense Test is a Web-based study into the nature of moral intuitions. How do humans, throughout the world, decide what is right and wrong? To answer this question, we have designed a series of moral dilemmas designed to probe the psychological mechanisms underlying our ethical judgments. By putting these questions on the Web, we hope to gain insight into the similarities and differences between the moral intuitions of people of different ages, from different cultures, with different educational backgrounds and religious beliefs, involved in different occupations and exposed to very different circumstances. Participation in the study is easy, quick and completely confidential.


Nothing captures human attention more than a moral dilemma. Whether we are soap opera fanatics or not, we can’t help sticking our noses in other people’s affairs, pronouncing our views on right and wrong, permissible and impermissible, justified or not. For hundreds of years, scholars have argued that our moral judgments arise from rational, conscious, voluntary, reflective deliberations about what ought to be. This perspective has generated the further belief that our moral psychology is a slowly developing capacity, founded entirely on experience and education, and subject to considerable variation across cultures. With the exception of a few trivial examples, one culture’s right is another’s wrong. We believe this hyper rational, culturally-specific view is no longer tenable. The MST has been designed to show why and offer an alternative. Most of our moral intuition are unconscious, involuntary, and universal, developing in each child despite formal education. When humans, from the hunter-gathers of the Rift Valley to the billionaire dot-com-ers of the Silicon Valley generate moral intuitions they are like reflexes, something that happens to us without our being aware of how or even why. We call this capacity our moral faculty. Our aim is to use data from the MST, as well as other experiments, to explain what it is, how it evolved, and how it develops in our species, creating individuals with moral responsibilities and concerns about human welfare. The MST has been designed for all humans who are curious about that puzzling little word “ought” — about the principles that make one action right and another wrong, and why we feel elated about the former and guilty about the latter.

As in every modernly held view, there are significant historical antecedents. The origins of our own perspective date back at least 300 years to the philosopher David Hume and more recently, to the political philosopher John Rawls. But unlike these prescient thinkers, we can now validate the intuitions with significant scientific evidence. Over the past twenty years, there has been growing evidence for a universally shared moral faculty based on findings in evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, anthropology, economics, linguistics, and neurobiology. This evidence has created a powerful movement directed at the core aspects of human nature. It is a movement that has the power to reshape our lives by uncovering the deep structure of our moral intuitions and showing how they can either support or conflict with our conscious, often legally supported decisions.

The test takes about 10 or 15 minutes and can be done multiple times. To take it, go here:

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/31/2003 08:31:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Things I didn't know

A small and miscellaneous collection of information I didn't know until very recently. Some dropped into my lap, others I went looking for. -- Ed

  • HO scale (the most popular scale of model trains) means "Half O Scale", and the scale is indeed about half that of O scale (1:87 versus 1:48)

  • "First Nations" is a term used in Canada for the people usually called in the U.S. "Native Americans" or "American Indians"

  • "Stuck In The Middle With You", a pop song from 1973, is by Stealer's Wheel, and not by Steely Dan, as I've thought for years.

  • The tallest mountain in the world measured from its base is Hawaii. Measured from the Earth's center it's Aconcagua. The tallest mountain on land as measured from local ground level is usually Everest, but is K-2 in some years. Both of them vary over a few feet in any decade. Over the millenia, of course, they vary hundreds of feet, though pretty much in parallel. The summit of Aconcagua is further from the Earth's center than that of Everest or K-2 because earth is oblate, not spherical.

    [from David Lloyd-Jones, comment posted to CalPundit (5/31/03),]

  • Not exactly something I didn't know, but something I haven't thought about for a long time: Listening to The Beatles' White Album recently I was struck again by the beauty and complete appropriateness of George Martin's arrangements for the various session musicians used. Has any rock group from the beginning of time been better served by a producer and arranger? His work is truly outstanding and, sometimes (especially given the times) astounding. The Fifth Beatle, for sure.

  • "In March 2002, Lloyd's List, the three-hundred-year-old British publication that supplied information on ship movements and casualties, announced that ships would no longer take the feminine pronoun. Nautical stalwarts protested the tyranny of the politically correct, feminists hailed the death of an anachronism, and the tide kept going out twice a day."

    [Jean Strouse "Triumph at Heart's Content" New York Review of Books (6/12/2003)]

  • Aaron Sorkin, the creator of "The West Wing" and "Sports Night" was also the playright of "A Few Good Men", and also wrote the screenplay for the film based on it.

  • Frank Knox, FDR's Secretary of the Navy during WW2 (1940-1944) was the Republican Vice Presidential candidate in 1936. His ticket-mate was Alf Landon. They ran, of course, against FDR and John Nance Garner and they carried only two states, Maine and Vermont. Also, FDR's Secretary of War, Henry Stimson (1940-1945), was a Republican as well, and he had previously been Herbert Hoover's Secretary of State (1929-1933).

  • "Colonel Tom Parker", the longtime manager of Elvis Presley, was an illegal immigrant from the Netherlands who was born Andreas Cornelius van Kujik. He stole his name from a US Army officer.

  • The sound that is made when you "crack your knuckles" is "cavitation that pulls in nitrogen gas to fill the vacuum created when the fluidic attraction between joint surfaces is broken." This is also the explanation for the sounds made when a chiropractor "adjusts" the spine, but it is *not* an indication of a locked or binding joint. "The truth is that perfectly normal spinal joints will pop when manipulation forces movement into the paraphysiological space (beyond the normal range of passive movement). Once a joint pops, it will not pop again until the gas is absorbed and the joint surfaces settle back together, usually in about half an hour."

    [quotes from "Placebos, Nocebos, and Chiropractic Adjustments" by Samuel Homola, D.C. in Skeptical Inquirer (Jan-Feb/2003)]

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/31/2003 03:38:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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03/30/2008 - 04/06/2008
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09/21/2008 - 09/28/2008

search websearch unfutz

Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

Entertaining, interesting, intelligent, informed and informative comments will always be welcome, even when I disagree with them.

I am the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses.

I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

Also, illustrations may be added to entries after their initial publication.
the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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the proud unfutz guarantee
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


take all you want
but credit all you take.

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