I haven't been moved to post lately, for a variety of reasons, but here are a few quickies anyway:
I know that it's perilous to judge the actions and thought-processes of terrorists by normal standards (and it's still uncertain whether ETA or al-Qaida was reponsible for the Madrid bombings), but I can't help but think that if al-Qaida was responsible, it makes a possibility of a near-term event here in the U.S. less probable and not more.
What happened immediately after the bombing? We stepped up security all over the place, making it even harder to carry off an attack here. What will happen if we believe it was al-Qaida and not ETA? Security will get even tighter. What's the best way for al-Qaida (or whoever) to disrupt our lives as much as possible with the lowest possible cost? Announce that they're coming, that they're just about ready to hit us again.
To my mind, the very fact that they said that is a good indication that they can't do it.
Reading an article about Iran in the New York Review of Books recently, I came across a reference to the Bush administration's "distaste for Iran's theocracy." If so, then it's only because it's a non-Christian theocracy, because they continually support measures which move us towards a Christian theocracy back home.
The Department of Homeland Security has been in existence for over a year now, and the name hasn't grown any more on me in that time -- it's still as redolent of Nazi Germany now as it was then. Unfortunately, I think the problem is that it should be called the Department of Defense, which describes its function fairly accurately - only I believe that the name's been taken. Maybe they can drop the Orwellian b.s. and re-name the DOD the Department of War and free up the name.
And while we're on the subject, it's always bothered me that there are so many departments in the Federal government that the resulting Cabinet is so large it cannot be an effective body of advisors for the Executive. Does anyone really think that the Secretary of Transportation, for instance, or the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs are in any way equal to the Secretaries of State or Defense?
What I'd like to see (and I fully admit this an impractical suggestion) is a Cabinet of six people at most, each responsible for groups of departments. I don't know what names they would be called, but one super-department head would be responsible for external affairs (State, Defense, some aspects of Commerce), one for internal affairs (Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, EPA), one for monetary affairs (Treasury, Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, Transportation), one for the well-being of the citizenry (Housing and Urban Development, Human Services, Education, Veteran's Affairs), and one for matters of Science (Energy, Health).
OK, on writing it all out, it doesn't make much sense after all, it's just a manifestation of my desire for tidiness.
Writing in the New York Review about a month ago (before Clark, Dean and Edwards dropped out), Elizabeth Drew has an evaluation of the effects of the front-loaded primary schedule which is not at all positive, just about the opposite of Kevin Drum's.
Not only have most of the candidates, abetted by the press and television, misrepresented themselves and their records, but much about the process of choosing the next nominee of the Democratic Party has gone seriously wrong, largely owing to mismanagement on the part of the Democratic National Committee and the treatment of the candidates by the press.
The idea behind bunching up the primaries within a few months, the brainchild of Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, was that the Democrats should select a candidate as quickly as possible, giving the nominee more time to raise the enormous amounts of money needed to respond to the heavily funded Republican advertising campaigns that have already begun. But what if the primary voters haven't had enough time to learn about the candidate they select? What if there could have been a better decision? Even with more time the Democrats have in the past made some weak and even preposterous choices of nominees, as they did with Michael Dukakis in 1988. The nominee could possibly govern us for the next four or eight years. In view of what's at stake, why should it be so important to complete the process so early?why not take two or three more months?
Under the new, compressed calendar, the nomination battle whooshes from state to state without giving the voters much time to reflect on the candidates and to take account of what has happened in the most recent contest, or contests. Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, has found that Kerry's Iowa victory gave him an additional twenty to thirty percentage points virtually overnight in New Hampshire and several other states. The pollster John Zogby has said, "This year's front-loaded primary schedule appears to have worked well in favor of the front-runner?as it apparently was intended to." In previous nomination fights, a two-week gap occurred between Iowa and New Hampshire (this year there was just one), and that gave the voters some time to distance themselves from the hyperbolic television coverage and consider what they'd heard. Citizens in seven states voted on February 3, requiring a frenetic dash from state to state that left the candidates as dizzy as the voters. This is no way to pick a possible president.
It's worth reading, even though I get the distinct impression that Drew's take is somewhat based on her dislike of Kerry as a candidate -- she seems to have favored Clark.
Pushing nationally unknown politicians like Tom Vilsack as Kerry's best choice for v.p. is, I'm afraid, an example of a tired solution of a kind of politics that just isn't very relevant anymore. I'm not saying that counting votes in the Electoral College isn't important, obviously it remains vitally important, I'm just saying that picking a regional somebody who's a national nobody because he can "deliver" one state or help with others or pander to one specific interest or another is just not the optimum strategy in 21st century media-saturated America.
Like it or not, John Edwards is the closest thing that the Democratic party has to a superstar. In normal circumstances saving him for the next go-round would be a reasonable thing, in normal circumstances no one would blame Kerry for not taking the chance of being upstaged by his running mate, in normal circumstances not fielding the absolutely best team possible wouldn't make much difference as long as the head of the ticket was good enough.
It's not normal circumstances, and Kerry, while good, is not good enough to guarantee a win. He needs Edwards, not someone about whom people are going to say "Who the heck is that?"
Jules Henry Poincare wrote:
Science is built up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is not more a science than a heap of stones is a house.
Having a multiplicity of facts at your command is a good thing (certainly better than having a multiplicity of errors available), but facts are worthless if the framework you use to evaluate them isn't in accord with reality, especially if it's warped by dogmatic considerations generated by ideology. When that happens, you can have access to all the facts in the world, and the conclusions you come to are going to be suspect, and will ultimately prove to be incorrect.
Which is to say that the world, especially the social world created by man, is complex enough that a good theory which organizes the facts is more important than the facts themselves. Bad theory -- garbage in, garbage out.
I like this quote:
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
I would love a definite citation of where it came from if anyone has it.
Interestingly, in Googling it I came across someone who cited it in skepticism of global warming!! I guess it all depends on what you mean by "absurdities." If you define them before the fact by ideological prediposition, that's not so good. My preference is to define what is absurd by an absence of supporting facts.
I don't know if they run them in other cities, but here in Manhattan, the AIDS research organization AMFAR runs ads on the sides of city buses which say
1 in 250 Americans is HIV positive.
1 in 500 knows it
These ads bother me, because of their lack of clarity I don't understand exactly what they're saying. Do they mean that only 1 in 500 of the Americans who are HIV positive know about it? Or do they mean that 1 in 500 of all Americans know that they are HIV positive? If the former, that's really difficult to believe. If the latter, then it would be much stronger to say
1 in 250 Americans is HIV positive.
Only half of them know it.
On C-SPAN I watched a bit of a symposium (which took place on the 8th) organized by True Majority which featured Joe Conason, David Corn, Eric Alterman and Mark Green, all authors of anti-Bush books. It was great to hear what they had to say and to listen to the applause of the audience. I especially liked when Green described Bush as the "flat earth president", comparing him to someone in the 15th century whose beliefs don't allow them to accept the evidence that the earth is a sphere. He also pointed out that by squandering the trust other nations had in us (what trust they had to begin with) by crying wolf over Iraq, Bush has actually put us in more danger than when we started out. I think that's true.
Finally, and most trivially, I've been in several cities in which an attempt has been made to duplicate the experience of the New York hot dog bought from a street vendor, and it's never quite the same. The problem is that they expend too much effort on the hot dog -- big, highest quality, all beef, etc -- and not enough on the condiments. The New York hot dog itself is nothing particulary to rave about in its naked form (although my almost-5 year old son loves them that way), but it is an excellent carrier for the yummy stuff you put on it. (In my case, that's mustard, onions and relish.) You can't eat that stuff by the spoonful, it has to go on something, which is the entire purpose and function of the hot dog and the bun.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
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.